24 July 2009

Learn Guitar Fretboard: 4 Ways to Mastery

What does it take to learn your guitar fretboard? You can find many offers of different learning systems but I think the thing that works best is to mix approaches.

Knowledge of the fretboard is most useful when you can apply it. It isn't enough to simply teach your mind the notes on the different strings and frets. You must also teach them to your fingers and show them how to find their way around the fretboard. You must transform knowledge of note names into things your fingers can play, intervals, and chord and scale patterns.

When you mix different learning approaches you learn more easily because you stimulate different channels in your mind. You also get the benefit of learning to apply note knowledge so you can use it to create music, which is of course the goal of learning the fretboard in the first place.

Here are four main approaches you can use to learn your guitar fretboard.

1. Learn The Notes

There are many ways to learn the names of the notes. You can learn simply through repetition of the names by string and by fret.

Many learning tricks can make it easier to memorize the notes. For example, you can imagine frets of different colors to help you find your place on the fretboard. You can assign animals, friends, or any other memorable object to frets to give your mind hooks to hang its knowledge of notes on.

You can also do lots of exercises easily in your mind so you can learn anytime and any place without using up your valuable guitar practice time.

2. Learn Interval Shapes

Interval shapes help you to create short cuts to memorizing the notes on the fretboard. Intervals help because the same notes occur in fixed relations with respect to one another all over the fretboard.

This fact can be exploited to help you quickly identify any note in relation to a few easy to remember reference points on the fretboard. Good shapes to use for this technique are the octave, thirds and fifth.

3. Learn Chord Patterns

Learn the names and degrees of each note in the chords you know. This knowledge will help you to easily identify notes on the fretboard.

Moveable chord forms such as bar chords or the CAGED system are particularly effective for this. You can use the chord positions to quickly find any note on the fretboard.

Fred Sokolow's Fretboard Roadmaps series is also a good place to discover patterns of chords around the fretboard that will help you to quickly locate any type of chord you need.

4. Learn Scale Patterns

In a similar fashion, moveable scale patterns can be used all over the neck to help you find and play notes too.

Pay attention to the interval and scale degree relationships between notes in the chord patterns you learn. As you practice scales get into the habit of reciting note names, scale degrees or intervals as you play each note.

This will soon build a good knowledge of all these three ways of thinking of notes and scales. You will be able to find notes quickly and easily.


A combination of learning techniques is the most effective way to learn your guitar fretboard. With a little time and patience you can train both your mind and fingers to identify any note on the fretboard or find where to play notes and chords of the music you play.

Remember that you can use off-guitar time to work with many of these techniques while you perform mundane daily tasks. Use visualization or simply recite notes on strings or frets, or chord and scale positions out loud.


Guitar article writing: Gary Fletcher writes quality, original guitar content for your web sites. Discover guitar writing services for guitar web sites, blogs and newsletters. Visit http://www.writescribe.com/guitar to learn more.

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