How To Memorize The Fretboard

Getting to the point where you intuitively know where any note is without thinking about it is tricky, but doable. One way to get there is through octaves and the cycle of 4ths.

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Ultimate Guitar
15
This is a simple but potent lesson. One of those that lets us bridge the gap between theory and practical playing. A few months ago, my teacher started me on this octaves exercise. He didn't really explain why, he just said to do it every day. The core of the exercise is this:
------|-------|-------|------
------|----13-|-13----|------
------|-------|-------|------
---10-|-10----|----10-|-10---
------|-------|-------|------
-8----|-------|-------|----8-
To play this exercise, it's important to maintain the same hand shape. Grab the 8th fret on the 6th string with the index and the 10th fret on the 4th string with the ring finger. Now... don't change that shape, just move it around. Play steady 8th notes. Say each note out loud: "C, C, C, C, C, C, C, C" Add which octave it is if you're feeling squirrely. "C-two, C-three, C-three, C-four, C-four, C-three, C-three, C-two". Doing this exercise has this meditative quality where the hands are going through this very predictable sliding motion and the conscious brain is busy wiring all these hand positions together with the note names. The key is to do this many, many times. I only showed C, the next thing to go through ALL the notes. To do that, we go through the cycle of fourths. Keep the word "bead" in mind, it will help you memorize the cycle. Now make it weird... add g to the end. Think "bead-g"... beadg... beadg... Congratulations, with the exception of C and F, you have just memorized the cycle of fourths. Now witness the method to my madness. Here is the cycle of fourths: C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-B-E-A-D-G It starts with C and F, and then there are two groups of "beadg" - the first with flats and the second without. This cycle is all 12 chromatic notes, and they are all the same distance apart. This also happens to be the strongest harmonic sequence in all of western music... kind of a big deal. So we take that octaves movement and we shift around and play it on different notes. To make sure we predictably cover all the notes, we use the cycle of 4ths. This has the added benefit of ear training us to hear 4ths as we slide between them. Make this part of your warmup. It will quickly get to a point where you don't even think about it. It just becomes this little octave-y meditation It can also be played from the fifth string.
-----|---8-|-8---|-----
-----|-----|-----|-----
---5-|-5---|---5-|-5---
-----|-----|-----|-----
-3---|-----|-----|---3-
-----|-----|-----|-----
Play the octaves, go through the cycle of fourths, say the notes. Do this enough over a long enough period time (a few months), and you will know every note on the fretboard without thinking about it.

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    Ibanezbelyeu
    I find by doing this, only the first string notes are solidly memorized. When I'm in an improv situation, I can't find the notes on the D,G or B string fast enough
    rtcx86
    I find by doing this, only the first string notes are solidly memorized. When I'm in an improv situation, I can't find the notes on the D,G or B string fast enough
    That's fair. I guess the only suggestions I would have for that would be to start the octave exercise from the problem strings and go through the cycle... and the other thing is just time. Maybe there's more effective ways to get good fretboard-note association, but as far as I know, the most certain way to it is spaced repetition over the course of a long period of time.
    rtcx86
    Another way to get the brain more actively engaged in this exercise is to play the major or minor triad arpeggio at each note... and say all THOSE notes out loud, too. I've been working on the minor triads for about a week now. I was doing the major ones for the month before that. Each subsequent modification to the exercise gets easier and the note relationships with the fretboard just keep getting faster and faster.
    GP_HV_16
    i cant seem to figure out how to add this to my favorites...ill just write it down
    GP_HV_16
    rtcx86 wrote: Another way to get the brain more actively engaged in this exercise is to play the major or minor triad arpeggio at each note... and say all THOSE notes out loud, too. I've been working on the minor triads for about a week now. I was doing the major ones for the month before that. Each subsequent modification to the exercise gets easier and the note relationships with the fretboard just keep getting faster and faster.
    what are those? can i have an example?
    ChancesEX
    GP_HV_16 wrote: i cant seem to figure out how to add this to my favorites...ill just write it down
    Just bookmark it, no? easier, plus quick access Excellent job, man, but can you write down the other scales involved? many thanks in advance
    mtowenby
    Nice! I've seen other examples that work pretty well, too, especially incorporated with this one. For example, locating the note on each string in every position, starting with the 6th string, and saying the note out loud. To work on all strings, try finding your octaves DOWN (toward the head) the neck...using the Cycle of Forths (or, backwards around the Cycle of Fifths, if you prefer) is also a great idea. Well done!
    slowlybilly
    I've heard of this technique but never had it explained. I already know most of the notes fairly well, just from using modes so much, especially my favorite notes. but I think this will help with those problem notes. it probably woulda been quicker this way anyhow.
    bytor1958
    copy and paste to word, then I print and then put in in my chord book with everything else. It's quicker to go back as a reference. Turn The Page.