Best method for learning the notes on fingerboard?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by kingsxman, Aug 17, 2005.


  1. kingsxman

    kingsxman Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm realizing that a big part of my current struggles is I dont have a good understanding of what notes are where on the fingerboard. I tend to know high and low E string notes...but not the rest.

    What are some methods that people have used to be able to learn to quickly identify and move to a note on the fretboard?
     
  2. rwe333

    rwe333 Supporting Member

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    If you know the order of the 12 notes, the names of the open strings and know how to tune, then you already have some points of reference: open, 12th fret, fret used to tune next string, etc... Work from those references and plug in the notes:

    Sure you know this, but what the hell:

    The 12 notes:
    A - A#/Bb - B - C - C#/Db - D - D#/Eb - E - F - F#/Gb - G - G#/Ab

    The 6 strings:
    6 = E
    5 = A
    4 = D
    3 = G
    2 = B
    1 = E

    Also use things like octave positions to help get notes in middle strings (relate to the lower or higher note you recognize).
     
  3. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    There's a bunch of different methods, but here's the approach I use with my students:

    * I give them guitar fingerboard charts, and with a yellow highlighter pen, I color in frets # 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12 (the inlay dots, up to the octave). I start with just the low E and A strings, and write the names of the notes at those frets on the chart, for only those two strings. I ask them to memorize not only the names of those notes, but the fret numbers for each.

    * I give them a diagram of the piano keyboard, which clearly lays out the whole step and half step relationships between the notes. I show them the formula for constructing a major scale (in terms of steps, 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2). I have them build major scales in 6 or 7 different keys.

    * I then show them the format for a I - IV - V twelve bar chord progression, and ask them to transpose and complete charts for each of the keys that we built major scales for.

    * I ask them to go home and find every possible way to play the notes contained within those charts, on only those two strings. I explain that some of the notes will not be found on the "dots", and that they'll likely need to cross reference to the piano keyboard diagram.

    * After that, I add one new string per week, and continue the process. Along the way, I start introducing notes above the 12th fret. When all six strings have been addressed, I give them reference material and a lesson based on the "CAGED" method, with diagrams that illustrate the octave shapes, as they fall on the board.

    * After all six strings have been learned, I turn on a metronome, toss out a particular note at random, and have the student play that note in each place that it occurs on the board, ascending from low to high, and descending as well, in time with the metronome. I start with whole notes to allow a bit of a safety net, and then move toward half notes and quarter notes. At that point, they're visualizing the board and thinking on their feet quite quickly.


    The majority of my students are currently reading standard musical notation in open position, up to the fifth fret. My method prepares them to move forward with their reading, and it facilitates use of devices such as moveable chord shapes as well. As compared to the more linear format of the piano, the guitar is a visually perplexing instrument for many. I do have diagrams that contain every single note on the board; however, I find this to be overwhelming and intimidating - too much information. I don't give students a copy of this diagram until they've completed the aforementioned program. Typical response at this point is, "Well hey, why didn't you give me this in the first place?" The answer is simple - because you don't really assimilate until you scratch and dig around for yourself. My "connect the dots" method has been quite successful, I must say. Of course, if you play a nylon string classical guitar, you're sorta hosed with my method - no dots on the board!
     
  4. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    I've found that finding the octave (e.g. down 2 strings and up 2 frets) is a good next step after one knows the E & A string. Then you can find it there and translate.
    Then find the same note up or down 1 string.
    Then find the notes in the keys you always play (A & E)

    Then do all the stuff you really need to do that is outlined in the other posts to actually learn it.
     
  5. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    A quote from the Classical Guitar FAQ

     
  6. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    I've been playing guitar a year and still don't know the names of the notes at each fret. A couple of these sound like they would work for me. I'll give a it a shot and see what happens.

    GREAT POST!
     
  7. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

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    This is not an easy method but it is the best. Learn how to read music. Once you can read something in the 1st position translate this to other positions. You will learn that there are 3 g's, one on each of the 1st three strings. Know your chords and what notes make up the chord. Play the chord then be able to call out each note which is played within that chord. This will also help you to see chord shapes on the guitar.
     
  8. BFC

    BFC Supporting Member

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  9. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    That's a great exercise. And great post, BTW. I'm not much of a teacher myself (still learning I guess), but I'm curious to know how receptive the guitar players you teach are to this kind of discipline? What age range are you teaching? I'm just curious. It's great stuff, I'm just amazed people are actually doing the work...esp. guitar players.
     
  10. exhaust_49

    exhaust_49 Member

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    If you've got the drive to play well, anyone will gladly do the work.
     
  11. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Thanks, D. I currently have about 35 weekly students, and the age range is from 6 to folks in their fourties. The approach that I described above is an ongoing process that I chip away at with them, a little bit at a time. I've found more success by assigning an assortment of small, interesting tasks to students, than by bogging them down in any one area of study. When I feel that a student is ready for the metronome workout, I don't always start randomly (depends on the individual) - with some, I'll ask them to go home and work on, say, a G note, and be prepared to do the workout for the next class, when we get together again. I sometimes assign notes in advance for a few weeks before I toss out the random exercises. I always tell students that it's okay to make mistakes at their classes - but it's not okay to not make note of them, and not work on improving any problem areas.

    For whatever reasons, youngsters seem to be fascinated by metronomes, whereas I've noticed that some of my adults are a bit intimidated by them. With the kids, I turn the metronome workouts into fun little games that they really seem to enjoy.
     
  12. wen51

    wen51 Guest

    I recently tried the flash card method. I wrote out the notes on the staff so I can reference the notes location for reaing purposes. Also, when I play scales, I slow down and say the notes and try to associate the notes with the positions I memorize. If you stick with it It works. I said if you stick with it works. Ha Ha.
     
  13. lhallam

    lhallam Member

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    Sorry if this is redundant, I'm too lazy to read everyone's posts.

    This worked with all my students.

    Memorize these rules.

    Rule #1

    Notes go:

    A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A..etc

    Look at this keyboard:

    [​IMG]

    There is a pattern of three black keys, two adjacent white keys, two black keys, then two adjacent white keys.

    The note "A", is the first adjacent white key to the left of the last of the three black keys.

    Going from left to right playing only the white keys they go A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

    When you play a white key and then an adjacent black key, that sound is termed a minor second AKA one half step. For example play "A" and then the next black key to the right you get "A#" AKA "Bb".

    Now notice that there is no black key between B and C and no black key between E and F.

    That is because playing a B and then a C the sound is one half step. The same applies for E to F.

    Rule #2

    From B to C = one half step AKA minor 2nd
    From E to F = one half step AKA minor 2nd
    All the rest are whole steps AKA Major 2nd.

    In other words, play an A and then a B the sound is one whole step,
    B to C = 1/2 step or minor 2nd
    C-D = whole step or Major 2nd
    D-E = whole step or Major 2nd
    E-F = 1/2 step or minor 2nd
    F-G = whole step or Major 2nd
    G-A = whole step or Major 2nd.

    Rule #3

    Each fret on the guitar equals one half step.
    Two frets on the guitar equals one whole step.

    That's it. Based on these rules you can figure out every note on the guitar.

    So starting on the low E string (6th string) play an E, then put your finger on the first fret. That note is an F. (E to F = one 1/2 step or 1 fret). Put your finger on the third fret to play a G (F to G = one whole step or two frets).

    Here's your homework.

    Starting on the 6th string, play open and name the note OUT LOUD.
    Then play an F, name the note OUT LOUD.

    Keep going up the neck playing each natural note (ie. No sharps or flats) until you get the to the 12th fret which is E an octave higher from the open string and name each note out loud.

    Now go BACK DOWN the neck and play & name each natural note out loud until you get to open E.

    E = open
    F = 1st fret
    G = 3rd fret
    A = 5th fret
    B = 7th fret
    C = 8th fret
    D = 10th fret
    E = 12th fret

    Do this everyday and within a week or so, you should have it down. Now to find sharps, just go up one fret from the natural note. ex F# = 2nd fret.

    To find the flats go down one fret from the natural note. ex. Ab = 4th fret

    Once you get the E string down, start on the next string (5th open A). Figure out the notes using the above rules. My serious students got the whole gtr down in about 5 weeks (one string a week). Once you learn E, you've got the 1st string.

    Note that the pattern repeats from the 12th up to the 21st or 22nd fret. So once you memorize up to the 12th, you've got the rest.
     
  14. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Any chance of this thread getting a sticky? :)

    Thanks, guys!
     
  15. dhodgeh

    dhodgeh Silver Supporting Member

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    A method suggested by Satriani is to pick one note on a nightly basis.

    Set your metronome to 60 bpm, and play just that note in all possible positions for 3 - 5 minutes.

    At the next practice session, pick another note.

    I've got a vb script program that will pick the note for me on a (somewhat) random basis.

    hth

    D
     
  16. -CM-

    -CM- Something Clever Here Silver Supporting Member

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  17. cubado

    cubado Member

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    +1 on sticky this post!

    rwe... TimBowen... lhallam...

    excellent & informative posts!!

    my son & i are going to try these out!!

    cheers and keep the exercises coming!!
     
  18. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    If the above flash card method gets boring, modify it to have 12 cards for each of the 12 tones (at least 144 cards, more if you make new ones for enharmonic equivalents, which you should). On one side is the note, say "C" and a fret number, say "7". On the other side of the card, will be the chord tones on that fret related to C. So for fret 7 it would be (B) M7 - (E) M3 - (A) M6 - (D) 9 - (F#) #4/#11 - and (B) M7 again. That one should slow you down a little bit if just naming the notes on the fret becomes too easy.

    I keep meaning to write a Perl script to do this and make it a CGI that works on the web so you can do the drill from a web page. If I get around to it, I'll post the link here.
     
  19. waxnsteel

    waxnsteel Member

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    Great method. I'll add when you "say" the note name out loud, sing it, or at least say it at the same pitch. Might as well train your voice and youre ears while you're training your brain and your hands. Might not work for everyone, but it will for some.

    And of course, practice in tune to play in tune.
     
  20. yeahyeahyeah

    yeahyeahyeah Supporting Member

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    any free software anywhere?
     

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