What Are The Dots On A Guitar Called And What Are They For?

Ever looked at a guitar and noticed those little dots on the neck? Those aren’t just for decoration – they have a special purpose!

The dots on a guitar fretboard are called fret markers or position markers.

They’re like a road map that helps guitar players know where they are on the guitar. Let’s dive into the world of guitars and find out what these dots are called and why they are so important for making cool music!

Why Are There Dots on Guitar Fretboards?

The dots you see on guitar fretboards are more than just aesthetic additions; they serve a crucial functional purpose. These dots, known as fret markers or position markers, are there to help guitarists quickly identify their position on the neck of the guitar.

Especially when playing complex chords or fast solos, it can be challenging to keep track of where your fingers are. These markers provide a visual aid to navigate the fretboard efficiently, making it easier to play accurately without constantly looking down.

So, the practical reason for the existence of dots on a guitar fretboard is to guide the guitarist in identifying specific frets quickly and accurately. Without these markers, it would be more challenging, especially for beginners, to find the correct frets while playing.

Standard Fretboard Dot Positions

The standard fretboard dot positions on most guitars are found on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 21st frets. These markers are strategically placed to help guitarists quickly identify key positions on the neck.

The 12th fret, where the notes start to repeat an octave higher, is often marked with a double dot or a unique inlay for easy recognition.

What Is Significant About The Marked Frets?

The marked frets on a guitar are significant because they represent specific musical intervals relative to the open strings. For example, the 5th fret typically produces a note that is the same as the next open string (except for the G and B strings).

The 12th fret marks one octave above the open string notes. These marked frets are crucial reference points for finding notes, playing scales, and building chords, making them indispensable for effective guitar playing.

Why There Are Two Dots on the 12th Fret

The two dots on the 12th fret are significant as they indicate the octave point on the guitar. This means that the notes played at the 12th fret are one octave higher than the open strings. The double marking is a universal indicator used to quickly identify this important position on the guitar.

How to use the position markers?

Position markers on the guitar fretboard are used as reference points to quickly navigate the neck. Guitarists often use these markers to identify the starting points for scales, chord shapes, and specific notes without having to count each fret.

For example, knowing that the 7th fret is usually marked can help a guitarist quickly find a B note on the low E string. These markers become particularly useful during fast playing or while performing, where looking closely at each fret isn’t feasible.

Guitar Neck Side Dots

The side dots on the neck of a guitar are another form of position markers, and they serve a similar purpose to the fretboard dots. These small dots are located on the side of the neck, facing the player, making them easily visible when playing.

They are particularly useful when looking directly at the fretboard is not feasible. Typically aligned with the fretboard markers, these side dots provide an additional, more subtle, reference point to help players quickly navigate the neck and find the correct fret positions.

Memorizing the Fretboard Using Fret Markers

Fret markers can be an invaluable tool for memorizing the fretboard. Each marker corresponds to specific notes, making it easier to learn and remember their locations. A good way to start is by memorizing the notes at the marked frets first. For example, knowing that the 5th fret on the E string is an A note can be a starting point.

Practice finding and playing scales or chords starting from these marked positions. Over time, this practice can help build a mental map of the fretboard, enhancing your ability to navigate the guitar neck without relying solely on the markers.

The History of Fret Markers

The history of fret markers on guitars dates back to the early 20th century when guitars began to evolve into their modern form. Originally, guitar fretboards were plain, but as music styles developed and playing became more complex, the need for visual aids on the instrument became apparent.

Manufacturers began adding inlaid markers to help players navigate the fretboard more easily. Over time, these markers evolved from simple dots to elaborate designs, becoming both a functional tool and an aspect of the guitar’s aesthetic appeal.

Types of Fretboard Markers and Inlays

Fretboard markers and inlays come in various styles and designs, ranging from simple dots to intricate custom artworks.

The most common type is the simple dot inlay, typically made of mother-of-pearl or plastic. More elaborate designs include block inlays, diamond shapes, and even custom graphics like birds or skulls.

Some high-end guitars feature detailed and artistic inlays made from exotic materials like abalone, ivory, or colored woods. These inlays not only serve as position markers but also add a unique visual identity to the guitar.

Fretboard Inlays and Markers FAQ

What Are The Dots On a Guitar Fretboard Called?

The dots on a guitar fretboard are commonly called fret markers or position markers. These markers are typically round in shape and are placed at specific intervals on the fretboard to aid in navigation and orientation while playing. They serve as visual cues, helping guitarists quickly identify certain fret positions.

Can You Put Inlays on a Guitar?

Yes, you can put inlays on a guitar. Inlays can be added to a guitar’s fretboard as a customization or as a way to replace or enhance existing markers. This process, however, requires precision and craftsmanship, as it involves cutting into the fretboard and inserting materials such as mother-of-pearl, abalone, or plastics into the slots.

How Many Frets Does a Guitar Have?

The number of frets on a guitar can vary depending on the design and type of guitar. Most standard electric and acoustic guitars have between 21 and 24 frets.

Classical guitars typically have fewer frets, around 19. The number of frets determines the range of notes that can be played on the instrument.

What are the white dots on the side of the guitar?

The white dots on the side of the guitar neck are also position markers, similar to the fretboard dots. They are specifically placed to be visible to the player when looking down at the neck from a playing position.

These side dots are especially useful during performances, where viewing the front of the fretboard might be difficult.

Is it hard to play a guitar without fret markers?

Playing a guitar without fret markers can be more challenging, especially for beginners or those not familiar with the instrument’s fretboard. Fret markers provide a visual reference that helps in locating frets quickly and accurately.

However, many experienced guitarists can play without them by relying on muscle memory and ear training.

Why Do Some Guitars Not Have Fretboard Markers?

Some guitars don’t have fretboard markers as a design choice, often for aesthetic reasons. In such cases, musicians rely on the side markers or their familiarity with the instrument.

Some high-end or custom guitars may omit traditional fret markers to achieve a cleaner, more minimalist look.


Fretboard markers and inlays play a significant role in the functionality and aesthetics of a guitar. They are not only crucial for helping guitarists navigate the fretboard, especially beginners, but also add to the visual appeal of the instrument.

While some guitarists may prefer instruments without these markers for a sleek look, the practicality and guidance they provide cannot be understated.

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