26 June 2009

Learn Guitar: Should You Memorize The Fretboard?

Can you learn guitar without memorizing the notes of the fretboard?

You'll come across lots of ads for guitar fretboard learning systems on guitar sites, but do you really need them? Well, depending on what you plan to play, maybe not...

Want To Strum Simple Songs?

If your only ambition is to strum favourite songs with open chords your fingers may never stray beyond the third fret. If this is you there's little need to learn the notes all the way up to the 21st fret.

Play By Numbers

If you do plan to venture further up the fretboard you can get by simply playing the numbers. Guitar tab uses numbers to show you where to put your fingers. You don't have to know what the notes you play are, you simply put your fingers in the places you're told to.

Of course, to become a good musician you need to learn what's behind the numbers. But not everybody wants to dedicate the effort needed. Some are happy to simply learn some music by rote and reproduce it, and that's fine. If that's your goal, then you can get by with the numbers.

Learn Fretboard As You Go

Music theory is generally not useful to you until you can play it and this holds true for your fretboard. If you can't play stuff up at the tenth fret, then knowing the names of the notes there isn't really going to do you a whole lot of good.

You don't have to learn all the notes on the fretboard just because they are there. You can learn them as and when you need instead.

Learning bar chords? Then it's the time to learn the root notes along the fretboard so you can locate the place to play chords. Learning a scale? This is the opportunity to learn the notes in the positions you practice.

Each time you learn a new chord or scale position, each time you learn the pattern of a new interval on the guitar neck, you learn your fretboard. You'll also find it easier to memorize things because you have some practical purpose to link the knowledge to.

Memorize Your Fretboard?

No, you don't really have to memorize your fretboard. It is quite easy to play a lot of things on guitar without detailed knowledge of the notes on your fretboard.

But do understand that you limit your musical skill and creativity if you choose to play this way. So think carefully about what you want to get out of your guitar playing before you decide to ignore your fretboard.

Next week on Not Playing Guitar you can discover lots of useful ways to learn your fretboard. If you want to improve your fretboard knowledge then sign-up for updates by email or RSS so you don't miss out.

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