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Thread: learning the fretboard (divide and conquer?)

  1. #1
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    learning the fretboard (divide and conquer?)

    hello again everyone, hope you guys had a nice christmas.

    while fumbling around this week with mah guitar, i had one of those "earthshaking realizations".
    (at least for me anyway)

    and i was hoping to get maybe a few more of these little tidbits from you experienced guys out there that my help my learning of the notes on the fretboard.

    on to my epiphiny...

    i have been self-studying music theory at the same time that i have been learning teh guitar (quite a challenge on your own by the way). the first interval i chose to start to commit to memory is the "perfect fifth". I chose this interval, because i felt that i could 'hear' that distance easier than some of the other distances (read: no music background whatsoevar).

    so i now know the perfect fifths for all of the roots by heart - i.e. root (c) to the perfect fifth (g) however i am still trying to learn to recognize (hear) the interval and identify what the actual root note is.

    **i wish i could see the notes in the colors which a lot of people seem to do, but i haven't a clue where to start at to begin this task. ideas?**

    anyway,

    since a perfect fifth is 7 half steps away from the root, it dawned on me that since i already knew all of the perfect fifths, that

    open - - seventh fret
    string - note
    note

    e - - - - - B
    A - - - - - E
    D - - - - - A
    G - - - - - D
    B - - - - - F#
    E - - - - - B

    heh. for months i have been stuck in the open/first box of notes.

    i hope someone can use that tidbit. any others out there?

  2. #2
    some guy Doug McMullen's Avatar
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    I don't have any further epiphanies for you... I just want to say, divide and conquer is the way to go. Break down the fretboard for some small thing and learn it. Keep going. You are on the right path for learning the fretboard, just keep doing what you are doing.

    About those music colors... I think you are refering to a kind of hearing called perfect (or absolute) pitch. Absolute pitch seems to be a controversial topic on music forums -- people have strong opinions about it. (Does or doesn't it exist? -- is or isn't it common? Can or can't it be trained in people who aren't born with it? etc.)

    Almost all musicians I know agree that relative pitch (the kind of hearing you are working on in learning to recognize 5ths by ear) is extremely useful for a musician and is responsive to training. My advice: Continue to work on relative pitch and don't let absolute pitch trouble you.

    heh. for months i have been stuck in the open/first box of notes.
    Don't get stuck anywhere -- just don't practice what you already know. It's simple advice but I swear it's very easy to violate it and as a result get stuck in a rut because of it.

    The next interval you should learn IMO is the major third... learn it together with root and the Fifth... what you will then be studying is the major triad (1 3 5) over the whole neck. Learn by letter, number, and visualizing shapes.

    Then learn 1 3 5 b7 <---- Get that down and although there's still (and always will be) plenty more to learn... you'll have a more solid foundation for the fretboard than you realize. Knowing that 1 3 5 b7 structure well across the whole fretboard becomes a kind of mental framework into which many many other musical structures fit. Even just knowing the 1 3 5 well on the whole fretboard is a lot of framework and can take you a long ways.

    Good luck.

    Doug.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the response! I am scrapping the idea of perfect pitch, as relative seems the way to go for now.

    So let me see if i understand your last part of your post:

    Even just knowing the 1 3 5 well on the whole fretboard is a lot of framework and can take you a long ways.
    First question, "Is the 3 in the 1 3 5 >4 half steps away< from the root note?"

    Second question "Does that 1 3 5 have to be in the same octave or should I learn every 1st 3rd and 5th that is reachable from every root?

    By this I mean if I take the root note of F on the low E string, first fret, my thirds and fifths are as follows (correct me if I make a mistake please)

    The 1 3 5 with the root as an F is "F A C".

    This is also known as a F Major chord if all three are played at the same time?)

    So every place there is an F or an A or a C in that 'box' i should know? For example:

    | R | - | - | - |
    | 5 | - | - | - |
    | - | 3 | - | - |
    | - | - | R | - |
    | - | - | 5 | - |
    | R | - | - | - |


    | F | - | - | - |
    | C | - | - | - |
    | - | A | - | - |
    | - | - | F | - |
    | - | - | C | - |
    | F | - | - | - |

    How do I put this in my head at first? By that I mean do I learn the finger positions by the degrees (i.e. the 5th is up one string over two frets from the root note on the low E string) or by note names (i.e. if F is the root on the low E string, the C is up one string over two frets) or is there another way?

    Now for my final question

    Are there exercises to help cement this in my head? And if there are, what should I be singing when I hit that note in my head (or out loud?) i.e. "eFFFF, Ceeee, Aaaa" or "Root, Third, Fifth"

    Thanks again for the help. i am sorry if my questions are a little basic, but I am trying to totally teach myself from the ground up so to speak, and asking these questions not only help me understand these new concepts, but they also help me to check to see if what I am reading in all of these articles and forums is sinking in (and if what is sinking in is correct!)

  4. #4
    some guy Doug McMullen's Avatar
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    Hey Crimson:

    First question, "Is the 3 in the 1 3 5 >4 half steps away< from the root note?"
    4 halfsteps above the root... or 4 halfsteps plus an octave above, or four halfsteps plus two ocatves above... and also 8 halfsteps below, of 8 halfsteps plus an octave below etc.

    That may be confusing, I know. The thing to realize is that 'interval' can refer to two different things -- 1) a specific distance, such as four half steps = a major third. or 2) The scale degree. In talking about 1 3 5 we are talking about scale degrees.

    So, as a distance, a major third interval is always and forever exactly 4 half steps above, or below, a given note.

    But the major third scale degree, that's the note which is a major third above the root, or any of that note's octave transpositions. For example, the note E is a major third above C, ... E, in any octave above or below C, is the "3" of C.

    Second question "Does that 1 3 5 have to be in the same octave or should I learn every 1st 3rd and 5th that is reachable from every root?
    The notes do not have to be in 1 3 5 order or spaced all within an octave in order to be called a major triad.

    For learning, take a systematic "divide and conquer" approach. Ultimately, you would like to know the fretboard very thoroughly... but you'll get there by learning in manageable bites. Start with "reachable" 1 3 5s. 1 3 5 is a major chord and you will want to be able to play major chords in a variety of places and fingerings.

    The 1 3 5 with the root as an F is "F A C".
    Yes, that is an F chord. FAC = 1 3 5 = major triad.


    But I think it would be wise to pause a moment and discuss what exactly the point behind learning all this stuff is. The point is making music, of course, so if you aren't playing music using this information, it's all sort of a waste. I'm a believer in doing excercises but you must be sure to connect the excercises to something really musical, like a song, -- and do this sooner rather than later.

    So, if you have a song with an F chord in it. Find all the F chords you can on the neck and experiment with them. Or, Suppose a song uses the chords C F G. You should be able to find several ways of playing that song by playing the chords C F G different places on the neck. Remember you don't need to always strum six string and 5 string chords. You only need three strings to play a triad. Try playing triads around the neck... experiment with triads on different string-sets.

    I guess that's the concept to go along with the divide and conquer approach: explore. Explore music. Everything you learn on the fretboard should open up some new possibility for playing.

    You asked what's the best way to get this stuff in your head, and I truly don't know the best way. I have a lot trouble memorizing. But for me the most enjoyable way is to play songs and work the things I'm learning into a song.

    It's true that learning can be accelerated by focusing strictly on one specific skill very intently with excercises and drills. Thats a very productive kind of study to do that I have had great success with in the past. ... but keep in mind that music isn't a race, there's no finish line, so if you run real fast trying to "get there" well, there is no there... and you can burn out. Find a way to learn that works for you, for the long haul.


    Now for my final question

    Are there exercises to help cement this in my head? And if there are, what should I be singing when I hit that note in my head (or out loud?) i.e. "eFFFF, Ceeee, Aaaa" or "Root, Third, Fifth"
    Well, there are a whole bunch of things getting jumbled up here -- and that's my fault. Maybe all I've done is cloud the waters for you.

    There's ear training. (example: Hearing root to fifth)

    There's fretboard knowledge of intervals.

    There's fretboard knowledge of note names.

    There's developing a knowledge of triads.

    You were working on the top three and I kind of lassoed you into a new direction: triads, chords. Now, on second thought, I don't know if thats best for you... it seems to me you were doing fine without my help. So, keep your "self-teaching" mindset and decide for yourself what you need, because you were doing pretty good for yourself.

    Each of those topics I just listed is something you'll want to tackle eventually and they can all be related to each other.

    One thing I am confident about saying though is, in terms of ear training... you want to be singing the interval numbers, not note names. The essence of relative pitch is hearing sounds _relative_ to a root (not relative to a letter-name): roots third fifth etc. Every note, relative to a root, has it's own distinct personality. That's what you want to hear... you want to hear the twang of b7, the mellow glow of 4, the hunting-horn call of 5 etc.

    So, as you are learning the sound of those intervals think/sing number, not letter.

    I think that if you decide to follow my advice (now or in the future) about learning major triads on the fretboard you are going to want to concentrate almost exclusively on Root Third Fifth. Knowing the fretboard in terms of intervals is just very useful, at least for me it is. Mostly, I think of chords as built in intervals... I visualize a chord shape and see notes around the chord shape in terms of their interval relation to the root.

    Learning note names on the fretboard can be a pain but it is also valuable thing to do. Its essential for reading music... and also the more markers you have for information, the better. The more 'handles' your brain has for something, the better the recall is.

    Well, good luck, let me know if I need to be clearer or how I can assist.

    Doug.

  5. #5
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    http://www.fretboardwarrior.com


    It is like a game where it shows you notes on the fingerboard and you identify them.
    Very good for learning the note names, and locations.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  6. #6
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    Another couple of online audio-visual resources I find useful ....
    . http://www.visualguitar.com/index.html
    (apart from what's on this home page, check the menu via the dropdown box on top... a lot of info such as all occurences of say note E on the fretboard, etc). There is a method after all to this madness :-)
    . http://www.chordbook.com/cb100/vguit...tar_chords.htm

    HTH,
    /venkat
    Last edited by venkatbo; 12-31-2003 at 05:36 PM.

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