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Learning the fretboard

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by schmintan, Jul 23, 2016.

  1. schmintan

    schmintan Tele-Meister

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    Im getting very frustrated musically lately. Im making a real effort to get at least an hour in per day to practice.

    I structure my learning so that im not just rambling about not getting anywhere. Even so, im actually not getting very far.

    My practice is:
    10 mins of running through CAGED shapes with a metronome. This is to warm up my fingers, work on timing & work on remembering the caged positions.

    15-20 mins of travis picking practice.

    15 mins of improv over a backing track.

    10-15 mins of playing new licks from youtube vids.

    I have years of guitar (blues mainly) behind me so im not a beginner, and have been following the above routine for a few months now, but im still as wooden as can be when doing lead, particularly country lead.

    To try and remedy this i signed up to CountryGuitarChops by Ken Karslon. Hes a pro for sure, and although i learn a lick or two, it all seems to just be tabs & a walkthrough of what his lead guitar is, so im not sure if that works for me. More likely is there is nothing wrong with his lessons and I just dont know the fretboard well enough to make full use of them. I can figure out what position i am in but it takes me a few seconds.

    My question is:
    You guys who are fluid and fluent in country lead, did you sit down and purposefully learn the fretboard or is it all muscle memory with no theory behind it, i.e. did you just learn a ton of songs and eventually it came together?
     
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  2. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I'm not 'fluid and fluent in country lead', but I may be a bit further down the same road you're on. Maybe. I think you're going to get all variety of answers. Everyone learns differently. Some will say songs are the key. Some will say CAGED. Some: 'notes on the fingerboard'. Some use a ton of theory, others not so much.

    I know in my own practice, I work through stuff that doesn't seem to be getting me very far. Then I put it down, work on other stuff for a few months, and voila! The other stuff I thought I hadn't really learned starts coming second nature. Kind of like when you look at one of those 'magic eye' pictures, looking so hard for the picture-in-picture, and you can't see it. Then relax, stop looking, and there it is.

    My theory on this is based on the fact that we have two halves to our brains. The reasoning, analytical half, and the emotional, non-rational half. Our practice time is almost all reasoning, analytical stuff. It's only later, when we stop thinking so hard in that way, that the other half can integrate it.

    On the practical side, I've found that learning the notes on the fingerboard is very valuable, because ultimately anything I do on the neck involves knowing where the roots of the key (or chord) are. If I know it's Bb, but I take ten seconds to find a friggin' Bb, well that's a problem.
     
  3. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I've been studying the fretboard a whole lot recently and have a few thoughts on composing hooks and runs that are in synch with the music I'm accompanying.

    like 99% of guitarists, I know the minor pentatonic box (positions 1, 2, 3 & 5) almost too well and I know the second position major scale rooted on the 6th string too. That has served me well for about 35 years but has also kept me hemmed in so about 6 months ago I made a concerted effort to learn the seven modes of the major scale rooted ion the 6th and 5th strings (3 notes per string), my circle of 5ths (or 4ths, depending on the direction) and that darn 4th position pentatonic minor box.

    Along the way, I've begun to piece together where a major scale pattern works with a minor key, like an Em based chord progression and the notes of G major. I suppose this is playing morally and really I would be playing an E Dorian solo.

    What has worked for me is being more aware of what makes up the backing track and looking at the obvious solo approach and then what other scales, modes, etc might be mixed in. It seems that repetition is my friend in this regard really being present while practicing , even when I'm noodling around.
     
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  4. Leon Grizzard

    Leon Grizzard Friend of Leo's

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    Like Moosie, I'm don't claim to be great shakes, but I know the fingerboard and music theory and it helps me generalize some phrase into other contexts.

    I agree with all that the Moosemeister said.

    Ken, I think, presumes a certain understanding of music fundamentals and explains things based on that presumption.

    Someone on here has or had a signature line to the effect of "at first it seems like rocket science, but after a while it seems like plumbing."

    Personally, I learned the fretboard a piece or chunk at a time starting with chord roots on the E and A strings and used those as landmarks.
     
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  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I think finding the right teacher is a great idea.
    Someone who is both an inspiring player and a patient, knowledgable teacher.
    It may take a while to find one.
    Try a few, study a month or two, and try another.
    You may luck out quickly.
    I studied with about a dozen teachers over the decades.
    Three of them were indispensable.
     
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  6. callasabra

    callasabra Tele-Afflicted

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    I taught myself to play, and I am a horrible teacher. I would different songs, then find their key/scale, then would work that scale up and down the fretboard. Then learn to play the song in different positions. Then learn to play the song in different keys.

    I can't really recommend this as way of accomplishing your goal, but it taught me the fretboard. lead comes from the soul, not the brain.
    Think of lead like singing through your fingers. You don't need words, just the emotion of it. I will often learn vocal melodies of a song so I can improv lead parts.

    Good luck
     
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  7. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Like Leon, I play guitar. But that's where the similarity ends. I've watched his videos, and Leon's way outta my league. (and he dresses nicer, too)

    Frustrating and inspiring... we all have the same dozen notes on our fingerboards. :)

    I started with learning chord roots on E and A as well. From there, I don't know if anyone else does this, or if it's just too obvious, but I mapped the scale degrees going across the frets. So, with a root on the 6th string, the notes on the other strings (5-1), same fret, are 4th, b7, b3, 5, and root again. I think of that for both 6th and 5th roots. Aside from the B string jog, it's just the cycle of 4ths/5ths, but I find it easier to visualize across the board like that. Then the scale degree I want is usually only a fret away (and never more than two) from one of these.

    EDIT: OP, none of this is specific to country. I think the same way for blues, except the go-to notes are more in the minor pent than the major, but not always.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2016
  8. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    I wonder how this would work. Find a random number generator, set the range to 1-12, mentally visualize the first string of the guitar, and press go.

    When the number 4 comes up, say aloud "G# or Ab." When it is 7, say "B."

    The benefit of this is that you can do it away from guitar, which helps get the fingerboard in your head. Also, the randomness deters you from going on auto-robot if you go up one fret at a time. Additionally, saying the note name aloud gives it a physical dimension. There can be a big difference between thinking of an answer and saying it.

    There are better techniques than this, but this might be fun to try. Fun being a key concept in memorization.
     
  9. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Nice, Larry. Then have optional functions, like one that after you name the note, it asks you for what degree that note is in the key of <random>. There are a whole bunch of relationships that could be trained for this way.

    Of course, we can just do this ourselves, but robot mode is a problem, and the random nature would make it a challenge, a game.

    It's interesting innit that speaking the answer aloud is different than just saying it in your head. I mutter to myself all day long for just that reason. That's why I like dogs -- they don't judge. :rolleyes:
     
  10. Darkness

    Darkness Tele-Afflicted

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    Step 1: Learn the modes.
    Step 2: Know what key song is in.
    Step 3: The fretboard is at your mercy.

    Works for me at least. Once I know the key of a song, I know where I can go and stay in key.
     
  11. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    schmintan, all the things you're doing are good but only *potentially* valuable, hence the frustration

    practice in my experience has to be ruthlessly directed toward a goal -- otherwise, no progress can be felt toward something

    you mentioned "fluent" as a positive thing -- let's turn that into a more specific goal, like "I want to be able to play straight eighth melodies fluently between chords a fifth apart" e.g. between I and V7

    great, that would be VERY useful

    so you have the CAGED shapes in mind, but just practicing them alone as an interlocking pattern doesn't allow you to develop fluency over chords as they *change*

    I've been writing out some diagrams on paper and will post them tomorrow -- I hope you find them useful
     
  12. jads57

    jads57 TDPRI Member

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    Unless you have a great ear, you needto learn the basics of theory as well as how it applies to your fretboard.

    1.)Practice learning all of your notes on all 5 strings (6 is E also) I minute per string 5 minutes total every day! You'll know it by heart in a month or less.

    2.) Learn chord construction Root,2nd(same as 9th) 3rd,4th(same as 11th) 5th,6th(13th,7th

    3. Learn Songs! Especially what you want to play over.

    There is no easy way, but it's just time in on your guitar!
     
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  13. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

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    Stop isolating chords and scales. They're not different. See your caged chords as solo ideas.

    Though it's not country, you really should spend a couple of devoted months studying Charlie Christian. His chord based single note playing is extremely enlightening.

    When you arpeggiate your caged shapes do you know all the note names/intervals (3, 5, 6, 7 ,9 etc)?
     
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  14. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    This should be written in lights somewhere... There are some with great ears who intuitively get it, for the rest of us there is theory. I didn't understand that for decades.
     
  15. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

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    Theory. Any guesses as to what the definition is? the definition of the word, itself.
    I held theory up to my ear once. It didn't make a sound.
    Theory means rules Bach , and the church, set in place, hundreds of years ago,yet many of you still insist on 12 tone 'theory' wether you know it or not.
    (Yes, you do)
    Me , I want the 'evil' notes back.
    The ones the Turks, egyptians and Arabs still use.
    If Beck or Hendrix were taught 'theory',and accepted it, they would have been no-one.
    So put away the 'blue notes'. They are by definition, invalid.
    There was a time when 'theory' dictated Motsart could not play minor tones...
     
  16. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Here's my take on it...

    Theory isn't there to limit what you play. That's what I thought when I was learning to play guitar and getting caught in musical ruts. I thought it was because I was relying on theory but the problem wasn't theory, it was that I only knew a smattering of it; just enough to be dangerous. Had I known more, I would have known why the evil note sounds good and where that note lurks in various chord progressions.

    Theory isn't a substitute for playing and developing your own style but the more musical theory the more it will reinforce your musical decisions and help you make better ones.

    Beck and Hendrix know/knew a great deal of theory even if the knowledge wasn't learned from a book; they knew it anyway.
     
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  17. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

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    You miss my point, but only barely.
    Both would have made music without theory.
    And both, were wrong, based on theoretical points.
    But.
    They get discussed much more than Bach.
    I play the Oud.
    No one even knows what that is.
    Because it is not accepted as 'western music', which, in turn, is , what you call theory, as thou it were the be all and end all.
    Your theory is about 350 yrs old.Music is about 4000 yrs old. Best guess.
     
  18. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Here's something that might be useful. There's a practice technique that is very simple in concept, but allows for a lot of exploration. It's called "worrying" a lick, riff, passage, motif, etc. This means that you keep playing a few notes over and over and over, while always making little changes. The beauty of this is that it allows you to focus deeply on a idea and push it into something that had previously involved moves that you would normally avoid.

    For more variety, trying playing the worrying motif in one position, then repeating it with the same exact notes in lower/higher position. When you play something in the lower position, notes that had been played on a set of strings, sometimes have to be played on a lower string, higher fret. This creates a note duplication that has the same pitch, of course, but a different tone color. You can practice this without necessarily being able to identify every note (although that is the ultimate goal). Instead, the salient feature of such a move to a lower position, is that you become aware of notes that share the same name. The usefulness of this is that you improve your ability to know how a given note is duplicated on the next lower or higher string. It is a different way of working on learning the fingerboard, which is useful in its own way, since it directs you to focus on how to finger a note that is the same as another note on an adjacent string.
     
  19. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Good for you? Do you really expect this to help the OP?
     
  20. Mr. Lumbergh

    Mr. Lumbergh Poster Extraordinaire

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    Print a copy of the Circle of Fifths. Start on the top at C, and find every place on the fretboard where there is a C and play that note, starting from the E string. While you're playing that note, sing or hum "C" if you can or its octave if out of range. This'll give you not only a reference for the note name and where it is on the board (and how your guitar works), but it'll start to give you a sense of how it sounds.
    After you've found and sung all C's on the board, move on to G, then D, til you come all the way back around to C. Work on this until you know it cold.
    Then start forming the major triads. Play them across all strings, one at a time, starting on the E string: "C-E-G." Sing the notes along with it. Once you have that down pat, go on to the minor triads: "C-Eb-G." Once you have that, add the 7 chords: "C-E-G-Bb." Then m7, M7, 7b5, etc. Soon, you will not only know exactly where every note is on the neck, you'll know what they sound like and how they relate to each other. If you can hum an improvised melody in the various keys and modes and know exactly where to play those notes on the board, you will know how to play it on the guitar, and once that point is attained, there won't be much you can't get done by understanding what the hallmarks are of the style you want to play.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
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