Understanding Root Notes in Guitar

Published Categorized as Chords

If you are a guitar player, you have to learn about chord root notes. These will help you change keys and build songs from scratch with ease. Guitar root notes start the chord, giving the name to it. It is the lowest of the three notes played, meaning it has the thickest string on the bass side of the fretboard.

The root note determines the pitch of a chord, and ultimately, of specific song sections. This reason is why it is so essential that you understand this musical terminology. To better understand the whole concept of a guitar root note, read the information provided to you below.

Table of Contents

What are Root Notes?

You must understand the answer to the question, “what is a root note?” if you want to play guitar. These concepts help you build chords, create one string guitar riffs and gain a better understanding of how you create songs. When you first encounter root notes, you may feel overwhelmed, but this section should help you.

When you play a chord on a guitar, you press on three strings on the fretboard. The lowest one on the bass side correlates with the root note and describes the song’s key. When you create a chord, and the lowest string you touch is D, for instance, you would play “D Major” or “D Minor.”

When you see a chord diagram, the root note will be number one in most cases. This label is due to it being the first out of the three. It builds up the rest of the chords because they will occur in intervals concerning the root note.

The letter you see on the guitar chart will correlate with the root note of the chord. It is where you will first place your finger on the fretboard. After, you will press the other two, then strum the strings as you typically would.

To better emphasize the information above, each of the three pitches in a chord describes the tone it. The root note will be the primary note, however. It allows the other two to exist in the order they have. It is when playing the three melodically that you can create beautiful music.

How Do You Use Root Notes?

When you understand the guitar root note of a specific chord, you can comprehend the strings to strum. As mentioned, it defines your pitch. To stay on key, you want to avoid strumming anything lower than the root note on the chord.

When you strum all six strings, there will be no melody to your songs. It will sound distorted and stoic. Some even believe that when a musician haphazardly strums everything at once, the song sounds muddy and congested. Root notes help you create music that sounds crisp, clean, and precise.

The root note is the lowest that you will place your fingers on first, as mentioned. The bass pitch found in it will define the sounds that you produce. They set the stage for the melody and the beauty that exists in it.

Root notes are not only the first ones found in a chord. They are also the beginning of a scale, whether it be major or minor. Both start and stop on the root note that is in place. Most melodies and songs come from one of the many minor and major scales. The root note essentially becomes a base of sorts that the music can fall back on.

When you understand a root note guitar-based, you will better comprehend the pattern that exists in a song. You will also know which pitch to focus on when playing. Both of these uses of root notes make your songs sound more beautiful and melodic.

Understanding Root Notes in Guitar_Six Strings Acoustics

How Do I Find the Root Note in a Chord?

To learn how to find the root note of a chord, you can consider any diagrams that exist on them. Look for the letter that is in the title. When you find it, you can know you located your root note.

Sometimes, the title of a chord may not be present on a diagram. To understand how to find the root of a chord in this instance, you only need to find the first letter out of the three listed. You can also look for the note listed as number one on the diagram itself.

Again, sometimes, the notes on the chord diagram look like nothing more than an open or closed circle. The one closest to the top of the image will equate to the lowest on the guitar. It will likely be the root note in this case.

Sometimes, inversions happen with guitar chords. If the three notes used were E-G-C, you know the root note was E, for instance. Sometimes the same chord may show as G-E-C. This listing is an inversion, but all you have to do is find the lowest note out of the three in this case.

The lowest notes in an inversion diagram will also be those closest to the top in most cases. This fact is helpful when you are unsure of the order of musical pitches. Many beginners struggle with this concept when first learning guitar.

The Relation between Chords and Root Notes

As mentioned, the root note defines the chord. It creates the title for it and allows you to find the rest of the pitches in it. It is the primary note of the chord, with all others following behind it in a specific order.

The root note is also the thickest string you will press when creating a chord with your hands. It is the lowest pitch out of the three. For this reason, you will find that it is the thickest string that you will press on when playing the chord.

What is a Root Strum?

A root strum occurs when you start with the first note of the chord. You will only play other strings that are below it. Remember, the first note of a chord is the root note. It is also in the title of it.

You will start by strumming the string associated with the note that is the title of the chord. You will not go above that pitch, however. Only strum any note below the initial string, meaning you make your pitch sound deeper. It is a unique sound that artists from all different genres use.

The root strum, as mentioned, has found use with artists from many different genres. One of the most common, however, is bluegrass. It makes sense that these musicians would use the root strum as they thrive on deep, Americana sounds. Often, they have a singer who performs in the bass octave too.

Rock music is another genre that commonly uses the root strum. This type of songwriting involves heavy riffs, and in the metal subgenre, low-pitched growls and screams. Again, it would make sense that these artists would more likely rely on bass notes.

You must know, however, that the root strum is a specialized technique. If you play a standard chord or scale, you will still strum all strings. You press on the notes on the fretboard, however. Doing this will create the sound that you want to make when playing a song on your guitar.

Is Learning Guitar Root Notes Important?

Most songs use chords. When you look at any piece of guitar sheet music, the creators list the various pitches you will use throughout specific parts of the song. The letter used to denote the chord, as mentioned throughout, is the root note, meaning you must understand them.

Root notes form more than just chords, however. They are the basis for the start and stop of scales and arpeggios. This latter concept is a more complex one for more experienced musicians. Without understanding root notes on guitar, you will not understand any of these necessary concepts as they give you the key to play.

Root notes form the chords and scales of music. Your songs will not sound as they should without proper comprehension. You will, as mentioned, not understand the key of the song, meaning it may sound pitchy. If you are a performer, you must avoid this mistake.

If you are in the middle of playing a song or performing with your guitar, there is a chance that you will forget all three notes in a chord. You may also have trouble remembering all of the pitches on a specific scale. You can rely on the root note if you forget every other one as you will still achieve a beautiful sound.

With this many benefits, it only makes sense that you should do everything possible to comprehend root notes. Each fret on each line has a root note associated with it, but it is up to you to determine which you will use in your song.

Understanding Root Notes in Guitar_Six Strings Acoustics

Are the Root Notes Different in Different Chord Types?

Most of the information above detailed a standard chord. Here, a root note is at the bottom and played first. There are variations to standard chords, however, as seen below.

In a first inversion, the root note would still be the lowest. It would only be in a different order. The tone that would typically be higher would be the last played after you press your fingers on the fretboard to create the chord.

A second inversion occurs when the fifth note you play is the alternative lowest. Again, the root will still be the actual bass note, however. You will only play the pitches in a different order. The chord’s title will still have the root note in its name, but it will label it as a second inversion.

Finally, there is a third inversion chord. This option will use the fourth note as the lowest. The others will be higher, as they are in the previous two inversion options, though the root will remain the same. Inversions are a complicated topic for many musicians, with many experienced guitar players only using them.

Root Notes on the Guitar

As mentioned, each fret on each string, or line, has a different root note associated with it. IT is impossible to memorize all of them, however, but they are below for your needs in the chord root note chart. Pay more attention to the E and A string root notes, however, as these are the most used.

E String

  • Fret 1: F
  • Fret 2: F#/Gb
  • Fret 3: G
  • Fret 4: G#/Ab
  • Fret 5: A
  • Fret 6: A#/Bb
  • Fret 7: B
  • Fret 8: C
  • Fret 9: C#/Db
  • Fret 10: D
  • Fret 11: D#/Eb
  • Fret 12: E

B String

  • Fret 1: C
  • Fret 2: C#/Db
  • Fret 3: D
  • Fret 4: D#/Eb
  • Fret 5: E
  • Fret 6: F
  • Fret 7: F#/Gb
  • Fret 8: G
  • Fret 9: G#/Ab
  • Fret 10: A
  • Fret 11: A#/Bb
  • Fret 12: B

G String

  • Fret 1: G#/Ab
  • Fret 2: A
  • Fret 3: A#/Bb
  • Fret 4: B
  • Fret 5: C
  • Fret 6: C#/Db
  • Fret 7: D
  • Fret 8: D#/Eb
  • Fret 9: E
  • Fret 10: F
  • Fret 11: F#/Gb
  • Fret 12: G

D String

  • Fret 1: D#/Eb
  • Fret 2: E
  • Fret 3: F
  • Fret 4: F#/Gb
  • Fret 5: G
  • Fret 6: G#/Ab
  • Fret 7: A
  • Fret 8: A#/Bb
  • Fret 9: B
  • Fret 10: C
  • Fret 11: C#/Db
  • Fret 12: D

A String

  • Fret 1: A#/Bb
  • Fret 2: B
  • Fret 3: C
  • Fret 4: C#/Db
  • Fret 5: D
  • Fret 6: D#/Eb
  • Fret 7: E
  • Fret 8: F
  • Fret 9: F#/Gb
  • Fret 10: G
  • Fret 11: G#/Ab
  • Fret 12: A

E String

  • Fret 1: F
  • Fret 2: F#/Gb
  • Fret 3: G
  • Fret 4: G#/Ab
  • Fret 5: A
  • Fret 6: A#/Bb
  • Fret 7: B
  • Fret 8: C
  • Fret 9: C#/Db
  • Fret 10: D
  • Fret 11: D#/Eb
  • Fret 12: E

How Do I Learn the Rest of the Notes on a Guitar?

There are many variations of the root notes mentioned, as they occur in different keys and pitches. If you want to quickly learn these, you can look up the patterns that exist within the octaves.

To find the next octave of a note, you only have to go up two frets. Once you get to that location, move up two strings. This movement will take you to the next pitch that you want to play.

You will have to go over three frets if you want to go to the third octave of your root note. After getting to this location, you will still only move up two strings, however. This method will work no matter the root note guitar you want to find.

The root note B is on the A string, for instance, and fret two. You can start with this one. If you want to find the next octave for B, you will move over to number four. After, go up to the fourth fret on the G string.



Root notes are powerful tools that help you form chords and scales and allow you to know the pitches and keys you need for a song. They typically are the lowest tone you will play, creating the heaviest sound. The opposite is true, however, if you want to perform a root strum. Remember, you will only touch the strings below the root note to create this type of sound.

Root chords guitar only exist with the help of one of these notes. This statement is true whether you play an inverted or standard chord. Once again, the root note used is the title of any chord, no matter the type. This information is only the beginning of why you need to learn about this concept, however. There are many additional benefits, including the use of arpeggios, that come from root notes not discussed here.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *