Learning the fretboard

Guitar Tricks Forum > Guitar Basics > Learning the fretboard

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Please Note: I discovered an error in my explanation of this technique and have slightly modified the original post. Also, Christopher Schlegel has provided a link to the "Fretboard Learning" lessons belonging to his own (discontinued) Guitar Fundamentals course, one that is sadly no longer a part of the core curriculum. Find that link in his response to this post. TBH, that particular set of lessons didn't help me learn the fretboard any better than the current GF courses, but maybe what and how Chris teaches will click for you. If not, try this method. You have nothing to lose :)

=============

Beginners hear it incessantly - gotta learn the fretboard, gotta learn the fretboard. Accomplishing that has become my white whale. Unfortunately, none of the Guitar Fundamentals courses taught by Lisa, Anders and Chris have been helpful to me in that one regard. So, I experimented with some alternative methods on my own and this one hit home for me.

By now I have the string names down pat - EADGBE, which allows me to immediately identify all the notes on the first fret. It's just the string names sharped (remembering that E sharped is F and B sharped is C). Knowing the string names means that I also know the 12th fret, which is an octave up and therefore identical to the string names: EADGBE. I also know that moving one fret up the neck (toward the body) sharps a note and moving one fret down the neck (toward the headstock) flats a note. Knowing that, it's easy to quickly identify all the notes on the 11th and 13th strings as well. Which means I already know all the open strings and the notes on 4 frets, without having memorized anything new.

Now just pick either the 3rd and 7th frets or the 5th and 9th frets, and memorize the notes on those 2 frets. Because there are 2 identically named strings on the guitar, you really only need to memorize a total of 10 notes to learn those 2 frets. Once memorized, you should be able to quickly identify all the notes on the adjacent frets (on either side of the 2 frets that you memorized) by simply sharping or flatting the memorized notes.

So, memorize just 10 notes on 2 frets and you will be able to quickly identify all the notes on 10 whole frets. That leaves just 3 frets (or 15 notes) to learn in whatever manner works best for you. After memorizing just 10 notes, my times for completing the Fretboard Trainer exercise (in the GT Toolbox) improved profoundly. I went from over 5 minutes to less than 60 seconds. 10 notes.

Ultimately, my goal (and yours) is to memorize all the notes on the fretboard unassisted (without the need for using "anchor" notes as navigational guides). Although the aforementioned method cannot (on it's own) achieve that goal, it does allow for very quick identification of individual notes that you will then have to memorize. In other words, this method eliminates the need for always having to start at the nut and count up the neck sequentially, note by note, until you reach your destination. It's a way to save a whole lot of time while completing the task of memorizing all the notes on the fretboard; nothing more and nothing less.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#1

Please Note: I discovered an error in my explanation of this technique and have slightly modified the original post. Also, Christopher Schlegel has provided a link to the "Fretboard Learning" lessons belonging to his own (discontinued) Guitar Fundamentals course, one that is sadly no longer a part of the core curriculum. Find that link in his response to this post. TBH, that particular set of lessons didn't help me learn the fretboard any better than the current GF courses, but maybe what and how Chris teaches will click for you. If not, try this method. You have nothing to lose :)

=============

Beginners hear it incessantly - gotta learn the fretboard, gotta learn the fretboard. Accomplishing that has become my white whale. Unfortunately, none of the Guitar Fundamentals courses taught by Lisa, Anders and Chris have been helpful to me in that one regard. So, I experimented with some alternative methods on my own and this one hit home for me.

By now I have the string names down pat - EADGBE, which allows me to immediately identify all the notes on the first fret. It's just the string names sharped (remembering that E sharped is F and B sharped is C). Knowing the string names means that I also know the 12th fret, which is an octave up and therefore identical to the string names: EADGBE. I also know that moving one fret up the neck (toward the body) sharps a note and moving one fret down the neck (toward the headstock) flats a note. Knowing that, it's easy to quickly identify all the notes on the 11th and 13th strings as well. Which means I already know all the open strings and the notes on 4 frets, without having memorized anything new.

Now just pick either the 3rd and 7th frets or the 5th and 9th frets, and memorize the notes on those 2 frets. Because there are 2 identically named strings on the guitar, you really only need to memorize a total of 10 notes to learn those 2 frets. Once memorized, you should be able to quickly identify all the notes on the adjacent frets (on either side of the 2 frets that you memorized) by simply sharping or flatting the memorized notes.

So, memorize just 10 notes on 2 frets and you will be able to quickly identify all the notes on 10 whole frets. That leaves just 3 frets (or 15 notes) to learn in whatever manner works best for you. After memorizing just 10 notes, my times for completing the Fretboard Trainer exercise (in the GT Toolbox) improved profoundly. I went from over 5 minutes to less than 60 seconds. 10 notes.

Ultimately, my goal (and yours) is to memorize all the notes on the fretboard unassisted (without the need for using "anchor" notes as navigational guides). Although the aforementioned method cannot (on it's own) achieve that goal, it does allow for very quick identification of individual notes that you will then have to memorize. In other words, this method eliminates the need for always having to start at the nut and count up the neck sequentially, note by note, until you reach your destination. It's a way to save a whole lot of time while completing the task of memorizing all the notes on the fretboard; nothing more and nothing less.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
But I've not come across a method that's practical for beginners.

Covered that in my GF1.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=11078

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
By now I at least have the strings down cold - EADGBE. Which has allowed me to immediately identify all the notes on the first fret.

Good deal!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
But I've not come across a method that's practical for beginners.

Covered that in my GF1.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=11078

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
By now I at least have the strings down cold - EADGBE. Which has allowed me to immediately identify all the notes on the first fret.

Good deal!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Awesome, thanks Chris!

How is it that your GF 1 & 2 aren't part of the core curriculum?

To anyone who was confused by my explanation of my "method" of memorizing the fretboard, please note that I made a couple of corrections pertaining to the faulty explanation. Oops! Anyways, it should make sense now. Sorry about that.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#3

Awesome, thanks Chris!

How is it that your GF 1 & 2 aren't part of the core curriculum?

To anyone who was confused by my explanation of my "method" of memorizing the fretboard, please note that I made a couple of corrections pertaining to the faulty explanation. Oops! Anyways, it should make sense now. Sorry about that.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

Awesome, thanks Chris!

How is it that your GF 1 & 2 aren't part of the core curriculum?

You're welcome! They were, but the current ones are newer. This has happened several times over the years. Same thing for older style courses. And for some of my tutorials. GT is continually working on updating content.

My courses are still available! You can use them if you want. :) Enjoy!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#4

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

Awesome, thanks Chris!

How is it that your GF 1 & 2 aren't part of the core curriculum?

You're welcome! They were, but the current ones are newer. This has happened several times over the years. Same thing for older style courses. And for some of my tutorials. GT is continually working on updating content.

My courses are still available! You can use them if you want. :) Enjoy!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

Covered that in my GF1.

Yes, you did... using a methodology that is effectively similar to that of other GT instructors, which is to teach all the strings horizontally, fret by fret. You have a couple of diagrams in the first lesson but never explain what they mean or how that's supposed to help one learn the entire fretboard. You typically knock every lesson out of the park, Chris - but not this time.

It's a great introduction to note names and fretboard layout. It also introduces a methodical and laborious process for identifying individual notes. But it doesn't provide a strategy for quickly identifying those same notes when they are presented in random order, such as the fretboard challenge in the GT Toolbox.

I realize that what I'm proposing is anything but a silver bullet for memorizing the fretboard. One still needs to put in the time and repetitions in order to eventually be able to immediately identify specific notes on sight (even by ear), the way you and every other instructor here can.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#5

Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

Covered that in my GF1.

Yes, you did... using a methodology that is effectively similar to that of other GT instructors, which is to teach all the strings horizontally, fret by fret. You have a couple of diagrams in the first lesson but never explain what they mean or how that's supposed to help one learn the entire fretboard. You typically knock every lesson out of the park, Chris - but not this time.

It's a great introduction to note names and fretboard layout. It also introduces a methodical and laborious process for identifying individual notes. But it doesn't provide a strategy for quickly identifying those same notes when they are presented in random order, such as the fretboard challenge in the GT Toolbox.

I realize that what I'm proposing is anything but a silver bullet for memorizing the fretboard. One still needs to put in the time and repetitions in order to eventually be able to immediately identify specific notes on sight (even by ear), the way you and every other instructor here can.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 7748

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
Yes, you did... in the same manner as every other GT instructor, which is to teach all the strings horizontally, fret by fret. You have a couple of diagrams in the first lesson but never explain what they mean or how that's supposed to help one learn the entire fretboard. You typically knock every lesson out of the park, Chris - but not this time.

The link I sent was to the first lesson of an entire chapter on learning the note names & their structure. I do it 2 strings sets at a time, while concretizing it with melodies. Then I explain the overall structure & incorporate accidentals.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

It's a great introduction to note names, fretboard layout, and introduces a methodical process for identifying individual notes. But it doesn't provide a strategy for quickly identifying those same notes when they are presented in random order, such as the fretboard challenge in the toolbox.

Yes, that's beyond the scope of the beginner level fundamentals. Most of what a beginner learns happens in the lower fretboard; open strings through first 5 frets.

If you want a system for the entire fretboard, then I suggest the octave method I cover in my music theory tutorial.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=11526&s_id=495

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#6

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus
Yes, you did... in the same manner as every other GT instructor, which is to teach all the strings horizontally, fret by fret. You have a couple of diagrams in the first lesson but never explain what they mean or how that's supposed to help one learn the entire fretboard. You typically knock every lesson out of the park, Chris - but not this time.

The link I sent was to the first lesson of an entire chapter on learning the note names & their structure. I do it 2 strings sets at a time, while concretizing it with melodies. Then I explain the overall structure & incorporate accidentals.

Originally Posted by: aliasmaximus

It's a great introduction to note names, fretboard layout, and introduces a methodical process for identifying individual notes. But it doesn't provide a strategy for quickly identifying those same notes when they are presented in random order, such as the fretboard challenge in the toolbox.

Yes, that's beyond the scope of the beginner level fundamentals. Most of what a beginner learns happens in the lower fretboard; open strings through first 5 frets.

If you want a system for the entire fretboard, then I suggest the octave method I cover in my music theory tutorial.

https://www.guitartricks.com/lesson.php?input=11526&s_id=495

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Yes Chris, it did help me! Both times that I have previously completed that entire course; a course which finally tied together all the disparate pieces of musical theory that I had floating around my head like a can of alphabet soup bouncing down a dirt road. I so appreciate and admire your GF1 & 2 courses that I even posted to (and emailed) Admin to suggest that your course be reintroduced into the core curruculum, at least as a supplement. I believe that doing so would probably be the single most useful thing Admin could do to give beginners a leg up.

But for all the praise I can lavish upon what amounts to a very small piece of your entire lesson catalog, I still hold fast to my assertion that no GF course on GT comes close to elucidating a method for tackling the entire fretboard in a manner that allows for quick identification of individual notes by a beginner. And that's probably because instructors collectively underestimate a lot of beginners by assuming that (as you yourself stated) the process of learning the entire fretboard is unquestionably "beyond the scope of a beginner". You can't make such a statement and at the same time claim that you did in fact provide a practical framework for memorizing the fretboard in your GF courses. That would be illogical, and you're anything but illogical.

As much as I like to joke about you being one of GT's Marvel-like music-oriented superheros, you do realize that nobody here honestly expects perfection from you... other than you yourself it seems. You can't do everything for everybody all the time. And that's all right by me :)

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#7

Yes Chris, it did help me! Both times that I have previously completed that entire course; a course which finally tied together all the disparate pieces of musical theory that I had floating around my head like a can of alphabet soup bouncing down a dirt road. I so appreciate and admire your GF1 & 2 courses that I even posted to (and emailed) Admin to suggest that your course be reintroduced into the core curruculum, at least as a supplement. I believe that doing so would probably be the single most useful thing Admin could do to give beginners a leg up.

But for all the praise I can lavish upon what amounts to a very small piece of your entire lesson catalog, I still hold fast to my assertion that no GF course on GT comes close to elucidating a method for tackling the entire fretboard in a manner that allows for quick identification of individual notes by a beginner. And that's probably because instructors collectively underestimate a lot of beginners by assuming that (as you yourself stated) the process of learning the entire fretboard is unquestionably "beyond the scope of a beginner". You can't make such a statement and at the same time claim that you did in fact provide a practical framework for memorizing the fretboard in your GF courses. That would be illogical, and you're anything but illogical.

As much as I like to joke about you being one of GT's Marvel-like music-oriented superheros, you do realize that nobody here honestly expects perfection from you... other than you yourself it seems. You can't do everything for everybody all the time. And that's all right by me :)

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

Tinpan

Full Access

Joined: 03/31/20

Posts: 357

This might be of interest?

I think it's one of those things you just have to search for until you find a way that clicks for your particular grey matter.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nXN7hYNMfhA

#8

This might be of interest?

I think it's one of those things you just have to search for until you find a way that clicks for your particular grey matter.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nXN7hYNMfhA

aliasmaximus

Hippie at Heart

Joined: 02/22/22

Posts: 249

Thanks, Tinpan! All those bits and bobs of knowledge in a fun singsongy Liverpool accent.

Circle of fourths applied sequentially (except where it's nonsequential) to a rectangular fretboard, wherein you simply apply the letters straight across the neck, except where it sometimes bends and goes up the neck.... well, actually, kind of at an angle - up and across, except when you get to the high E string where it instead goes around and down the neck following the mnemonic precisely, except for the places where Charles' Father doesn't fall Down because the Battle never got underway in the first place and....

Sorry, dude - I don't have enough gray matter left for that system ; )

But, I think you're absolutely correct. In order to memorize the fretboard, every guitarist eventually has to find something that clicks for them. And that particular video is likely to click for some.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

#9

Thanks, Tinpan! All those bits and bobs of knowledge in a fun singsongy Liverpool accent.

Circle of fourths applied sequentially (except where it's nonsequential) to a rectangular fretboard, wherein you simply apply the letters straight across the neck, except where it sometimes bends and goes up the neck.... well, actually, kind of at an angle - up and across, except when you get to the high E string where it instead goes around and down the neck following the mnemonic precisely, except for the places where Charles' Father doesn't fall Down because the Battle never got underway in the first place and....

Sorry, dude - I don't have enough gray matter left for that system ; )

But, I think you're absolutely correct. In order to memorize the fretboard, every guitarist eventually has to find something that clicks for them. And that particular video is likely to click for some.

Nicolai

"Whatever you are, be a good one" - Abraham Lincoln

Tinpan

Full Access

Joined: 03/31/20

Posts: 357

Ha! yep, pretty much was my conclusion too but I can see how it may visually work for some who are desperate to find a mantra that helps. I don't think there is a substitute for just going over and over it based on octaves and counting back from the 12th once past half way.

I finally got it by finding one note at a time across each string to beat 1 (give yourself 3 beats to find the next one). If you say it out loud as you go and work your way up and then back down. All the A's, all the Bs and so on then it will suddenly get quicker.

My biggest problem wasn't finding a how, it was committing time to it. OK...I'm going to do all the...hang on...Red House licks!!!...look a squirrel.

#10

Ha! yep, pretty much was my conclusion too but I can see how it may visually work for some who are desperate to find a mantra that helps. I don't think there is a substitute for just going over and over it based on octaves and counting back from the 12th once past half way.

I finally got it by finding one note at a time across each string to beat 1 (give yourself 3 beats to find the next one). If you say it out loud as you go and work your way up and then back down. All the A's, all the Bs and so on then it will suddenly get quicker.

My biggest problem wasn't finding a how, it was committing time to it. OK...I'm going to do all the...hang on...Red House licks!!!...look a squirrel.