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April 13, 2009

Learn guitar fretboard

How can you best learn the notes on the fretboard?

Well, what I recommend to my guitar students, is to learn shapes and patterns. That is how I make sense of the 6 strings and all these frets. Since the fretboard is a grid, we can navigate it by using patterns and shapes.

When I started playing guitar, I practiced scales up and down a lot. What I later realized was especially good from this was that I learned to "see" a scale. The Aeolian scale looks a certain way on the fretboard, and by practicing it over and over, I started to know it really well. Same with any other scale. After some time, I was able to "see" the notes before I actually played them, and I also knew what they were going to sound like before I played them, due to this visualization.

This is really nothing special. It is about practicing, and spending time with something until it becomes transparent. You can do the same.

I find it works well to look at notes as a group of 3 when are learning them. We can also do this on the next adjacent string. By playing 3 notes on 2 different strings, we have 6 notes - almost a complete diatonic scale!

For example, start with the C major scale. If we play F - G - A on the low E string, and B - C - D on the A string, it creates this pattern:

 
E|-------------|  
B|-------------|  
G|-------------|  
D|-------------|  
A|---2--3--5---| 
E|---1--3--5---| 

This pattern can be memorized. Make sure you know which is the root note especially, but do learn the names of the notes too. Say them out loud as you play them.

Now what we do next is to move up to the next available notes in the C major scale, using the same 2 strings. Then we get this:

 
E|-------------|  
B|-------------|  
G|-------------|  
D|-------------|  
A|---3--5--7---| 
E|---3--5--7---| 

You can see how the first 2 notes on each string were the last 2 notes in the first example. All we are doing is adding on one new note per string (fret 7 for both strings). This creates a new pattern. We are now playing a pattern with 2 identical shapes - what I mean by this is that we are playing frets 3 - 5 - 7 on both strings - a symmetrical pattern that is easy to remember. Make sure again you know which note is the root note.

This same concept can now be continued. Move on to the next 2 shapes. There will be just one new note for each string - can you tell which note and which fret?

Now, take on just a few patterns at the time, and practice them in different ways, play the notes in different order, etc. Just make sure you play them slow and focus on learning them. In fact, I think it's a bad idea to try and play them fast at this point - it will make it harder to memorize them.

Go back and forth between new patterns you learned, and the previous ones you think you know. It's amazing how quickly we forget some times... but it's normal. I'm the same. Just take it slow and easy and take your time. After all, we want to enjoy playing guitar for a life time, don't we? So take your time and play slowly and accurately.

If you want more help and assistance, take a look at the recommended resources here below. These are proven methods by highly qualified instructors. It is good to have a book or DVD to help guide you through fretboard practicing. When I started playing, there wasn't much good video instructional material like this available. How times have changed, eh!

This PDF course is a very good helper - Guitar Note Mastery - have a look, and take advantage of what this course offers for learning the fretboard.

Recommended Resources

Desi Serna's CAGED system and Barrett Tagliarino's Guitar Fretboard Workbook are great studies to help you master the fretboard.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com

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Posted by Robert Renman on April 13, 2009

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