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Learning the fretboard - no shortcuts!


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So, I've been playing guitar for over a decade, and still don't know the fretboard notes. That sucks!

 

My resolution is to nail them down over the next three months. I've tried to various attempts to learn them via "shortcuts" - ie. octave method, BEAD method, etc.... no method worked.

 

Instead, this is my daily routine:

* practice the following in every key by cycling through circle of fourths

* major scale, every position on the neck

* closed triads (M,m,d,+) - every inversion, every string set

 

I have been doing this for the past 3 weeks and already seem to have an improvement. ie. I can see the C scale no problem all over the neck, and I am starting to see the F scale as well. My goal is to be fluent in all keys.

 

I'll let y'all know if the above works or not.

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I spent a lot of time working to learn the fretboard in terms of all the various major scale fingerings. In retrospect, the time was not well spent. In actual playing situations, being able to visualize scale forms is not nearly as useful as being able to see chord tones. If you think about the purpose of knowing all the notes on the fretboard, you may find that arpeggios, specifically 2-octave triad arpeggios are the more useful thing to know than scale forms.

Of course every diatonic arpeggio is available inside each scale form so learning the arpeggios also improves your ability to visualize the scale forms. So you don't stop progress on scale forms by working on arpeggios.

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If you think about the purpose of knowing all the notes on the fretboard, you may find that arpeggios, specifically 2-octave triad arpeggios are the more useful thing to know than scale forms.

 

Agree strongly. This is the "best" way to learn the fretboard.

 

I go a step further and recommend 7th chord arps but the real benefit to the learning the fretboard is finding the roots of the arps.

 

It can't be beat.

 

It's better than sight reading. With sight reading you tend to spend most of your time in one or two fretboard positions.

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Agree strongly. This is the "best" way to learn the fretboard.


I go a step further and recommend 7th chord arps but the real benefit to the learning the fretboard is finding the roots of the arps.



My preference for triad arps has to do with the way each triad can be extended to two different 7th chords via the addition of a single note (either a 3rd above or below). In the case of minor and diminished triads, when the chord tones of these two 7th chords are arranged in scalar order (based on the root of the original triad) - we find the pentatonic scales. There's a lot of logic and symmetry hidden within the simple stuff.

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My preference for triad arps has to do with the way each triad can be extended to two different 7th chords via the addition of a single note (either a 3rd above or below). In the case of minor and diminished triads, when the chord tones of these two 7th chords are arranged in scalar order (based on the root of the original triad) - we find the pentatonic scales. There's a lot of logic and symmetry hidden within the simple stuff.

 

That's cool. Good thinking.

 

We all develop our methods of understanding and making sense of the guitar.

 

It's an instrument with so many possibilities.

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Have you read Pat Martino's ideas? I like his music.

 

He is far out. I think he must have gotten stoned a lot when he wrote all that stuff.

 

He is the poster child for devising a method of understanding guitar. All his charts and diagrams.

 

I can visualize him getting really high and writing his "ideas" down.

 

He's like a mad scientist. Whatever works for you.

 

sk03davinci.jpg

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Have you read Pat Martino's ideas? I like his music.



I've read a bunch of Martino's online articles. Interesting stuff, I'm not sure I'll ever be high enough to really internalize his thinking though. Besides, I can't seem to tear myself away from my own investigations long enough to do justice to someone else's work.

I was working on Donna Lee a bunch of years ago (decades ago during my first go-'round with the guitar) and about the same time I read an interview with Larry Carlton that talked about how he uses triads as a focal point in his playing. Coincidently, I had been working on material by George Van Epps, which is all triad based. The way these three seemingly disparate things were all connected by arpeggios was an epiphany for me.

Ever since then (once I started back up) I've been following this harmony-based approach to music, in sharp contrast to the more common scale-based approach. I tend to get a bit of frontier-fever with this stuff every now and then since so much discussion here and everywhere else is scales-based. But there's just no getting around the fact, that for me at least, harmony-based thinking has really brought a lot of things into focus. I guess I found a perspective that finally makes sense to me.

cheers,

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So, I've been playing guitar for over a decade, and still don't know the fretboard notes. That sucks!


My resolution is to nail them down over the next three months. I've tried to various attempts to learn them via "shortcuts" - ie. octave method, BEAD method, etc.... no method worked.


Instead, this is my daily routine:

* practice the following in every key by cycling through circle of fourths

* major scale, every position on the neck

* closed triads (M,m,d,+) - every inversion, every string set


I have been doing this for the past 3 weeks and already seem to have an improvement. ie. I can see the C scale no problem all over the neck, and I am starting to see the F scale as well. My goal is to be fluent in all keys.


I'll let y'all know if the above works or not.



I have a couple of questions before I give feedback:

1) In setting this goal for yourself, what do you want to be able to do that makes you believe that accomplishing this will get you where you want to go?

2) How will you know when you've accomplished your goal?

3) Specifically, how will you manage your time and resources to accomplish it?

4) When you get stuck, how will you handle the obstacles?

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1) In setting this goal for yourself, what do you want to be able to do that makes you believe that accomplishing this will get you where you want to go?


2) How will you know when you've accomplished your goal?


3) Specifically, how will you manage your time and resources to accomplish it?


4) When you get stuck, how will you handle the obstacles?



What a great post (as usual, I might add). I just asked myself this set of questions about a couple of the things I'm currently working on and came up short in one or two areas. It's made me have a bit of a re-think. Which is usually good, IMO.

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Once you've worked on a couple different positions on the fretboard, try this: play all the "C" notes that you've learned, then play all the "D" notes that you've learned, etc. I use this with some of my students and it seems to help them remember where their notes are, and it helps them to see the relationships of where the notes are on the neck. Hope it helps at least a little!

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Hey Jon,

thanks for the feedback. I'm a huge fan of yours btw!

My answers to your questions:

1) I want to become a better musician overall, and a more fluid guitar player. I feel that the key to that is mastering an understanding of the major scale, and in conjunction, being able to play with relative ease in any of the 12 keys. I also feel that knowing the inversions will help spice up my playing and chord vocabulary and that I really don't know the triads deep enough. So my practice schedule is two birds 1 stone based (expand chord vocab, AND get fretboard down)

2) I'll know I'll have accomplished this goal when I can run through all the notes on the neck as quickly as I can today with "C". (which is pretty quick - almost without conscious though)

3) Time: have a set practice daily. Stick to my routine. Right now, what I laid out above (without arps) takes me about 30-40 min. With arps, will take an hour. I have about an hour of daily practice time these days.

4) Well, I suppose I'm a pretty persistent person. If something really goes wrong - I'll talk to folks to get help. (ie. post here and hopefully someone of your caliber of playing will see this!)

I have a couple of questions before I give feedback:


1) In setting this goal for yourself, what do you want to be able to do that makes you believe that accomplishing this will get you where you want to go?


2) How will you know when you've accomplished your goal?


3) Specifically, how will you manage your time and resources to accomplish it?


4) When you get stuck, how will you handle the obstacles?

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Hey Jon,


thanks for the feedback. I'm a huge fan of yours btw!


My answers to your questions:


1) I want to become a better musician overall, and a more fluid guitar player. I feel that the key to that is mastering an understanding of the major scale, and in conjunction, being able to play with relative ease in any of the 12 keys. I also feel that knowing the inversions will help spice up my playing and chord vocabulary and that I really don't know the triads deep enough. So my practice schedule is two birds 1 stone based (expand chord vocab, AND get fretboard down)


2) I'll know I'll have accomplished this goal when I can run through all the notes on the neck as quickly as I can today with "C". (which is pretty quick - almost without conscious though)


3) Time: have a set practice daily. Stick to my routine. Right now, what I laid out above (without arps) takes me about 30-40 min. With arps, will take an hour. I have about an hour of daily practice time these days.


4) Well, I suppose I'm a pretty persistent person. If something really goes wrong - I'll talk to folks to get help. (ie. post here and hopefully someone of your caliber of playing will see this!)



Awesome Tommy! From here, I'd suggest starting a practice journal to track your progress. Also, someone suggested making your practice routine about "songs" more than exercises. I'm a big fan of that approach because it puts the content in to context.

Check back soon, and thanks for the kudos!

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I've always had a bit of a disconnect between standard music notation and how I play the guitar. I don't often think of the notes I'm playing--aside from what key I'm in, what the root notes of the chords are, and also notes are special extensions of that chord. I'm not sure if trying to learn individual notes is the way to go. Someone mentioned that you should learn them in the context of songs. Like when I play a 12-bar blues in A, I know where the roots for the A, D, and E chords are. I also know where the blue note (flat fifth) for each chord is. And I also know, relative to memorized box positions, which notes I can hit when I need to match either a major, minor, dominant, etc. chord. It's kind of like speaking...don't go crazy memorizing notes for the sake of notes. Notes only have signifigence in the context that they are used. Memorize context and music theory instead.

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I've always had a bit of a disconnect between standard music notation and how I play the guitar. I don't often think of the notes I'm playing--aside from what key I'm in, what the root notes of the chords are, and also notes are special extensions of that chord. I'm not sure if trying to learn individual notes is the way to go. Someone mentioned that you should learn them in the context of songs. Like when I play a 12-bar blues in A, I know where the roots for the A, D, and E chords are. I also know where the blue note (flat fifth) for each chord is. And I also know, relative to memorized box positions, which notes I can hit when I need to match either a major, minor, dominant, etc. chord. It's kind of like speaking...don't go crazy memorizing notes for the sake of notes. Notes only have signifigence in the context that they are used. Memorize context and music theory instead.



Learn arpeggios all over the fret board. Just like chords, start with the majors and the minors and move from there. BUT, while you're practicing, recite/sing the note name for each note. Then when you're done, go back and do the same thing but by interval.

Actually, solfege sounds like what you're looking for. I'll try and find the link that I have that's really good, and post it later. I know someone knows the site you know the one that's a post on a music related forum?

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