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Memorize the fretboard: 3 reasons why, 3 mental models, and 4 effective exercises

Jun 15, 2024
Many guitarists avoid learning the notes on the

fretboard

for some reason and that's a shame because it unlocks significantly faster progress, especially when learning songs. It is also essential for learning to improvise. I know this personally because I played guitar for about 30 years before learning. all the notes on the

fretboard

and I really regret not doing it sooner, so this video is about how I would learn the notes if I had to do it again and it is equally for intermediate players looking for ways to speed up their recovery as it is for beginners who are learning this for the first time.
memorize the fretboard 3 reasons why 3 mental models and 4 effective exercises
I'll show you what worked best for me, including three different ways of thinking about the fretboard, and give you four great

exercises

to help you. Mix it up to practice this material efficiently Even if you already know the notes, these

exercises

will help you develop recovery speed, which is key to becoming a better improviser. If you already know the theoretical parts you can move on to the exercises, so for my experience here is the short version of why it is worth learning the notes on the fretboard in the first place number one will help you communicate with your bandmates ago A few years ago I was playing in a cover band and I had learned all the guitar parts from tablature, I basically just

memorize

d where my fingers should go at one point during a rehearsal, the bassist wanted to check that I was playing the right note, so He asked me what chord I was playing, my response was more or less A blank stare at the second.
memorize the fretboard 3 reasons why 3 mental models and 4 effective exercises

More Interesting Facts About,

memorize the fretboard 3 reasons why 3 mental models and 4 effective exercises...

The reason is that it will help you learn new material much faster. It does this by allowing you to see triads and scales as meaningful groups and helps you understand the musical language of what you are playing. I will say more about this number later. three is the most important for me quickly remembering the names of the notes is essential for improvisation, but maybe not in the way one would think that one of the most funda

mental

skills in improvisation is being able to quickly find the root of a nearby nucleus close to anywhere. your fingers are.
memorize the fretboard 3 reasons why 3 mental models and 4 effective exercises
I plan to do a series of videos on how to learn to improvise, so stay tuned for more information on that, so those are the main

reasons

. Now let's look at three different ways to think about the fretboard. Here is the cliffnotes version of the guitar fretboard. a grid that allows you to move in three directions horizontally, vertically and diagonally, if you move up and down the neck horizontally you move in increments of a semitone, which corresponds to the chromatic scale, if you move on a string to another, you move mainly in jumps of five semitones. which corresponds to the cycle of fourths or fifths and there are a small number of patterns like chest movements that allow you to jump a full octave to land on exactly the same note you started with.
memorize the fretboard 3 reasons why 3 mental models and 4 effective exercises
These three facts give you all the information. tools you need to

memorize

the fretboard efficiently and you don't need to understand the meaning of any of the terms I'm using to be able to do this, but I will explain all the pieces as clearly as possible. I tend to move quickly. and I include a lot of useful information in my videos, so if you ever find yourself struggling to take notes or wanting a quick way to refresh your memory, you can purchase printable cheat sheets to accompany my videos at the video link. description, Your purchases go a long way toward helping me continue to develop new content, so thank you and be sure to hit the like and subscribe buttons and leave a comment to let me know what topics you'd like me to cover in future fret science videos.
Let's start with horizontal movement on a piano, the natural notes C D E F G A and B correspond to the white keys and the chromatic notes fall on the black keys. A black key that is just to the right of a white key gets a sharp added to its name and a black key. The key just to the left of a white key has a flat added to its name, so each black key has two names that for our purposes are completely equivalent. There are no black keys between B and C or between E and F, so the chromatic scale is C sharp or D flat D sharp or E flat E F sharp or G flat gshp or flat A sharp or B flat and if there are 12 notes In total they are then repeated over and over again in a cycle on a guitar string, these notes are all arranged in a line and in this order and that is why the guitar usually has a special marker at the 12th fret and the markers at the first 12 frets are usually repeated on the top frets it is because everything above the 12th fret is an exact copy of the first 12 so we really only need to learn the names of the first 12 frets and we get the top frets for free, Since each change of a fret corresponds to moving one position on the chromatic scale, we can use this simple pattern to identify neighboring notes.
In standard tuning, open strings are tuned e to d GBE and we can think of an open string as zero threat. If we want to find the name of any note on the fretboard, we can start with the open string and go up the chromatic. scale naming the notes along the way so here if we wanted to know the note on the seventh fret of the G string we started on G and advanced one chromatic step per fret G sharp a sharp b c c and finally D and since we know the names of open strings we can do the same thing coming from the 12th fret or even the 24th if your fretboard goes that high, so let's say we want to know the name of this note.
We know that the 12th fret of the E string is a One fret up is f and then we get to F for this note, we can go down from e one fret down is E flat, then D and finally D flat for a little shortcut, we can use the fact that there are sharps and flats between some of the natural nodes, so sometimes we can move two frets at a time, let's say we want to identify this node at the 9th fret of the D string, we can start on D and we can skip the sharps to jump to e there is only one fret for F, two for G, two for a and finally two for B, of course, the same works moving down the neck also to identify this note, we could start on G, which we know, on the 12th fret, move two frets down. to F and then from one to e.
The point of this is that you don't have to memorize every location on the fretboard in one go, as long as you know the note of a nearby position on the same string, you may find that it's not always the most efficient way, but it gets the job done. . Now let's talk about vertical movement. Here we have the chromatic scale assigned to a circle and we have seen that we can start with any note and easily move the strings up and down the neck. A standard-tuned guitar is mostly tuned to be five semitones apart, which is a perfect fourth interval.
If we start on a B note and move forward five semitones we get an eote, we do it again we get a and if we keep moving on five steps of semitones we get D G C F B flat E flat A flat D flat G flat and finally we return to B flat and the cycle repeats this sequence is so important to get a name in music theory that is called circle of fourths and it is one of the few sequences worth their weight in gold to memorize notice the subsequence e to d g which corresponds to the four lowest strings in standard tuning and also notice that b is just before E, as well as on the top two strings in standard tuning standard or the bottom two on a seven string On the guitar, the circle of fourths is used everywhere in music, starting with the fretboard itself, since the strings are primarily tuned in fourths most of the time, when we go to the next string, we move to the next node in the cycle of fourths if we start on B Noe on the 7th fret of the low E string, we simply move through the cycle as we move through the B strings, then E A and D, the only place where this doesn't work is when we move between the G and B strings.
They are tuned to be only four semitones apart instead of five. Understanding how that Quirk affects the patterns on the fretboard is so important that I made an entire video about it, which I encourage you to watch if you haven't seen it yet, but for Our purposes here the main thing we need to know is that when you move throughout the fourth cycle you need to move diagonally when you cross this invisible line between the G and B strings that I call warp, so here, if we move diagonally, we get a g node. on the B string and we can continue moving from one string to another throughout the cycle of fourths, so that we get a C next, since both the first and sixth strings are tuned to E, that C is copied to the low E string and then We can continue with the cycle as long as we move diagonally when we cross the warp we get F B flat E flat flat we move diagonally and continue with a flat and then d flat the copies of the d flat and continue with g flat now the cycle starts again with B, you get the idea, notice that while we did this, we built a fragment of the chromatic scale on each string on the low E string, we have b, c and D flat on the next string, e, f and G flat, then a B flat. and B and so on and obviously we can also use this cycle in reverse, let's say we were starting at the F node at the 13th fret, if we go down to the next lower string we move backwards through the cycle.
F moves to C, we move. diagonally to G and then we continue with D A and E E copy up to the top string and we move once again to B, so from that note we discover the names of all the open strings, so it is very useful for memorizing the cycle of fourth sequence in both directions as I have shown here is the cycle of fourths going clockwise wi be a d g CF and so on and counterclockwise is the cycle of fifths f c g d a e b and so on For one more quick example, let's say the only note we know for sure is the A on the open string and we want to find out the names of the notes in this chord.
We can move up the string using the chromatic scale a b c d and e and then move across the strings using the cycle of fourths to a which is the first note, then up one string to D which is the second note, we move diagonally to G due to warp and then we count down to FSH for the third note, so we've covered horizontal and vertical motion, now let's talk diagonal. movement there are two main shapes that are useful for finding octaves first you can go up two frets and go up two strings for this specific example since we started with d we have e a and then go back to D now this shape two frets up and two strings up can be moved to any part of the fretboard and the two positions will always be the same note if this shape is superimposed on the warp it becomes a three fret stretch because we have that extra diagonal movement, these shapes also work backwards so you can go down two frets and go down two strings three frets if you cross the warp, the second useful pattern is to go up three frets and down three strings here we have a B that moves to a c and then to D and then down the strings to a to e and then back to be if this the shape crosses the warp and becomes a two-fret span.
I have a whole video on how intervals work and how to find them anywhere on the fretboard, so see if this is a bit confusing. Here's a summary if we're not crossing the warp. two strings and more than two frets is an octave, just like three strings down and three frets up, if we cross the warp, the first becomes a stretch of three frets and the second is reduced to two, with only these movements we can easily find all the places on the fretboard that you can play a particular note, let's do it for the note C if we start at C on the first fret of the B string, we can go down three strings and go up two frets to C on the third fret of the A string.
From there we go up two strings and go up two frets to the C on the fifth fret of the G string. From there we can go up two strings and three frets to the eighth fret of the high E string or we can go down three strings and more. three frets on the 8th fret of the low E string, if we continue, we get another C on the 10th fret of the D string and then one more on the 13th fret of the B string, which is exactly 12 frets up from where we started. Shapes are great if you need to move long distances on the fretboard to identify a note.
They can also be a crutch for identifying notes on the inner strings if you've only memorized, for example, the E and A strings, if you map out all the possible locations. For a single note like this, it's worth noting that there's a strong connection here to the Caged system. In Caged, you learn to move five chords in open position, cage, D and D, around the fretboard, forming a bar with your index finger. This is a really important

mental

model for navigating the fretboard and I have a video thatexplains it in much more depth here is the super short version let's start with a C chord in open position like a barre chord the roots of the string are shown in red and correspond to this octave. the fingerboard, then the A chord shape fits here, the G chord shape fits here, then we have the E chord shape and finally the D chord shape.
These fundamental positions are the most important concept in the cage system . Check out my other video to learn more about that. Before we talk about the most efficient ways to practice identifying notes and eventually learning them all by heart, I want to take a moment to explain why it is so important to learn the notes on the fretboard in the first place, because of the way they are tune the guitar every The scale chord in the arpeggio forms a unique geometric shape that can be moved across the entire fretboard. As you learn to play, you quickly begin to notice certain fingering patterns that appear song after song and each of those patterns contains a note that is more important than the others that take note of the root or tonal center of the group of notes. , if you can recognize the underlying pattern and know which node it is anchored to, that gives your brain a greater amount of knowledge to work with, meaning you can retain more of the song.
At one point, there's a really famous psychology result in your head from the 1950s that says our working memory is limited to keeping only a handful of things in mind at a time. This is a huge bottleneck, but there is a small gap that becomes outside of that. The key to keeping more information in mind at once is to encode that information into larger chunks. If you learn a guitar solo as a series of patterns and scale positions rather than individual notes, you can learn larger sections more quickly and know where the internal roots are. those patterns is the key to placing them correctly on the fretboard and is also the key to reusing licks in different contexts for improvisation.
One of the most important skills is to be able to quickly find the roots of each chord when it is about to be played there. There are many different ways to visualize the fretboard for improvisation, but one of the most commonly used methods is to start with an underlying pentatonic scale that fits the majority of the chord progression and then temporarily add notes of each chord at just the right time. . The chord that goes with that song totally deserves its own video, so I'll leave it at that, but being able to find a particular note close to where your fingers are is one of the most important skills you can develop on the guitar, okay, so let's keep going.
First, let's look at how to practice this

effective

ly. I think it's not necessary to try to learn the entire fretboard at once and one of the best ways to stay motivated is to combine this practice with learning other things at the same time, so that's approach number one. As a specific example, you can combine this with pentatonic scale practice using my rectangle and stack method and focus on learning all the placements of a single note. Let's say you're working on the eote and you want to work on the E minor pentatonic. scale find an E note play it with your ring finger and play a stack there maybe expand the stack into the full pentatonic pattern slide to another E and play a stack there do it again now switch to pointing at an E with your index finger and play a rectangle there, do it with another e at this point, I've played parts of every E minor pentatonic shape all over the fretboard, mix things up, try sliding to a different node in the pattern and walk to the root or make a musical phrase which resolves to the root, keep moving to different fret spans and do the same until it's easy to find an e under your fingers each time, then move on to a different note, you can do the same for the major pentatonic scale or for Any of the modes, I have a video on how to easily layer modes on the pentatonic scale, so check it out if you haven't already, since a lot of guitar music is played in the keys of e to d or G, learn those.
First you will need to find the notes more frequently than any of the other notes and then perhaps work on the rest of the cycle of fourths. The second approach I recommend whenever you are learning a new song, memorize the chord sequence and practice playing the chord progression as Triads in different places or just playing The Roots Little Wing is a good option to try because it covers all the natural notes . Hendricks had his guitar tuned a half step, but if we ignore that the chord progression contains a B minor C D E minor f and G with a B flat minor included as a passing string, so maybe challenge yourself to find chord voicings in a limited area.
I like to do this on the top four strings over a five fret range. Let's do it here. for frets 6 to 10, if we start with E minor, here there is an e on the 9th fret of the G string and we can build a minor triad around which there is a G on the eth fret of the B string and we can build a major triad there, the A up here, on the 10th fret of the B string, go back to E B on the 7th fret of the E string, we can slide it down to B flat and back up to A, there's a C on the eighth fret of E. the string goes back to our G, there is an F on the 10th fret of the G string, it goes back to C and finally we have a D on the 7th fret of the G string, it's one thing to do one string at a time, but for one more big challenge is doing it with a metronome or along with recording.
A third exercise is to focus on just one string at a time and use the cycle of fourths or fifths to visit each note in an order that keeps you moving. I would start with Mi. string, since you get two strings for the price of one, you can start anywhere in the cycle of fourths. I like to start with b and then find e a d g c and F since that covers all the natural nos, so here is B on the 7th fret e on the 12th a is on the 5th D is on the 10th G is on the 3D C on the 8th and F on the 1st you can go ahead and do the flats, but if you stop there you will have already covered the natural notes and you can always just go up or down a fret to get the sharps and flats, but let's move on, here is B flat on the 6th fret e flat on the 11th a flat on the 4th fret to go in the other direction f c g d a e y B and so on it is worth knowing the cycle of fourths and fifths forward and backward because both sequences end up being useful in many places once you master it, it is a good idea not to always start with the same note, try closing your eyes and choose a random note with your Fring hand, open your eyes. name that note and then continue through the full cycle of fourths or fifths until you are back where you started, maybe practice doing this on a different string each day in terms of what order learning the other strings on the a string is very helpful as a place to visualize the roots of bar chords, so if you're working on rhythm guitar, that's a great place to follow.
If you are learning scales and want to learn to improvise, I would choose the B string next and go down. From there, the main reason is simply that when you improvise, your target notes will tend to be on the top three or four strings and if you can get good at identifying the roots on those strings, you will have a much easier time playing the chord tones. . In method three we moved along a string using the cycle of fourths or fifths and that's the advantage of each note being five or seven frets from the last. Another variation you can use to test yourself is to move across the strings using the chromatic scale.
This has a similar effect by keeping you moving up and down significant distances on the fretboard, so let's switch to the color wheel and start with the B note on the 7th fret of the high E string if we want to play a C on the next one. string there is one on the 1st fret, then there is a C sharp on the 6th fret of the G string, there is a D on the 12th fret of the D string, the D sharp is on the 6th fret of the A and E string, of course , is the 12th fret of the low E string now, if we start going back up the strings, there is an F on the 8th fret of the A string F sharp is the 4th fret of the D string G is the 12th fret of the string G G Shar is the ninth fret of the B string and a is the fifth fret of the E string if we follow a sharp it is the eleventh fret of the B string and B is the fourth fret of the G string C is the tenth fret of the D string C sharp is the fourth fret of the A string and D is the tenth fret of the E string.
Once the exercise starts to become easy for you, you can confidently say that you know the notes on the fretboard. A big takeaway from all of this is that it is not necessary to master every note on the fretboard before moving on to other topics, in my opinion the best way to learn is cyclical and that is because many topics in music theory build on each other. For example, triads are based on root notes, pentatonic scales are built around Triads and major scale modes are built on pentatonic scales. You don't have to treat it like a ladder, you treat it like a loop and every time you touch on a topic, your understanding will increase.
Start with an eoda and learn it everywhere. then use that knowledge to learn E minor pentatonic everywhere then use that knowledge to learn edorian everywhere when you're ready to move on learn everywhere and repeat use the rectangle and stack approach from my other video and mix it up between minor and major pentatonic, it is not necessary to learn all the modes at once. The Dorian mode combined with the minor pentatonic and the Mixian mode combined with the major pentatonic are the most useful sets of scales for blues-based music, which includes almost all rock. and roll and my video hidden in a simple site shows you how they are located at the top of the pentatonic scale.
If you would like a compact written summary of the concepts covered in any of my videos, there are printable PDF cheat sheets available for sale at the link. in the video description, your purchases are the best way to support the development of future science PR videos and I appreciate you don't forget to hit the like and subscribe buttons. See you next time.

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