Ok, this might be a random or rather dumb question. But Im hoping some of you pros will see where im at and maybe give me some tips or insight to get where you are at. My main quest is learning the fretboard. Figuring out the pathways across the neck. My issue is that while I have been playing 8 Years.
my frustration in this task grows.

I have learned the modes. I understand the pattern and have broken down the shapes. I understand ,and know how to stack the shapes within one another
because they all just repeat a cycle of 0-0-0 (X3), 00-0(X2), and 0-00 (x2). And I know where each "mode" starts from where.

I understand the scale degrees for each note within those patterns. So I know that the 6th note of the major scale is minor. I know what chord goes on each degree and which mode can be played from there. So I can combine the scale patterns with each respected chord shape and degree.

I know my chord shapes. Open,6 string barre,5 string barre. Triads, and such. I understand which note makes up each chord. Like root,5th,root,3rd,5th,root for barre chords.

I know the notes somewhat on my fretboard.

My issue is I cant combine that knowledge! My mind focuses on one way of thinking, then I get lost.
If im sitting and writing a song, or thinking something out. Yeah sure I can. But if im just playing I will get lost.
I will start with one way of thinking, like scale patterns, My brain will just to say a scale degree and make a chord.
Now im thinking chord shapes. Then after that I will trip over myself because something stupid like
"is the 5th of this chord the 5th of the scale im playing in?" dumb stuff like that. Or I jump into a pattern and
take myself too far across the neck and dont have time to reset my thinking.

How do I overcome this? Or am I expecting too much. I see so many great players just "Play".
Or is that just fantasy?
Gioloverso
Sounds like you're really close, so don't lose faith.

What helped me a lot was improvising. There's a ridiculous number of backing tracks on Youtube, so just find one in whatever key and style you want to jam in and just start playing.

Nothing happens overnight, but being able to shut your mind off and just let your hands do the talking is a skill. Like any other skill, it takes time and practice. Instead of overanalyzing the notes, patterns, and chords you're playing, try to streamline the process of hearing something in your head and making it come out of your amp.

Best of luck!
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Gioloverso

Nothing happens overnight, but being able to shut your mind off and just let your hands do the talking is a skill. Like any other skill, it takes time and practice. Instead of overanalyzing the notes, patterns, and chords you're playing, try to streamline the process of hearing something in your head and making it come out of your amp.

Best of luck!

I agree, it will come in time. Keep at it and get those repetions in. If you're a freak like me, have a guitar with you at all times and pick it up when time allows. I take a guitar to work with me regularly to kill idle down time overnight. And then when I'm at home there is always a guitar near by if not already in my hands. I think I might have a problem. Nah, there's worse things I could be doing.

Best Of Luck
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Take some of your favourite solos, look at the key, the chords underneath and the notes of the solo. Try to figure out why those notes sound good in the context of the key and against the chord being played.

If you understand why the guitarist chose those notes, you should be able to figure out some of your own lines too.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
In a way, this is a great problem to have. First off, I heartily agree with the advice offered in the previous posts. Definitely don't lose hope.

You know the patters and the basic theory' now comes the application. What really helped me to really understand modes and how they sound was breaking down songs I know and love. Right away, I saw that certain keys, certain modes really jumped out at me; others not so much. First off, better knowledge of song structures will always help, but you'll also get to understand the notes in context. For me, that was the missing step. I think a lot of guitarists probably struggle with modes because they so often practice alone. Backing tracks, playing with other musicians and/or playing over records are huge remedies in that respect.

Knowing where a mode 'starts' is a bit of a misnomer. Trying thinking of each mode as a family of notes. You know how these scale degrees and note relate in a technical sense, but try thinking about them in a less, for lack of a better term, linear fashion.

For example, you know the Dorian mode is distinct from other minor modes because it has a major sixth. Just play over something really simple, say, a looped vamp on an A minor chord. Then play that one note, major sixth (F#), over the track. And play it in every conceivable position on the neck. Then compare it to the sound of the minor sixth (F) all over the neck.

This might seem like baby steps, but what's important is breaking it down and making sure you hear the difference. If you can't hear it in your head, everything after that will suffer. I'm sure we've all seen dudes who mindlessly rip through scales vs guys who sound like they're playing the song. And remember not to get frustrated; everyone's wired differently and everyone works at their own pace. Some player instinctively gravitate toward certain sounds and just run with it, but it sounds like you want more than that. And more power to you.

This goes back to learning songs. Not just what notes to play, but the relationship between the different chords, melodies, basslines, etc. Sounds like you already have a wealth of music theory to build from, so all you need to to is stop and apply that in analyzing pieces of music. And it can be anything: the intro to a song, some really awesome lick in a solo by a band you don't even really like or something you came up with on your own.

Whether you're just jamming or trying to write something, I think the best thing you can do is sing. By that I just mean sing whatever musical ideas come to your head. Ultimately, that's the music you're creating and trying to communicate. And who knows, you may surprise yourself with what comes out when you step away from thinking strictly in terms of patterns and scales. At the end of the days, all of that knowledge is just tools; what matters is how you use it.

As for your final question, most of the time, when you're seeing players "just play," they're using licks and ideas they've developed over countless hours of playing. Even if they're not consciously thinking "now I'll bend from the fourth up the the fifth as we land on the downbeat" or "the bridge would be a great time to modulate up a minor third," they know what sounds good to them and could probably break down musically what's happening after the fact. But that's what comes with practice and experience. But from the sounds of it, you're almost there.

Hope this helps, and definitely keep up posted!
I think a lot of guitarists probably struggle with modes because they so often practice alone.

Nah. Most guitarists struggle with modes because there's so much misinformation and it just confuses people. Nobody even knows what modes are and they think they are something magical and the holy grail of music or something when in reality they aren't even that important (and people start learning about them way too early). That's the problem. I'm pretty sure when TS is talking about modes, he's just talking about fretboard positions, not the actual modes.

A lot of teachers use the mode names to refer to the 3nps shapes. And that's really confusing.

But I do agree with what you said in your post. Sound is the most important thing in music, and if you don't learn the sounds, nothing in music theory really makes much sense.
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Don't forget a shape is just a collection of pitches at various distances apart ... depending which of these are emphasised, different sound flavours (and tonal centre, if you're the only player) will emerge. So, thinking that a given 3nps pattern equates to a mode is incorrect.

E.g, with minor pentatonic (1,b3,4,5, b7) ... if you emphasise the b3,5 and b7, then this will sound like the major pentatonic rooted off the b3 of the minor pentatonic.

Note choice and emphasis is all about creating relationships between the chosen note and the music going on at that time.

Can you visualise scale(s) running through a chord, and vice-versa?

Also, there is nothing that says that you must play chord tones and extensions in a melody to match the chord of the moment. In other words, there is no need to chase the chords ... you can solo based around the tonic triad in a chord progression ... and it will mostly sound fine. Where it clashes, resolve to a chord tone in the chord of the moment (if you want to).

Should you want to create a load of tension ... a really simple device is to play your main scale rooted a semitone higher, with no real thought applied, other than how you get back to main scale you're using. How acceptable this is depends upon genre. This builds tension because you are placing a lot of pitches a semitone above chord pitches, causing clashes, and hence a desire in the listener for the clashes to be removed.

Do you know about scale tone tendencies?

Do you know how to (de) emphasise notes in a melody?
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 20, 2016,
Gioloverso

You're not alone, making sense of the fretboard while in the middle of playing is a huge challenge. Some tips based on my experiences:

1) start really focusing on what chord is playing when you are soloing - if you don't know what chord is playing at any given moment in a solo and where your note fits in relation to that chord,then you're lost. A big problem if you're used to playing rock, pop or metal is that you can get away with just riding a scale over an entire progression - that can work, but you'll have much more clarity if you approach things as a jazz or blues player would - taking each chord as it's own world and really outlining them in your phrases.

2) rather than have long and extended scale patterns and licks -- start focusing on tiny clusters that are more manageable and that you can easily identify the relationship between what you are playing and what chord is playing at that time. Small phrases that you master can eventually be linked together in larger passages and those will sound much less mechanical than simply running up and down a megapattern. I'm always focused on the root notes of chords as my visual/conceptual anchor - knowing where that root note is reveals what intervals you are playing and helps guide you.

3) start focusing on learning the note names everywhere - can you find the D note on the B string in 1 second? If not, get to it. At the very least this helps clarify things and it can make things easier if you start wandering off and need to land on a good note.

4) Start learning solos by ear if you haven't already - you should start trying to sing what you play and vice-versa.

5) when you say "is the 5th of this chord the 5th of the scale im playing in?" - it reveals that you're over complicating things for yourself - the only thing that matters over a given chord is what the note you are playing means in relation to that chord - from a sound standpoint. focus on chords and their intervals and that will make life easier.
really learning the fretboard can be a challenge for many players..you seem like you really want to know how to overcome the feeling of "getting lost"..ok..there really is no shortcut you have to put in the time and effort to internalize this kind of material..

one thing I tell players: If you feel you "already know this stuff" it will be impossible to learn it..

major suggestion: forget modes..they will only confuse you..make this simple there are the Major scale and the Minor scale...if you have a firm grip on this..(basically--diatonic harmony) adding more complex concepts becomes easier to understand..

do you know chord inversions....if not start with triads on all sets of strings- close and open voicings--In ALL keys..

example Key of C...Strings 654..(3rd fret) notes GCE../ 7th fret ..CEG / 12th fret EGC..now find the same chord forms on strings 543 / 432 and 321

if you know how to read music ..big plus..write out these chords in arpeggio form..if you have chord grid diagrams..write the chords on them.then break them down..example: G=5th/C=Root/E= 3rd/ .. then play them..learning the feel of the chord without looking at the fretboard is a very useful skill..

do this with each chord in the scale..in ALL keys...

I know this sounds like a lot but when you have integrated this step in your playing the rest will come much easier...

now..do the same for the rest of the chords in the C major scale: CMA Dmi Emi FMA GMA Ami Bdim

so Dmi on strings 654 would be --1st fret-F open A and open D..5th fret-ADF...find the next inversion and the rest of the chords

now you can begin to play the C major scale starting from ANY of the notes in any of the chords..now this will break up pattern playing..but now you can feel confident in playing the scale starting from any note in it from any position..ascending of descending

then: the arpeggios for each chord

when you feel you have that down begin with 4note chords (Ma & Mi 7ths)

this will take some time..but once digested and applied to songs, solos etc..that lost feeling will be gone..and going from C7 to AbMA will be understood..

immerse yourself in this stuff...at some point finding Dmi7 at 12th fret on strings 4321 and knowing each note on each string will be 2nd nature..

hope this helps
play well

wolf
Last edited by wolflen at Jul 20, 2016,
Quote by Gioloverso

I know the notes somewhat on my fretboard.

There's been a lot of great advice given by folks with more knowledge that I have by far, but IMO the above is THE problem that you have.

That's job one, to know every note on the fretboard cold, automatically and without thinking about it.

After that everything else gets a lot easier.
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
Charles Darwin
Arby911

Hi Arby.

There's a difference between knowing where to find any note in isolation, versus what role it is playing in the music at that point in time. For example, let's take E. In C triad, it;s the maj 3rd. In E anything it;s the root. In Fmaj7, its the maj7. Against D# anything, it's a b9, which may or may not clash with the chord (E7b9, fine ... E or Em ... clashes hugely).

While entirely achievable to learn every chord and scale by the names of the notes present, that is a monumental task, whereas knowing about intervals instead, and finding these relative to the chord, or the tonal centre, is orders of magnitude less work, and that knowledge is transferable ... if you know the chord type, or scale type, and you know the interval shapes (the number of which are tiny by comparision with the number of different chord types, inversions, and scales (and modes) in different parts of the neck), the job is mostly done. Then you learn how to deal with the tendencies set up by some intervals against the underlying musical context ... again, a small set of things to deal with.

Case in point: play F and Ab. play F and a pitch 3 frets higher on same string. Play fret 1 of bass string and play 3 frets higher.
Now play F# and A. etc.
IThe last case I can generalise ... play some fret, and play another fret 3 frets higher on same string. No matter where you choose, you are always creating the sound on a "min 3rd" interval. Doing this using more than one string is trivial learning. (less than one minute if you don't care to know how the shape comes about (bad idea), and maybe 30 mins to an hour if you're prepared to uinderstand the effect of guitar tuning on interval shapes (and hence every scale and chord) ... and the studying makes learning the other interval shapes trivial ... and makes it clearer how to find chords and scales in other tunings.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 21, 2016,
Your original post is quite in depth, but tellingly despite all the information you've given you talk a lot about positions, fret numbers, scale names, scales etc you never once talk about sound.

That's you're problem right there, as others have pointed out you need to start focussing on sound and approach all those other factors as secondary priorities.
Actually called Mark!

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Last edited by steven seagull at Jul 21, 2016,
Quote by steven seagull
Your original post is quite in depth, but tellingly despite all the information you've given you talk a lot about positions, fret numbers, scale names, scales etc you never once talk about sound.

That's you're problem right there, as others have pointed out you need to start focussing on sound and approach all those other factors as secondary priorities.

steven seagull

Thanks for all the feedback! Sorry I cant reply to all of you guys but I do have this page marked in my favorites and come back to read everything,

@Steven Seagull.

I play mostly by ear and memory. And sing to myself. Thats my key way of playing. Guitar is more of a comfort item. It's how I meditate.
even if im just playing random sounds and exploring with no goal in mind. I use to learn a ton of songs but over the years I got bored playing the same
things over and over again. Didnt feel natural. Other people's songs are written to their skill level and knowledge.

My goal of learning this stuff is so I can finally not feel like im in the dark with my playing. I grew up playing melodeath Finland kinda of stuff.
But as I matured im really wanting to move towards chord based playing. Seeing each scale degree as a chord/ mode of it's own. I see things
in shapes so the entire oldschool break down of memorizing the circle of fifths kills me. Sure I took theory in college. But I just have more fun
with shapes and patterns. Its like a puzzle to me.

Im just hoping learning my notes across the neck becomes the final link in the chain I need to join it all.
Quote by Gioloverso
steven seagull

Thanks for all the feedback! Sorry I cant reply to all of you guys but I do have this page marked in my favorites and come back to read everything,

@Steven Seagull.

I play mostly by ear and memory. And sing to myself. Thats my key way of playing. Guitar is more of a comfort item. It's how I meditate.
even if im just playing random sounds and exploring with no goal in mind. I use to learn a ton of songs but over the years I got bored playing the same
things over and over again. Didnt feel natural. Other people's songs are written to their skill level and knowledge.

My goal of learning this stuff is so I can finally not feel like im in the dark with my playing. I grew up playing melodeath Finland kinda of stuff.
But as I matured im really wanting to move towards chord based playing. Seeing each scale degree as a chord/ mode of it's own. I see things
in shapes so the entire oldschool break down of memorizing the circle of fifths kills me. Sure I took theory in college. But I just have more fun
with shapes and patterns. Its like a puzzle to me.

Im just hoping learning my notes across the neck becomes the final link in the chain I need to join it all.

I think you may have misunderstood me, I meant you need to focus on sound as in how it relates to the things you're trying to learn, as in if you really want to understand the major scale and how it relates to chords then you need to be able to hear it, not see it. You need to know the sounds of the different intervals to be able to use them effectively, you need to know how playing a certain scale degree over a certain chord is going to change things - is it going to reinforce the tonality or destabilise everything, will it harmonise or will it clash?

If you already have a good ear then you just need to start approaching the concepts you're trying to learn as sounds first and foremost rather than patterns - strings and shapes on the fretboard are only part of the puzzle.
Actually called Mark!

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Last edited by steven seagull at Jul 26, 2016,
Quote by Gioloverso
I have learned the modes.
I think you mean different fret patterns for major scales. These are not "modes" in any useful sense. The names are OK as names, but are musically meaningless. Nothing to do with "modes" as used in actual music. Just be aware of that!
Quote by Gioloverso

I understand the pattern and have broken down the shapes. I understand ,and know how to stack the shapes within one another
because they all just repeat a cycle of 0-0-0 (X3), 00-0(X2), and 0-00 (x2). And I know where each "mode" starts from where.
Sorry I don't understand that...
Quote by Gioloverso

I understand the scale degrees for each note within those patterns.
OK...good!
Quote by Gioloverso
So I know that the 6th note of the major scale is minor.
The "note" isn't minor, but it is the root of the relative minor scale. (Sorry this is just semantics, but getting the terminology right to begin with is one way of avoiding confusion...)
Quote by Gioloverso
I know what chord goes on each degree and which mode can be played from there. So I can combine the scale patterns with each respected chord shape and degree.
OK - you probably have the right info here, but still too attached to patterns.
In practice, you can build any chord in a particular key from any scale pattern of that key, and use any scale pattern for any mode. You don't have to "start from the root" - except when spelling out a scale or chord theoretically.
Quote by Gioloverso

I know my chord shapes. Open,6 string barre,5 string barre. Triads, and such. I understand which note makes up each chord. Like root,5th,root,3rd,5th,root for barre chords.
Good! Crucial stuff.
Quote by Gioloverso

I know the notes somewhat on my fretboard.
Uh-huh. "Somewhat" (as mentioned) is not quite good enough, but is not necessarily the root of your problem. (It would be easy enough given what you do know, to work out the notes you don't. It still might not solve your problem.)
Quote by Gioloverso

My issue is I cant combine that knowledge! My mind focuses on one way of thinking, then I get lost.
If im sitting and writing a song, or thinking something out. Yeah sure I can. But if im just playing I will get lost.
But what do you mean by "just playing"? Do you mean improvising from scratch?
If you're OK "sitting and writing a song", that sounds fine.
Are you OK playing other people's songs?
Quote by Gioloverso

I will start with one way of thinking, like scale patterns, My brain will just to say a scale degree and make a chord.
Now im thinking chord shapes. Then after that I will trip over myself because something stupid like
"is the 5th of this chord the 5th of the scale im playing in?" dumb stuff like that. Or I jump into a pattern and
take myself too far across the neck and dont have time to reset my thinking.
OK, you're clearly thinking in the wrong way!
I suspect you probably just need to stop "just playing" in this way altogether - if what you're doing is trying to improvise something sensible from scratch.
You need to trust your ear, and forget about all this theory stuff. Your ear knows more than you think, because you've heard music all your life, and its grammar has entered your subconscious. We all know a wrong note when we hear one - we don't even need to be musicians. Use theory as an occasional guide if you have to, but be led by your ear.
Quote by Gioloverso

How do I overcome this? Or am I expecting too much. I see so many great players just "Play".
Or is that just fantasy?
Well, what is it you think they're doing?
Almost certainly, they are not making up everything in real time.
They are playing over an existing song or chord progression (composed by themselves or someone else), and they know how to play all those chords, in various different places on the neck. They know their fretboard, and they will be able to plot several routes through the chord sequence, from chord tone to chord tone, or will be able to identify a scale that will fit all the chords, or groups of chords at a time.
IOW, they have - as it were - two "maps" in mind, which they know equally well: (1) the chord progression; (2) the fretboard. They can line one up with the other. They can "join the dots" in several different creative ways. They will probably be thinking melodically and rhythmically, and not thinking at all (consciously) about note names, or which note is 3rd or 5th, etc.
It's a little like the way you can speak or write in English and not have to think about the grammar or the spelling all the time - you are able to think purely about what you want to say. Only when you have some tricky concept to express might you have to resort to some "theoretical" stuff to make sure you have the vocabulary and grammar right.

I suspect the big hole in your knowledge is vocabulary. You have some basic "grammar" (the theoretical stuff you know), but even that probably doesn't extend to things like keys and chord functions (chord progressions and voice-leading). The usual reason for this problem - and it's a common one - is that you haven't learned enough songs, or played enough melodies. You're too focussed on technique and theory, and not enough on repertoire. If you've been thinking that the route to mastery comes through technical practice and theoretical knowledge - wrong!

Put simply, you just have to play more music. The vocabulary you need - the connections you lack - are all out there in existing music, of all kinds. If you can write your own songs now, that's great, but those will improve immeasurably the more you study other people's songs (and steal ideas).
If it's improvisation you want to master, that also comes from studying songs. You can certainly learn by studying other people's solos, but that's secondary. The primary material is melody. That means the lead vocals of existing songs. When you improvise with guitar, you are singing by other means. The written melody is one route through the chords, and your solo is another.
What you learn by studying other people's solos is more about rhythm, accent and style. Not what to say, but how to say it in order to sound cool.

Naturally, when you do all this, you are using the fretboard knowledge you already have. But it's the songs that will reveal the logical connections between all those chord shapes and patterns.

In another analogy, it's like you have to give a speech on a specific topic. How do you approach that? Obviously, you're able to speak in the first place (you can play an instrument)!
So, you learn some facts about the topic to start with (the melody and chord sequence of the song).
Ideally, you have some feelings or opinions about the topic already that you want to express - you care in some way (you like the song, it moves or excites you).
Hopefully, before you get up there and speak, you have the chance to hear what other speakers have said (you listen to the original track, the lead singer, and any soloist, or any other version of the song). This helps you frame how you are going to present your own "argument": maybe you like what someone else said, and want to repeat that? Maybe you disagree strongly with someone else. It all helps you focus your ideas, to be sure what is you want to get across.
Before you get up on stage, you could write out your speech in detail, to be sure it's as good as possible, it says everything you want to say. That's fine - it's not "improvisation", but is a perfectly valid way of playing a solo. You just have to be sure you "speak" strong and clear, with passion, and don't just mumble from your notes in monotone (like you don't really care). You use dynamics, you use rhythm and pauses. You make them want to listen!
Alternatively, you could just sketch out a few points, and trust your knowledge of the topic to allow you to improvise your speech, expanding on those minimal preparations. The advantage of this is you can alter things in real time - you can respond to the audience (or the band); you can be inspired with new ideas.
The greatest soloists won't even need any prepared notes. They'll fly by the seat of their pants - but they can only do that when they know the topic intimately - and they know their instrument like the back of their hand too (in fact probably better than the back of their hand ).

IOW, when great players seem to "just play", what you're missing is the subconscious knowledge they've built up before that point. They make it look easy because it is - when you have that library of data (melodic and rhythmic vocabulary) at your disposal. Quite simply, you learn by copying. You don't learn by studying theory, or by practising scales. How did you learn your mother tongue? by reading books? Nope - by copying grown-ups, and by experimenting until it sounded right. You had it all down before you ever learned to read. The language of music is learned the same way. It's true that instrumental technique is a serious obstacle to self-expression - you can't "play what you feel" until you have some skills under your belt. But you can make great music with very little technique, just as you don't need many words to express some very deep ideas or strong passions.
Last edited by jongtr at Jul 25, 2016,
Since I read this thread I started to work on linking everything on the fretboard again. What I think is very helpful is putting on a fusion backing track. Figure out the chords, and then use CST and Chord shapes to get soloing.

What I do is I lock myself in one position, I try to outline the chords with the arpeggios and I add extra notes with chord scale theory. Then when the backing track is finished, I move to another position. And so on. And then I try to get the backing track down all over the fretboard, changing positions a lot.