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How to learn the fretboard?

dmbandtimmy

Member
Messages
1,479
I've been playing for a long time, but I've never really concentrated on music theory or learning the fretboard perfectly.

Any suggestions? THanks!
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,898
I've been playing for a long time, but I've never really concentrated on music theory or learning the fretboard perfectly.

Any suggestions? THanks!

Do you know the notes on any of the strings? Most players know at least the notes on the low 'E', if you don't start there. Start in the key of C (no sharps or flats), so we have:

Code:
O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
E F x G x A x B C x D  x  E
So I have the fret position ('O' is for open) and the corresponding note below. Make sense? As you can see, the notes repeat starting at the 12th fret. Play around with it, learn it. Then do the same thing for the 'A' string:

Code:
O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
A x B C x D x E F x G  x  A
Got that down? OK, now I'm going to show you a nice little trick that speeds things up a bit. Do you know a power chord? Here's an A power chord shape:

1)x
2)x
3)x
4)7
5)7
6)5

The notes are A E A. That's root-5th-root. Notice anything? The root repeats. That means to know the notes on the 'D' string all you have to do is think of the notes on the 'E' string 2 frets down:

1)
2)
3)
4)7
5)
6)5

Same notes, an octave apart. And you can do the same thing for the 'A' and 'G' strings:

1)
2)
3)7
4)
5)5
6)

Both of those are the note 'D'. And here's another trick, the notes are same for the high 'E' as they are for the low 'E', so you've already got those down. Now you've only got one more string to learn. Pretty easy, huh?
 

dmbandtimmy

Member
Messages
1,479
Thanks for the reply. You're right, I do know the notes on the E strings, but I neglect the rest. I guess I just need to practice :)
 

thejamesmayer

Member
Messages
20
If you have an iPhone, look up "Fret Tester". There are plenty of these types of apps, but this one seems to give you the best feedback and options.

If you don't, check out Absolute Fretboard Trainer by the same guy that built Guitar Scales Method, Guitar and Bass Ear Trainer, etc. That guy is a hero.

With both of those you'll get color coded feedback to isolate your areas of weakness, the ability to set custom tunings, etc.

Should take you a couple of weeks to memorize 12 frets and 6 strings if you use for 3-4 5-minute sessions a day.
 

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,045
Here is one way to understand the fretboard, and I think a very good way =)

0..1.....2......3.....4......5......6....7.......8....9.....10.....11.....12
---F-----Gb-----G-----Ab-----A------Bb---B-------C-----Db-----D-----Eb------E
---C-----Db-----D-----Eb-----E------F----Gb------G-----Ab-----A-----Bb------B
G-----Ab-----A-----Bb-----B------C----Db------D-----Eb-----E-----F------Gb
D-----Eb-----E-----F------Gb-----G----Ab------A-----Bb-----B-----C------Db
A-----Bb-----B-----C------Db-----D----Eb------E-----F------Gb----G------Ab
E-----F------Gb----G------Ab-----A----Bb------B-----C------Db----D------Eb

Do you see the vertical word BEAD all throughout the fretboard
D & Db
A & Ab
E & Eb
B & Bb

That leaves just
C
G & Gb
F

that's it!

Play it like this;

------1-----3-----3-----5
-----1-----2-----3-----5
----0-----1-----2-----4
---0-----1-----2-----4
--0-----1-----2-----4
-0-----1-----2-----4
etc...

This uses "the circle of perfect 4ths",, here is the complete sequence;

C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G C

And here is the circle with enharmonic equivalents; a bit more complicated

C F Bb/A# B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F#/Gb G G#/Ab A A#/Bb B C

I would recommend learning it the way I laid it out and don't use enharmonic equivalents till after you crack the nut.

This is a great way to learn the neck,, write it out for yourself and By the end it will all make sense and you'll know the neck.
 
Last edited:

smolder

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
14,522
Interesting... since I know the notes across the open strings, I've been memorizing the notes across specific key frets, like the 5th (ADGCEA), and the 9th. Maybe I'm doing it the hard way.
 
M

Member 995

Learn the logic of the tuning:
What octaves look like along a string, across two strings, across three strings.
What unisons look like across strings

Set a metronome to a slow tempo, play a different C on each beat. Then a different C# on each beat. Then a different D on each beat ...
 

Mayo5

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,410
The easiest and best way, that I'm come across for leaning; has been working through "Fretboard Logic" It's a book. It's plain and simple. It's fun, and really sets you up into learning the roots and scales, etc. Building chords, progressions, subsititues.

Everything really opens up once you learn the notes. For me, there was no "trick" for memorizing the notes. Just break them up into sections. Frets 1 -5. Then 1-9. Then 1-12, etc.
 

gennation

Member
Messages
7,967
I got proficient with the fretboard through application. I had the Ted Greene book Chord Chemistry and there's a page where it shows a TON of ways to play a single A major chord (as well as others). I thought "how the hell am I ever going to memorize this many chords? And how would I even begin to memorize all the other major chords?!?!??!" I'm sure there are a few here who can agree, that page makes people shutter.

Anyways, I realize out of ALL of those forms they all only contained 3 notes, A C# and E. So what I did is instead of learn a bazillion shapes, I learned how to find EVERY A, C#, and E on the fretboard.

Again, it was only 3 notes...A C# and E

I took a sheet of paper and drew a full length blank fretboard on it, and made a bunch of copies. I drew out where every A was on the fretboard, then drew out where every C# was on the fretboard, then drew out where every E note was on the fretboard.

I could see A major chords laid out in from of me across the whole fretboard. I took each note one at a time finding my way through unison and various octave notes, groups, shapes, any way I could carve it up. It took me about a week but after that...

I easily added at least 20 more A major chord shapes to Ted's list...

because ANY time I played A C# and E together, ANYWHERE on the fretboard...it was an A Major chord.



It didn't take long and I could visualize an A Major chord across the whole fretboard.

This was back in the 80's so I was 6 finger A chords from the lowest to highest possibilities with two hands...it was the 80's everyone did it ;)

Once I started seeing the notes of the A Major chord I moved to Am and did the same thing. From there I had a GREAT reference for moving the whole visualization up and down in frets to make the other Major and Minor chords. These days I can whip out extended chords on the fly, pretty much in my sleep.

That little A Major chord changed my life :)

Do the work, it's the only way.
 

ksandvik

Member
Messages
6,328
Joe Satriani learned the fretboard notes by singing them out while playing each one on various strings, E, F, F-sharp, G, F-sharp, F, E and so on...
 

Clifford-D

Senior Member
Messages
17,045
Here's like part 2 of what I posted earlier.

C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E A D G << think this as a sequence of root notes,
the switch from flats to sharps happens on the F#. All 12 tones are there.

C F Bb Eb Ab Db = flat keys/roots

F# B E A D G = sharp keys/roots

As you can see the word bead is spelled twice BEAD & Bb Eb Ab Db
BOTH WORDS ARE PRECEEDED BY THE F or F#

That was the theory,

now here's the application, notice no first string;

.E...A...D..G...C..F..Bb..Eb..Ab..Db.F#,,B...E..A..D - sequence continues
---------------------------------------------
-------------1--------------2--------------3
----------0--------------1--------------2
-------0--------------1--------------2
----0--------------1--------------2
-0--------------1--------------2

.G...C...F..Bb..Eb.Ab..Db..F#..B...E..A...D...G...C..F
---------------------------------------------
-------------4--------------5--------------6
----------3--------------4--------------5
-------3--------------4--------------5
----3--------------4--------------5
-3--------------4--------------5

that basically covers the open and first position. I could write out the whole thing but why? By now this should be making sense enough to finish it on your own. If not, please let me know, I'll try to help.

A fun way to work with this is to take two notes in the 4th sequence like say,
A and D, and think of it as a [I7 - IV7] blues changes. next. play [D7 - G7],
then [G7 - C7] and so on playing around the circle of 4ths.

Lastly, the little I IV blues game is easier if the roots are on the low strings;

C...F...Bb..Eb...Ab...Db...F#....B......E.....A....D.....G.....C
-------------------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------
-----8--------6---------4----------2-----7----------5----------3
-8-------6---------4---------2-----------------5----------3------

with the roots on the two lowest string you're free to solo in the common blues areas.

Without application, you have nothing.

I can explain fretboard understanding in multiple ways that work, this is just one. Not bragging, just saying I've done my homework many times over and see it from many angles.
 

Joeld

Member
Messages
27
Great post and content...this is something that's been bothering me lately as well....I lost almost all the theory/note reading I learned 20 years ago.....so sad lol...
 




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