Guitar Fretboard Notes: How to Learn Them Once and for All

author: tommaso.zillio date: 03/31/2014 category: for beginners
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Guitar Fretboard Notes: How to Learn Them Once and for All
If you start studying ANY instrument, the first thing they show you is how to find the notes on them (where is the C, where the D, etc.) There is only one exception: the guitar. Somehow guitarists think they are excused from learning the notes on their fretboard.

One of the consequence of this attitude is that guitar players find music theory needlessly difficult. Indeed it is quite hard to understand (for instance) how to create a controlled dissonance by playing a D note over a Cm chord, if you have no idea where the D note is in the first place AND can find it in "real time". Many cool-sounding music theory concepts would be relatively simpler to learn and apply if you can find the notes on the fretboard effortlessly.

Sure, some people will say that they can find the notes all over the fretboard "given enough time". News flash: this is as useless as it sound. If you are playing you have a split second time to find the note you want, otherwise you are going to miss the musical moment.

The problem most people have about learning the notes is that they put this off their practice for too long, and they are now simply scared of doing it. What is in fact just a simple, easily solved problem has now become a monster. "Do I need to learn ALL the notes? Over ALL the fretboard? No way! Let me play a few more power chords instead…"

The reality is that everyone can learn all the notes, in a PERMANENT way, by investing only few minutes a day for a few weeks, provided they are practicing the right way. And it's not even going to be boring if you approach it the right way. So here is the "magic" exercise that will have you learn the notes with little effort and time:

A few suggestions to make your learning faster:
  • Make it a game! I used to challenge myself to play the notes with the metronome as described in the video faster and faster, or playing them in a random order. How fast can you go today?

  • Learn with a friend. A game is more fun if it's done with somebody else. For instance you can call a note and your friend has to play it, and then you reverse roles. In a sense, it's like Guitar Hero… only with real guitars and with real learning.

  • Don't get obsessed: as mentioned in the video, you won't remember the patterns consciously. That's ok. You will see that very soon you will simply KNOW where the notes are. I don't remember the patterns either: I find them again on the spot every time I show this exercise. The exercise is just a bridge to take you to the other side of the river, so practice it only until it's useful.
About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.
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