7 Reasons Why You Should Know The Notes on Your Fretboard

author: GraehmeFloyd date: 11/13/2013 category: music theory tips
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7 Reasons Why You Should Know The Notes on Your Fretboard
As many frustrated guitarists know, the guitar was not designed to make learning the notes of music easy. Even for more advanced players, the notes on the fretboard seem to be placed in a completely random order. Despite the difficulties, it is important that you learn to recognize where the notes are on your guitar in order to grow both as a guitarist and as a musician. Here are some of the benefits that you will gain once you know where your notes are on the fretboard:

1. Understand The Music Your Are Playing

When you are aware of the notes on your guitar, you will start to notice the notes that are being used for the different things that you play. This, in turn, will give you a clearer picture of what you are actually playing and why those different notes and concepts work together. The various chords, riffs, licks, and patterns that you are used to using will start to have more depth to them. This will allow you to more easily work with new songs and ideas on your guitar as well as give you the ability to analyze music and learn from you favorite artists.

2. Simplify Reading Standard Notation

When you are aware of the notes on the guitar, reading standard notation becomes a lot more manageable. You will no longer have to abstractly relate the dots on the page to seemingly random frets and strings. Now the name of the note on the page will line-up with the name of the note that you are playing on your guitar and you can focus on playing the music.

3. Translate Parts to Other Areas of The Fretboard

One of the biggest headaches on the guitar is the fact that most of the notes may be played in a variety of different positions. For example, Diagram #1 below shows various places to play the same E note across the fretboard starting with the open 1st string. On a 24 fret guitar, there are 6 different places where this note may be played. If you aren't familiar with your notes, this type of situation will cause a lot of problems because there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the different locations. However, when you know your notes, this can be turned into a huge advantage. Having trouble with the fingering for that difficult solo? Don't worry about it, just translate some of the notes to a different position to make the fingering easier. The guitar is one of the few instruments where you can explore different ways of playing the same idea. This means that if something is challenging to play one way, you can change it to many other possibilities to try and make it a little simpler. If a pianist runs into a difficult passage, they can't adjust it to make it easier. They are stuck with the difficult fingering and must work it out no matter how hard it might be. The guitar will allow you to adjust a part in the hopes of finding a more effective way of playing it, but you can only do this if you are aware of your notes.

4. Improve Your Improvisation

Improvisation is an area where knowing your notes can be critical. If you are used to improvising using scale patterns, you will likely have run into a situation where a key change, or a strange chord causes your pattern to no longer work. When you know the notes of your guitar, you can use the chord changes as a way of creating your solo which will allow you to play over any chord, any key, and even changing keys. This will also open you up to seeing the notes that you are playing and how they fit against the chords. You will start to notice the relationships that exist between a given note and a chord and the effect that it has on the sound of your solo. For example, an Eb played over a C Minor chord will sound very intense while an A against an E Major will sound awkward. You'll be able to learn to predict these types of things and use them to your advantage.

5. Open Up Creative Possibilities

When it comes to creating ideas whether in an improvisational or compositional form, being aware of your notes will open you up to a world of possibilities that you probably didn't know existed. You will no longer have to rely on the same set of patterns and shapes that you always use and will be able to branch out into new directions. You will be able to pull influence from any song, artists, genre, and even from non-musical sources like the sounds in nature.

6. Apply Concepts from Music Theory

One of the reasons that many guitarists hate working with music theory is because they are never really sure how to use the concepts on their instrument or with real music. When you know the notes on your guitar, you will be able to bridge the gap between theory and reality. This will allow you to use new theory concepts to create ideas, licks, patterns, and even entire songs. Theory will no longer feel like a chore but will be like acquiring a shiny new toy that will let you explore amazing new sounds and ideas on your guitar.

7. Improve Communication With Other Musicians

Have you ever had to speak with a person who is still learning English? Trying to communicate the simplest of ideas can be extremely difficult. Their sentences are fractured, words are used in the wrong context, and they struggle to understand what you are saying. Musicians speak in their own language and the majority of this language is built out of notes. By learning the notes of your guitar, you will be better equipped to communicate with the other musicians that you play with. Not only will this make the process of working together much more enjoyable for everyone, but you will find that the work that you produce will improve in quality as well.
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