Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Lesson Idea: Fret markers (dots) on the neck

I think this would be a cool lesson. I’m guessing one short lesson could cover all our instruments. They may seem pretty basic to some, but I betcha not all of us know all the intricacies of those markers. Just an idea.

What are the white dots on the neck for?
Why are they spaced the way they are?
Why one dot, 2 dots or no dots?
How best to use them?
How best to translate their positions when using a capo?
Are there any tips and tricks or secret codes that would useful?



Hi @MissMaggie

Excellent query

So the dots on the side of the banjo neck are there to help you map out key locations on the neck when playing the banjo standing up.

All are marked with a single dot except the twelfth fret which has a double dot. Indicating an octave change

Once you have learned your Chord Shapes / Inversions these markers help you find chord locations quickly whilst standing and avoids the need to tilt the instrument to look at the front of the fretboard.

I have no idea if other instruments have the same markings but on the banjo they are located at the following frets.

First Fret
Third Fret
Fifth Fret
Seventh Fret
Tenth Fret
Twelfth Fret - double dot - Octave Marker
Fifteenth Fret
Seventeenth Fret
Nineteenth Fret
Twenty Second Fret


My banjo is older than dots. So I drew my own dots on with a permanent marker. Every once in awhile, I need to reapply.


Banjos may differ lllike guitars etc.

some have the 9th fret marked instead of the 10th

Not all have a marking on the 1st.

just depends on who made the neck


I didn’t realise that Dave, thanks for the feedback


Yep, 3,5,7,9,12 for the guitar. I always used the dots to point me to fret positions quickly; need to find an Ebmaj7 on the 6th fret, it is easy to find between the 5th and 7th fret dot. If you play a classical, good luck cause fingerboard dots are a rarity, on the front or side.
As far as “why” they are placed in those positions, there are many guesses. My best guess is that it follows the natural harmonics played at those frets equaling a major chord. For example, play the low E open, then play the harmonic at the 12th fret, followed by the harmonic at the 7th, 5th, 9th and 3rd frets. You will hear an E major triad. Perhaps the marks were to help fret less string players (lutes) find their way around the fingerboard or be able to tune their fret positions? Early lutes had movable frets.

Anyway, I’m glad they are there.


Well that’s enough info to get me in deep trouble! Thank you for the tidbit. That will definitely help me out whilst I fumble around like a lost puppy. At least I will be in the neiberhood Thank’s again for the great question and answer.


Just looking at the guitar this is what I figure…

The “double dot” represents an octave from the open position.
The 12 frets in the octave are divided by “single dot” in a 3-2-2-2-3 fashion. I’m assuming in the inventor’s opinion, this dot reference is an easier visualization/navigation tool than a 2-2-2-2-2-2 or any other division??

Interesting question for the future guitar maker’s to answer by designing a flexi dot guitars.

Without capo, I would say 3-2-2-2-3 (Three, Three-Two’s, Three, to fix it in memory). Total 12.

But then Maggie, you are a banjo player, this may not help. :frowning: