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Lesson #19: Learning the Fretboard Method 1

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-17
Topic: Fretboard Subtopic: General
Level: Intermediate Number of Readers: 73582

Learning the Fretboard Method 1

What you will be presented with in this lesson is a very popular method of learning where the notes on the fretboard are located.

Here's how it works:

1. Pick(I should say choose :) a note. (Example, D#, E, Bb)
2. Go to the 6th string, and find all the occurrences of this note on that string, and play them, one by one. There should only be a few occurrences.
3. Now go to the next string(the fifth) and find all the occurrences of that note on that string, and play them.
4. Continue this until you've found all the occurrences of the note on all the strings, then do it again, starting from the 1st string and ending on the fifth.
5. Repeat this process for all twelve notes.

This will probably be very slow going at first, especially if you have to figure out where every note is using the method described in the last lesson. Getting a chart for while your starting out could be a good idea. There's probably one located on this site, check in the scale charts to see.

Even though this will be slow going at first, it will become faster. Once you get fairly good at this, you can introduce the use of a metronome. To use the metronome in this exercise, what you'll do is set the metronome to some speed, and then use the same process as above. You should play an occurrence of the note for every click of the metronome. DON'T CHEAT. If it's too fast for you, slow down the metronome. When you improve, set the metronome a bit faster. Continue this until you're zipping right through this exercise.

Remember, you have to do this for all twelve notes. Also, practice with the sharp names of notes as well as the flat names(example: practice F# and Gb individually). You might wonder why you'd have to do this, since it's the same note. You have to understand that what you're doing is creating an association between the note name and a position on the fretboard. The association will be stronger if you practice these individually. If you didn't practice the flat names, and then sometime you wanted to play a Gb, you'd first have to realize that Gb was the same as F#, and then associate F# with it's place on the fretboard. This isn't as quick as just associating Gb with it's correct place. Don't worry, it won't take as long for learning these. Since you already know where F# is, teaching your brain to associate that place on the fretboard with Gb won't take as long as if you didn't know the placement.

This method of learning the fretboard is a good method, but it does have some problems. You have to think about the way your brain works and learns. You've mastered this exercise, you'll be able to call up a note in your head, and then play it in any of it's occurrences on the fretboard, because this is what you've practiced. But what you HAVEN'T practiced is playing any note on the fretboard, then saying in your head what note it is. Also, you haven't imprinted in your mind the relationship between different notes. It's all about learning. Your brain works in funny ways.

Don't worry though, by mastering this exercise, you'll have improved this specific skill, but you will have also improved other skills without knowing it. When taking different approaches at learning the fretboard, they will be that much easier because you have this one under your belt. When you approach a problem from as many different angles and methods as possible, you'll find that each method has it's pros and cons, and by using lots of them, you bet the benefits of all of them, and THAT is when you'll finally understand.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. Using the method will help you associate a note name with it's position on the fretboard.
2. In order for this to be of the greatest use, you will have to use all 12 notes, and also the enharmonic names of the sharps and flats. (example: C# and Db)
3. This method will help you, but it will most likely not result in a complete understanding of the fretboard.
4. There is no one perfect method. If you use many different methods to approach the same problem, you'll get the benefits of all of them.


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