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Thread: Fretboard Visualization

  1. #1
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Fretboard Visualization

    Looking for comments from the illuminati with regard to my approach towards developing fretboard visualization:

    I'm learning to play the guitar but coming from a relatively strong musical background on another instrument (voice). So rather than learning theory from a guitarist's point of view, I'm learning the guitar from a musician's point of view. I tend to think in harmonic terms but find myself unable to play the sounds I hear in my head because I cannot find them fast enough on the fretboard.

    In order to bridge the gap between my musical theory and the guitar, I'm working on improving my fretboard visualization via arpeggios. I usually practice these descending through the cycle of 5ths and have settled on various arpeggio fingerings than seem reasonable places to start, meaning no positional shifts and minimal finger stretches. Currently I''m working on dom7 arpeggios and so will use those as the example.

    I'm convinced that "pattern playing" would limit my ability to "see" the notes, so I don't practice forms or patterns per se but rather work to see the notes first and the notice the pattern after the fact as a result of playing the arpeggio. To this end I'm practicing the dom7 arpeggios in several different ways.

    First a couple of definitions (scope limited to this post) :
    "all keys" = 12 common keys (exclusive of Cb, C# & F#)
    "descending through the cycle of 5ths" = C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb/F#, B, E, A, D, G ending back at C
    "see the note" = sing the note name in pitch (but not the same octave)

    Dom7 arpeggio forms: (total range = two octaves)
    R6/2 = Root on 6th string, 2nd finger
    R6/4 = Root on 6th string, 4th finger (includes the b7th at 6/2)
    R5/2 = Root on 5th string, 2nd finger (includes the 5th at 6/2)
    R5/4 = Root on 5th string, 4th finger (includes the 3rd at 6/1)

    The exercises:

    1) One form, all keys descending through the cycle of 5th's:

    I start with R6/2, then repeat with the R6/4, R5/2 & R5/4 forms. In this exercise, I always start from the root of whichever form, ascend to the first chord tone on the high E string, descend to the lowest note available in the form and ascend back to the starting root.

    2) Per root, each form, all keys descending through the cycle of 5th's:

    For this sequence I start with R6/2 from the root and then move through the other forms starting from the lowest accessible chord tone, effectively playing inversions of the arpeggios as I move through the forms (R5/4 for the 3rd, R5/2 for the 5th & R6/4 for the b7th).

    3) Voice-leading through complimentary forms, descending through the cycle of 5ths:

    3a) G7 (R6/2) from the root > C7 (R5/2) from the 5th > F7 (R6/2) from the root > Bb7 (R5/2) from the 5th, etc.

    3b) G (R6/4) from the 7th > C (R5/4) from the 3rd > F (R6/4) from the 7th > Bb (R5/4) from the 3rd, etc.

    When I run out of fretboard I use a group of three arpeggios that voice lead in an ascending fashion and bring me back to a minor 2nd below the staring point where I repeat the descending pattern until I hit the nut. All told it's about 2.5 times around the cycle of 5ths to play each form in each key.

    Again, my goal is to learn to see the notes / her the pitches before I play them rather than calculating the location of notes from forms or relative to other notes. Since I already think harmonically it seams natural to me to learn to "see" the notes as one would on a keyboard.

    I look forward to your comments and advice. Thanks in advance.

    Jed

  2. #2
    Jazzman Poparad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jed
    I'm convinced that "pattern playing" would limit my ability to "see" the notes, so I don't practice forms or patterns per se but rather work to see the notes first and the notice the pattern after the fact as a result of playing the arpeggio. To this end I'm practicing the dom7 arpeggios in several different ways.

    This is how I went about it, and tends to be the way I still visualize things. What helped me out what to extend this process to many different kinds of chords and scales in all the keys (keeping your mind on its toes by changing frequently, such as with the cycle of 5ths, is a good workout).

    I came to guitar from trumpet, so I already had a knowledge of theory, notation, and a certain way of visualizing things. Guitar has modified the way I visualize things quite a bit, but I still base things on note names.

    Later on, I also began to work the other way around, by learning some patterns and then practicing them in each key and assigning to that pattern the notes of the key. I found this to be just as useful, if not sometimes moreso (since the guitar is so visual). You can't get away from patterns on the guitar, due to the nature of the instrument, but once you learn enough of them, the inner logic of the patterns will begin to reveal itself and it won't be so much about learning new patterns as it is just seeing how the ones you know connect together and link up.

  3. #3
    I like music.
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    You have a good concept. What I would add to your regimen: stretch fingerings and position shifts, which in my opinion, give a better view of the layout of the guitar than position playing at first. For example...

    G7 arpeggio starting on the first finger...

    6th G B
    5th D
    4th F shift G B
    3rd D
    2nd F shift G B
    1st D F slide/shift G

    Or work out the same arpeggio entirely on 2 strings.. I'm just saying that you shouldn't limit yourself to stretchless and shiftless patterns.

    Or in your notation...try R6/1 R5/1 R6/3 R5/3 patterns.

    But other than that, you seem to have a solid plan.
    Hard luck and trouble...

  4. #4
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Thanks for your input!

    Poparad,

    What helped me out what to extend this process to many different kinds of chords and scales in all the keys (keeping your mind on its toes by changing frequently, such as with the cycle of 5ths, is a good workout).
    Agreed, certainly a similar study must be made for all chord types as well as triads, multi-chord progressions, melodic sequences, harmonic sequences, etc, etc . . . I don't see this as any kind of silver bullet, just checking to see if y'all think it is a step in the right direction.

    Dommy,

    Other less "boxy" fingerings are equally as valuable. I'll work on more of the linking forms and diagonal stuff. In large part my challenge is to organize my time for efficient practice since I still have to work for a living outside of music.

    I find myself using positional changes during improv but in the context of knowing where the chord tones are along the neck. In that application it's a matter of letting the phrasing define which way to go.

    Glad you could see what I meant by my notation, sorry if I reinvented the wheel on that. The attached .pdf is the first part of one of the voice-leading execises that I notated for a friend.

    Cheers and thanks for your comments guys!

    Jed
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Jed; 08-22-2006 at 11:19 PM.

  5. #5
    allrounder live's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poparad
    What helped me out what to extend this process to many different kinds of chords and scales in all the keys (keeping your mind on its toes by changing frequently, such as with the cycle of 5ths, is a good workout).
    Yeah it really can get your brains overloaded :-D Practising changes is really hard sometimes! But everything written in this thread is the best thing you can do - there's hardly anything you can learn without working on it...
    I think I'll even use some aspects of the arpeggio-stuff for my own practice-schedule!

    it looks like this at the moment:

    1) scales / arpeggios
    (sometimes with jamtracks, sometimes without; I have made some cards with different scale names on it e.g. locrian or min-pentatonic, some cards with chord names on it e.g. m7b5 or maj and 12 cards with the notes C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, etc. where I choose from by coincidence - so I learn something new everyday but the puzzle will need some time to be complete)

    about 30 min. (depends on how often I have played the particular scale/arpeggio... the purpose of this exercise is to get comfortable with different scales/chords, to have played through the things and learn how they sound and to learn the fretboard)

    2) (II-V-I) Lick
    (learning a lick, mostly II-V-I licks as I want to improve my jazz-vocabulary but sometimes it can be killer-tapping-licks too )
    a) playing it as it is written and secondly learning it in different
    positions (or e.g. if it's a major lick playing it in minor as well)
    b) trying it over different chords(or chordprogressions) or even in
    different rhythms

    10-20 min.

    3) Jazz Standard / Repertoire
    a) analyse the particular piece (progressions etc.)
    b) learning the chords
    c) learning the melody
    d) learning a transcribed singlenote-solo
    e) embedding the lick from 2)
    f) learning a given/creating chordmelody
    (+) transcribing a solo from a record

    30-60 min.

    4) Chord Voicings/Progressions etc.
    trying out different voicings - learning them in combination in progressions

    20 min.

    5) transcribing 1 idea
    i want to transcribe one idea each day and get it down to develop my own playing! whether rhythmical ideas, licks, chords or melodies etc. I just write it down and get used to it! sometimes it's really heard to get the right rhythm but who cares: in time I will be better in writing down what I play and the mistakes will become less...

    10-20 min.

    + about 20 min. for some breaks


    additional opportunities:

    sight-reading
    transcribing a piece
    technique stuff
    workshops of different guitar magazines
    iBreatheMusic articles / stricktly threads
    lessons you can find on the web

    etc.
    _______________________________________


    As you can see: there's a lot to do ;-)
    I hope there's someone who is interested in this at all

    live
    ________
    FIX PS3
    Last edited by live; 03-28-2011 at 01:00 AM.

  6. #6
    Detroit VidKid's Avatar
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    Jed,

    You’re on the right track for a practice schedule. The Berklee II,III are good also,

    After learning the diatonic Dom 7th arp maps, alter the 5th with #5 or b5 to create augmented sounds. (Also a G Aug arp is similar to Cmi/maj7). For G7b9; if you know the dim arp, you can sub that map instead. Obviously, there’s other alt combos, G7#9#5. G7b9#5 etc. At this stage, at least for me, it’s easier to use mi6 subs, like Abm6 which is part of the Super Locrian family. You can also think in term of various basic inversions of Ma and Mi triad combos to get your alts.

    Add the 9th extension to the G7 to form Dom 9ths. Another way to play Dom9th is through a basic min6 chord substitute (G9=Dm6) or Bm7b5 will work also. Thinking this way will also prevent habit forming root orientation starting points.

    Also, try staying in one position and learn your diatonic arps.
    Ex.
    5/2 Cmaj7 (C6, Cma9 maybe Csus)
    5/4 Dmi7 ( Dm6, Dm9)
    4/1 Em7 (“inside”)
    4/2 Fmaj7 (“inside”)
    4/4 or 6/2 G7
    6/4 Am7
    5/1 Bm7b5 (G9)
    5/2 Cmaj7

    I hope this is helpful also,
    VidKid
    Yesterday's dissonance is today's consonance, while today's atonal is tomorrow's consonance-Liebman

  7. #7
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    Im having trouble learning the fretboard too.

    How long does it usually take to learn it, and does anybody know the best way?

    I just write out the fretboard, but it doesnt seem to be helping me learn it quickly.

  8. #8
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    I highly recommend learning the Dim7 (4 string) chord forms on each group of 4 strings. Start with each group of adjacent strings and modify groups containing the upper E string to use the lower E string and vice-versa. (dim7 arps are also useful for this)
    Then modify each to create Dom7 (lower 1 note 1/2 step, becomes root) from there, lower 3rd 1/2 step becomes m7. Also raise 1 note 1/2 step to become 7th of m7b5 or 9th of rootless Dom 9 (3679). Although this is "boxy" it is a very good way to learn to create usable chord voicings and invert them. Similarly you can relate other types of chords to this symmetric framework to help with creating usable inversions of more difficult chords.
    In general you won't use many voicings with 5 or 6 string in normal playing. Be willing to toss Root and or 5th as necessary to make the forms usable for 9 chords and above.
    Also learn the relationship between various types of chords ie. rootless 9th chords and m7b5 or vi m7 = I M6 etc... Use this type of info to REDUCE the amount of data you really need to actually play, otherwise it can be overwhelming. Studying this way forces you into thinking about the interval structure and similarities between structures.
    Last edited by szulc; 09-13-2006 at 05:15 PM. Reason: Dyslexic Typing
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
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  9. #9
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Fretboard Visualization - Progress

    Quote Originally Posted by Poparad
    You can't get away from patterns on the guitar, due to the nature of the instrument, but once you learn enough of them, the inner logic of the patterns will begin to reveal itself and it won't be so much about learning new patterns as it is just seeing how the ones you know connect together and link up.
    Poparad,
    I didn't have much trouble believing this statement but I expected it to take me a very long time to get to the point where I could realize what you were describing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dommy
    What I would add to your regimen: stretch fingerings and position shifts, which in my opinion, give a better view of the layout of the guitar than position playing at first.
    Dommy,
    I tried like hell to prove you wrong but within a week or two found that I could see lots of connections and retain the forms and note names more easily by adding additional / alternate fingerings to my arpeggi studies.

    - - - - - - - - -

    I've switched to triad arpeggi as the main focus of my technical studies, using two fingerings for each chord degree starting from each of the strings both ascending and descending and of course always around the cycle of 5ths. I'm still calling out / singing the name of the notes as I practice but of course as the speed increases the two-syllable nature of the keys furthest from C cause me to trip over my tongue more often. At some point I guess I'll have to switch from saying the note name to just thinking it's name if I'm to continue increasing the speed.

    Major and minor triads are pretty well dialed-in and I'm starting to work on diminished triads. Eventually I'll add augmented triads but I have this sense that I should work on these various chord types in a manner relative to how often they actually occur in the music I'm most interested in.

    Based on my progress with fret-board visualization, I've been able to add triad voicings to my practice schedule. I now practice closed-voiced triads in all inversions for major and minor triads on all sets of three adjacent strings and of course in all the keys. The kicker is that now I can practice these voicings as sets of notes rather than as patterns anchored to a particular note.

    Thank you both for your insights, they have made a significant impact on my efforts and approach. I know the process has only just started but the results appear very promising and are certainly very rewarding.

    cheers,

    Jed

  10. #10
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    VidVid & Szulc
    Thanks for your comments and ideas. I'm familiar with chord extensions vs substitutions and understand how they work in an abstract sense. I can calculate the extensions / substitutions nearly as quickly as I can speak.

    I started out with dom7 because I was working on some blues stuff at the time. I eventually added min7 arpeggi for there obvious value for chord subs. I also started work on min7b5 arpeggi primarily for their value as dom9 subs.

    I've since switched over to triads to get closer to the core of the fundamentals of harmony. I find it easy enough to build my 7th chord arpeggi as alterations of triads. For example I find it easy to add a maj7, min7, maj6, or 9ths etc to any of my triad arpeggi but going from the various 7th chord arpeggi to the triad was a bit more challenging for me to see.

    I'm more of a foundation / basics kind of guy and my current focus is on fret-board visualization (with the full knowledge that left / right hand, chord voicing and ear training benefits come along as freebies). To that end I'm working on learning every note location / voicing of every triad in every location along the neck.

    I tend to think of chord extension / substitution in terms of stacked triads or 7th chord substitutions as partial voicings of the upper structure of extended chords. My logic is that once I know where every triad is, and can map the sound I hear in my head to the proper inversion, that I'll be able to instantly find the inversion that I want and be able to play off those triads working my way in and around the chord extensions.

    The neat thing for me about using triads for this is that is reinforces the nature of and logic behind chord subs. No doubt my approach is different / more simplistic than other peoples. I have this sense that I need to convert the simple stuff from abstract knowledge to practical application and in all keys so I can break out of the limitations of key-centric thinking. As my ability to map the sounds in my head to the guitar improves I will no doubt re-examine the altered dom sounds. But for know I'm looking to develop this facility with triads.

    I started out with major triad arpeggi, working them until I had a solid feel and ability to name the notes and see the chord degrees for all forms and keys. Then I added minor triads and worked them to the same level before starting on the dim triads. I've only recently started work on the dim triads and of course they are even more physically challenging because of the tritone leap from b5 to the root.

    Once I've developed my skills with triads to a reasonable point I'll certainly revisit your approaches and suggestions. Thanks again.

    Cheers,

    Jed

  11. #11
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    Jed:

    I'm a beginner guitar player and have searched quite a bit for a post like yours to help me visualize the fretboard automatically rather than my current method of counting (ugh).

    My background is as a not very dedicated trumpet player some 20 years ago, however, after practicing on the guitar daily for months (on a guitar I'd owned for years) my appetite for music theory has grown exponentially.

    It's been a few years since you've posted this message. How do you feel that this method worked for you?

    Jayson

  12. #12
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayson
    I'm a beginner guitar player and have searched quite a bit for a post like yours to help me visualize the fretboard automatically rather than my current method of counting (ugh).
    There are more than a few fretboard visualization methods around. Determining the right one for your use involves finding a combination of a method that is musically relevant, appears intrinsically logical to you and that you can commit to totally until you reach your goal.

    Quote Originally Posted by jayson
    My background is as a not very dedicated trumpet player some 20 years ago, however, after practicing on the guitar daily for months (on a guitar I'd owned for years) my appetite for music theory has grown exponentially.
    I was a not very dedicated guitarist once upon a time. I had actually given up the idea of ever being a good guitarist before I stumbled across this idea. I had stopped playing for over 20 years. When I started back up, it wasn't about regaining the glory days of my youth. To be honest, I didn't even care about playing (having been frustrated by the fretboard for so long), my only goal was to understand the instrument.

    In retrospect, I had stumbled across the perfect method for my needs, goals and personality. I'm back playing in bands, looking for more challenging band opportunities and playing better than I ever did or ever thought I could. . . . and I'm just getting started.

    Quote Originally Posted by jayson
    It's been a few years since you've posted this message. How do you feel that this method worked for you?
    I can't tell you it's been easy. I can't tell you that this approach will work for everyone. My method has been the antithesis of the "conventional wisdom" that you'll glean off the internet. I haven't really studied individual songs very much, instead focussing on building the skills to understand any song.

    I can tell you that this is no "become a fretboard master in 30 minutes" approach. Learning to understand the fretboard in terms of music theory has taught me that the guitar is one of the most complicated instruments to master - due to the shear number of multiple locations for any particular pitch. The ramification of this fact are what makes learning the guitar so difficult.

    But if you are willing to make the investment each day of each week of each month until you reach your goal - the payback will be well beyond any goals you can imaging today. Bottom Line: I could not be more pleased with the results. This approach takes dedication, a lot of self-motivation and more than a small dose of stubbornness.

    cheers,

    PS soon after I made that post, I switched over to 2-octave triad arpeggios. Since then they have been the core of my perspective of all things related to the fretboard and music. I have no regrets and am actually quite thankful that I didn't follow the "conventional wisdom".

  13. #13
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    Do we know of any good apps or computer software that will help with visualization? So much technology that it seems like there has to be something helpful. I am trying to learn some things on the side when I am not in lessons. Before I started I did a local online review search for guitar lessons and I think I have made up my mind. Do you know of www.angieslist.com?
    Last edited by MetroGnome; 06-27-2011 at 06:47 PM.

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