Learning the fretboard is challenging and takes a consistent effort. It doesn’t take a lot of brainpower but it does require some focus and time.
To start with, it’s helpful to learn the basic patterns of notes across a string. This lays the foundation for later work. For example, knowing that G is always two frets up from C is an important piece of information to have.
Know Your Scales
The ability to name notes across a string or fretboard is one of the most important skills you can have as a guitarist. It helps you to memorize chord shapes, power chords and scale patterns much faster as well as makes transcribing songs or improvising a lot easier. It is also a crucial skill for learning the fretboard as a whole.
The first step in this process is to learn your major scale in all positions up and down the neck. This is a simple way to get started because it will give you an overview of all the different notes on the fretboard and their relationships with each other.
Once you have mastered your major scale, the next step is to learn the minor scale in all of its various forms. This will help you to see how the scales relate with each other on the fretboard and will help you understand how to move from one key to another.
Once you’ve mastered the minor scale, it is time to start learning your pentatonic patterns. These are the seven basic notes in any given key and you should be able to play them all over the fretboard. The more you practice playing these patterns in different keys, the better they will become and you will be able to start seeing your fretboard as a whole rather than just little boxes.
A good way to get used to the note names is to do some spelling drills where you spell out each of the notes on the fretboard (or in your head) using the syntax for that scale. For example, if you are learning a C minor scale, spell it out until you reach B (on the sixth string). This will give you an idea of how each note sounds when played alone and will help you to recognize them when listening to music.
Know Your Chords
Whether you want to play a simple three chord progression or a complex power chord, knowing your chords is essential for any guitar player. Having a good grasp on how to move up and down the fretboard with ease will help you to play songs in different keys, as well as create your own unique chord progressions.
Chords can be a bit daunting to learn, but it’s important to start with simple ones and then work your way up to more complicated ones. A great place to start is with the most common chords used in music, such as C, G and D. This will give you a great foundation to work from, and then you can work your way up to more advanced chords like 7th chords, shell chords and barre chords.
Once you’ve mastered your basic chords, it’s time to start learning some octave intervals so that you can easily find any chord inversion on the fretboard. This is a very useful skill to have, especially when playing in a band setting where you’ll need to transpose chords on the fly.
To get a grip on this concept, it’s helpful to look at a fretboard and name each note using the syntax (E string = E, F string = F, A string = A, etc). This will allow you to instantly recall where a natural notes is located on the fretboard. After that, it’s just a matter of learning how notes with sharps and flats are located in relation to the natural notes.
Finally, it’s also a good idea to practice switching between chords by counting out loud how many beats you have to wait before the next chord change. This will help you to develop the habit of not landing your fingers on a fret too soon, which can be a big problem when changing between chords in a song.
Know Your Frets
Getting to know the notes on your fretboard is something every guitarist should strive for, no matter how experienced they are. Not only does it give you a lot of freedom when it comes to creating chords, but it can also greatly enhance your improvisational skills.
The best way to learn your fretboard is to start with one note at a time. Choose a letter A-G (it doesn’t matter which), and find that note on each string and in every position on the fretboard. When you do, say the name of the note out loud to help with memory retention. Using this method, you will quickly memorize all the positions of that particular note on your fretboard. Be sure to practice this with each of your strings, and try not to skip any of the notes.
Once you have the letter of your choice down, it’s important to understand that it will be an octave higher on each subsequent string. This is important because it will help you visualize the fretboard vertically as well as horizontally. You can use this knowledge to quickly navigate around the fretboard and get back to your starting point.
This method may feel a bit strange at first, but it is very effective at removing your dependence on memorizing shapes and patterns. Eventually, you will be able to play any note in any position on the neck without having to reference anything else. This will give you a huge amount of freedom when it comes to creating both chords and scales. It will allow you to think of your fretboard in terms of letters instead of shapes, which can be a very powerful tool.
Know Your Licks
A lick is just a short flourish of notes, it might not be something memorable in the sense that a riff might be, but it can make a song more interesting by adding some variety. Licks are often used by guitarists to add some flair and style to their playing, whether it’s a solo or when they’re just jamming with friends. I suggest you check out Stay Tuned Guitar to master chords and play guitar like a pro.
To be able to know your licks it’s essential that you understand how to find the notes on the fretboard. Unlike a piano keyboard, which neatly separates natural and accidental (flats and sharps) notes into tidy black and white keys that repeat every octave, the guitar fingerboard is a much more complicated beast.
The good news is that there’s a few tricks you can use to help you unlock the fretboard and make it easier to remember note names. For starters, we recommend learning the 3 main octave shapes for each string set (E-A; D-G; B-E). This will make it easier to find any note anywhere on the fretboard and will also reduce your thinking time when you play.
Once you’ve got these basic tools under your belt, it’s a good idea to spend some time practicing licks at both slow and fast speeds. This will help you get the line under your fingers and hear how it sounds at different tempos. This is an important step because if you can get the long lines under your fingers and hear how they work together, then it’s a lot easier to break down complex licks into their component parts and start building them up on your own.
As a final piece of advice, once you have a lick under your fingers try to learn it in multiple keys. This will give you the flexibility to move it around the fretboard, change the pitch of some of the notes, add expression techniques like slides and hammer-ons and pull-offs, and basically tweak it to your own style.
Know Your Scales in Different Keys
For many players, learning the fretboard can feel like a very daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be. There are a few different ways to approach the fretboard that will help you make huge strides in your playing.
One of the most helpful things you can do is learn a few scale patterns in different keys. This will help you to instantly recognize notes and chords on the fretboard. It’s also a good way to see how the notes are related up and down the neck.
To do this, just choose a key and work on memorizing the notes in that key. Once you’ve got them down, move on to the next key and repeat the process. This will quickly get you familiar with the notes in any key.
Another great way to memorize the fretboard is to use a method book. This will teach you the shapes of all of the chords on the fretboard and how they relate to each other. This can be very helpful, but it’s not something that will completely replace the need for a visual system of the fretboard.
For those that have a very difficult time remembering the positions of the notes on the fretboard, it can be helpful to create a memory map. This is a chart that will show you where each note is on the fretboard and what it looks like relative to all of the other notes. This is a great tool to have, but it can be frustrating for some people.
The most important thing to remember is that there are lots of different ways to approach the fretboard. Find a way that works best for you, and stick with it. You’ll find that the more you practice, the easier it will become to play anywhere on the fretboard.