Learning the Fretboard, effectively and efficiently?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Zender, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. Zender

    Zender Tinkering, please hold.

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    Hi guys n girls,

    I'm not certain if this belongs in beginners, or here, but here it goes.

    For the last few months I've been struggling with memorizing the names of all the notes on the fretboard (and finding them). Ask me "play all the 'F#' you have", "On the 5th string, give me a 'G' " or "This note here (points at fretboard), what is it called?"... and it takes me forever to find them. Very frustrating as you can imagine. Especially when improvising.
    I know my scales, as in, I know the shapes of them, and which notes I can play and which ones don't fit in. But I do all this by ear and by having memorized the shapes of scales, including some muscle memory. When improvising/jamming I hit a wrong note more often than I would like, hovering a finger over the fretboard not being sure if what I am about to play is the right one.

    Other than just putting time in, with a guitar on your lap, and putting in hard hours (how many hours did it take you?), is there any way you found that might speed the learning up a bit, or make it less uncomfortable? This call goes out to those who teach in particular. Have you find a good method that is effective as well as efficient? I know there is no such thing as "learn the fretboard in 24h" method, but so far I am struggling with finding a method that works for me. So essentially, I'm looking for inspiration on how you did it, or how you teach others to do it.

    Having a relative hearing is very nice and all, but it is seriously hampering me in learning the notes. :(
     
  2. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    I would approach from a few different angles. Set a metronome to 60 BPM and play all the Es on your fretboard in whatever note denomination is comfortable. Continue this through the circle of 5ths, increase tempo as it gets easier.

    Also do this a few times a day:
    https://www.fachords.com/tools/fretboard-trainer/

    Great fretboard stuff here too:
    https://www.musictheory.net/exercises

    I think that doing exercises away from the guitar that force you to visualize the fretboard in your head are super valuable.

    To apply this a little more practically, I would turn on a backing track with a basic chord progression and practice playing solos using ONLY chord tones. I would again start this at 60bpm. Say the notes out loud while you play. Do a few run-throughs in each position. Increase tempo+note subdivisions as it gets easier. Be sure to use different backing tracks/chord progressions to keep your brain really working.

    If you practice like this for like 30 mins a day I guarantee that you will see results in your playing in less than a month. It might take longer for it to become super reliable when you're improvising with a live band 'cuz that's how our brains work. There's no way around this.

    If you want a REALLY good workout, learn to read notation and practice sight-reading jazz standards in various positions.
     
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  3. JustMac

    JustMac ss not-so-regular

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    It's a conscious effort. My pitfall was that I learned the fretboard literally (ie looking at a diagram and memorising it) but never heeded it when learning inversions and scales . Start out by learning the notes, but always relay that info in what you're learning. Go through any scale, but really nail A) the interval and B) the notes within it. This lets you always know where you are.

    You mentioned this, but guitar enables such a compartmentalised way of playing because you really CAN rely on shapes and little else, but I think when you truly begin to think of notes it opens huge possibilities.
     
  4. Aion

    Aion SS.org Regular

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    Here's what works the me.

    Figure out different "anchor," points that work for you. As in frets that you know the notes solid. From there, build different "webs," that connect those points. For example, I know the open strings. I know the fifth fret matches the higher open string. The seventh fret matches the lower open string, but is an octave up. 12th fret is the open string you're on, but an octave up. At that point, I have 4 anchor points. Open, 5, 7, and 12. Filling in up to a major third from those anchor points is easy for me now because I've been steeped in theory for a while. For everything above the twelfth fret, x-12= the fret that shares its name (but is an octave lower). It's not the most elegant, and definitely don't try and swallow it all at once, but build to it.

    In terms of navigating from one place to another, I think that's a different question than identifying note names. The fact of the matter is, most people don't think about note names when they're playing. They're thinking about how the note sounds. For this I would do some interval ear training (musictheory.net has some exercises, if you're willing to drop a couple dollars, perfect ear is a really comprehensive app). Combine this with application by learning how to play those intervals across a single string, two strings, and three strings. From there you have a lot of options so it'll depend where you want to go, but at that point you should have the foundation to go whatever way you want.

    The big caveat I'll put on this is the end goal is making good music and there's a million different ways to get there. So find what works for you, what makes sense to you, and do that. Because the, "best," method is whatever works for you.
     
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  5. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    I'm reading through Mick Goodrick's The Advancing Guitarist and in the first few pages he tackles fretboard learning and I'm enjoying his take on it. To sum up:

    a) Start practicing solos on a single string across the neck

    b) Use only NATURAL notes--no sharps or flats

    c) Take note of where the half-steps are located in each mode

    The idea is that by deliberately limiting yourself you will allow your brain more time to actually focus on what note you are playing on the fretboard, and also to be as creative as possible within the limitations. His suggestion is to write out all the modes in the key of C (where the notes are all naturals) along with a single string onto pieces of paper, put them in a hat, and drawing one at random and improvising a melody based on that. 7 modes times 6 strings gives you 42 options. If you search "Mick Goodrick Advancing Guitarist" on YouTube you can find some model jam tracks that people have made and you can practice along to those.

    I like this idea because it's the closest thing to how a piano teacher would approach things. You start with the white keys (natural notes) and everything moves in a single line (one string). Maybe give this a try if you're willing to put some hours in.
     
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  6. Ancestor

    Ancestor Contributor

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    I think if you learn the note values for the E and A strings (the two low strings) and learn the octave shape (skip one string and up two frets) that will help.

    Also for six strings the highest and lowest strings are the same note names.

    Even Paul Gilbert said he had to "think about them notes" in one of his instructionals.
     

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