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Problems Visualizing The Fretboard - 315
Can't see or even remember the shapes and patterns on the guitar fretboard?
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Have you ever found yourself struggling to figure out the notes on the guitar fretboard? Don't worry, you are not alone. In this episode, I'm going to discuss the common problems that guitar players face when it comes to visualizing the fretboard. So stay tuned. Hello and welcome friends to this episode of the Play Guitar Podcast.
I'm Lee and this is the podcast that's determined to make you a better guitar player. No matter if you're just starting out, you've been playing for years. This is the show that will help you become the guitar player that you always wanted to be and if you are new here, make sure that you subscribe to the podcast and check out the description for all of the links from the show.
Hey super fans of the show, I wanted to remind you that I've started a private podcast just for you. It's been going strong for a week and a half now and I've got some great episodes lined up for you this week. On Wednesday, I'm sharing insights to unlocking the secrets of chord shape, scale patterns, and arpeggios on the fretboard. Something I know a lot of you have been asking about. Then on Thursday, that episode's all about visualization exercises to help you master the fretboard like a pro guitar player and then on Friday, I'm going to dive deep into the useful elements. I said the useful elements of the caged system. That's something that every guitar player should know. If you're a dedicated listener of the main show, don't miss out on this opportunity to get even more in-depth insights, practical tips, and then we're actually having some community stuff too. It's a lot of fun and then off topic Tuesdays. Who knows what we're going to talk about there. So why wait, join now, and get ready to unlock your full potential
as a musician, guitar player, and that's playguitaracademy.com/membership to sign up for the private podcast today. Have you ever found yourself struggling to visualize a fretboard? Maybe you know all the notes, you know all the scales, but somehow you just can't seem to connect them. You don't see them. Well, you're not alone with this. In fact, this is one of the most common problems guitar players face.
But do not worry about this because today we're going to explore some different techniques that will help you visualize the fretboard like you have never done before. And we're going to start off by discussing the main challenges that players face when it comes to that. Chord shapes, scale patterns, arpeggio patterns, interval shapes. We're going to dive into those areas that cause the biggest confusion and then we're going to figure out how we can fix them for you.
And finally, you'll start to see the fretboard in a whole new light. One of the stories that I've heard, I've heard stories about Joe Satriani and Steve Vai for years. I never heard this one. And I just saw an interview where they were sitting side by side. I may have said this recently. I don't know. I'm doing so many podcasts now with the private podcast. I can't remember what I've said from one to another. But I remember they were talking about how they were getting lessons going together.
And Joe was the teacher. Steve was the student. And Joe said basically, go learn all the notes on the guitar and then come back before you can have another lesson. It highlights just how important it is to truly understand the fretboard. You've had trouble visualizing the fretboard in the past. How did you take care of it? Have you conquered this before? What techniques did you find helpful? I want to know what worked for you and we can help some other people out.
And you can share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section for this show notes page. We're going to help some people become better guitar players. First step is to understand the layout of the fretboard. We have basically a blank piece of graph paper. If you're watching this, you'll see I've got a close up of the fretboard of this guitar. This is my my ash Sienna sunburst strat and I have the rosewood fretboard. And all it is is dots, dots and frets with strings going across it. Right? What do we do with this? I remember when I first started, it was all about the possibilities for me. I was excited about the fretboard. I was excited to figure out, well, I know what people are doing with this. I've heard it. I've seen people play this thing.
How are they getting those sounds from this? From this really uninspiring grid here. We've got third fret, fifth fret, seventh fret, ninth fret. Why is it why didn't it go to the 11th fret with the next dot? Right? Why didn't why did it skip to the 12th fret? I didn't understand that. And then why did it skip two more frets and go to the 15th and then start going every other 15th, 17th, 19th with all the dot markers there. Well, I didn't understand why that is. I do now. Right?
So let's get into it. What's the first point, the first step to take to open up the fretboard? It's memorizing the notes. Okay. Now you go, okay, that's going to be too much. I can't do that. I can't memorize the notes on the guitar fretboard. It's overwhelming. It's not that hard. It's really not that difficult. This is something that I get my...
So I have my first course. If you're a beginner, this is called Start Here Guitar. If you're a beginner, go over there. It's like $47. Now I've got it on basically half the price that I started off with. And it is fantastic. I start beginners off starting to learn the notes of the fretboard and some other basic things too. I take the ground floor skill that you need to go faster. Why not learn that in the beginning? Right? And where do we start? Of course, the low E and the A strings.
Those two strings will help you more than you know. And so after that, what do we do? We start to figure, well, what are the notes that don't have sharps on them? The E, F, G, A, B, C. We work on those first and then we take a look at that. What did we just learn? Oh, some of them are one fret away from each other. And the other ones are two frets away. Well, what are those notes in the middle? Right? That's our sharps and our flats.
Then we move on to that using all of them in a line to go up the string until we can get from the open string to the 12th fret. And this is something that a lot of guitar players learn out of necessity because you're in a band. Usually that's when it happens. You're in a band and you've got to play these things. As somebody says, it's in the key of D.
Well, I only know a couple chords and I know that low note of the chord. I know that low note of the chord, that's the name of it. So I got to find a D. So you start counting up until you find that note. I start students off on that way before they're in a band. So getting used to that low string really helps. And then the A string is just as important because we have a lot of chords that the low note of the chord, which would be the root of the chord, happens to be on the A string as well. Now you can do that on any string, but a lot of these rock chords, you know, bar chords that we're using, that one is more common than the rest of the strings.
If you asked someone, "What are the notes on the D string? What are the notes on the B string? What are the notes on the G string?" Most of the time they'll look at you with a blank stare. No idea. They're there. They're notes.
Well, we talk about ways that you can learn them quickly. Another tool that we use, we use the mnemonic devices, right? So we need some things to help us remember the order of the notes. So we talk about E-A-D-G-B-E, the names of the strings. What's your favorite for that? The ones people seem to like... I don't know. I heard about it probably about 10 years ago. The "Eddie 8 Dynamite Goodbye Eddie" for remembering the names of the strings. And we also did the one, you know, you do the one face and every good boy does fine or deserves fudge, right? So those are for learning the music staff. But little word play to make you remember some of these things on the guitar is very helpful. That's kind of the next step that we take.
Once you're able to, after a time, figure out the notes on a string, we start to test that. Random notes. Close your eyes and put your finger down on the guitar. Boom. There you go. That's a... What note is that? And how long... You can set a timer. How long is it going to take you to know what that note is? And closing that gap, making sure that you can do it pretty quickly. So these are the steps. I'm not doing the steps for you. I'm just showing you what the steps are that we can start to open this fretboard up. Number two, we're going to use octave shapes. That always helps for you to find some of those notes in the middle of the guitar.
So you can practice finding the octave of a note on a fretboard by playing the string, playing the note on one string, then finding its matching note on the higher or lower string on the outsides of those power chord shapes, right? Why not use those? The number three thing we do is practice playing simple melodies only on the notes on those strings. So you can take just any kind of simple melody that you like to play, that you noodle around the guitar with and try playing it on one string. That's always fun.
We do that... Here's the thing. Sometimes when you're a beginner, you do some really valuable things and you don't realize how valuable they are. And then you get a little bit better in the guitar and you ditch them. You never do them again, right? So if you're playing a melody... Say that was your favorite song. So I'm going to figure that out on the guitar and I'm going to figure, well, what notes are those on that?
And then maybe I'll try and once I know the notes, I can play it in other places on the guitar too. You see how we're starting to chip away at this fretboard. This is going to help reinforce the knowledge, the notes on those strings, and it's going to give you a better understanding of how to use them in context. So more strings gradually adding, doing the same thing on different strings, trying to find something familiar to equate that with these patterns on a single string.
Then point two is we're going to start to learn our shapes. When we learn chord shapes here, you know, your little C's and G's and A-minors and all of those things, we do that for a reason. We just, we do it because we just want to play a chord because we want to play songs and songs, you need chords to play songs. But there's a lot more information that you can get from them. And once you can figure out, well, where are, what are the notes in these chords,
then you can start to move the shapes out of open position across the guitar and start to find some really interesting results you can memorize. Where the root notes are in the pattern, you can use common chord shapes like major, minor, dominant seventh, major seventh, identify the roots of those chords, identify the thirds, the fifth, the flat seventh, so the major seventh, and find them across the fretboard in different keys. You see the steps that we're going to open up the fretboard. It's not, it's not a difficult thing. But then again, it's easy for me to say these things. That's one of the things that you would want me to help you with.
That's why I help a lot of students through this, because it's easy to say it's not so easy to do it and to stay on course. So I help a lot of people with these things. You can practice those chords in different positions, and then that's going to help you build muscle memory with your fingers and equate that to a visual reference so you can start to see, "Oh, okay, when I play these certain shapes, they sound a certain way, and I can slide them into different keys, and I can use them in more than just one song. I can use them in all of the songs that I play." That's when things start to get powerful.
What would we do next after that? After the chord stuff, we'll do the scale patterns. Start to learn scale patterns. Now there's a lot more notes, especially in the full scales. And once you understand those patterns, you're going to be able to see some shapes in those patterns, helping you to identify intervals. Intervals is a very important thing. What are intervals? Intervals are the distance between two notes. And I'm not going to get into this because they take a little bit of time.
There's some ear things that you need to work on to really understand intervals and be able to mix them and match them. You need to hear them a little bit. And just like anything, there's a visual element to it, which is great for the guitar. It's a very visual instrument. And then there's an ear part to it, building your musical ear. And when you get those two things working in sync and then have the technique to play them, you're dangerous. You're very dangerous, right? But then you can do it with different types of scales.
Major pentatonic, minor pentatonic. Look at what those intervals are. Where's the root note with these things? Practice playing these in different positions of the fretboard. This is going to develop an ease of use. If you put it in repetition, do a little bit in your daily repetition. It's not going to be so scary. And I don't say scary in a way like horror movie scary.
We tend to avoid... I see it all the time and you can see it too. Go to any garage sale or pawn shop and look at the guitar and look at where the frets are worn down. Nine times out of 10, they're worn down in the first three frets and the rest of the frets look untouched. Sometimes you'll see them at the fifth fret. That's somebody who's graduated, right? To the A minor pentatonic scale and they play that a lot, right?
And then the arpeggios. That's the next thing we do with arpeggios. We relate them to the scale shapes, common chord types like major, minor, and dominant seventh. All of the different arpeggios. We practice playing these arpeggios all over the fretboard as well. Getting used to moving them around. So you see the progression so far. And then that brings us to the last point where you're seeing the big picture.
This is where you can visualize the entire fretboard. You look at this grid that we have and you start to see things. You start to see possibilities. It's funny how, and I've shared this before, if I know that I have a guitar that's broken, then visually you wouldn't be able to tell. Maybe there's a volume pot that's broken, something that's not that someone would, something you wouldn't recognize, right? So maybe one of the strings gets loose and doesn't stay in tune.
Maybe there's a rattle on the guitar. If I know there's something wrong with the guitar, to me it doesn't look good. Now it would look great to anybody else. It looks just as good as my other guitars. But to me, certain guitars, if they're ready to play, they look better to me. And I think that is a, I see the possibilities and things. The fretboard, when you have a certain area of the guitar that you're not sure about, and think about that. What area of the guitar fretboard are you not sure about? I'd say probably around the seventh fret to the ninth fret, probably the 17th, 19th, 21st on up there.
Those areas of the guitar, especially around the G, the D and the B string, people avoid. They don't spend a lot of time there. And you look at the neck of the guitar and what do you see? You see your possibilities. You see, well, the fifth fret, I'm really good there. That's where A minor pentatonic is. And the third fret, that's G minor pentatonic, right? So you have the one scale pattern and you can slide back and forth. But once we get to this point of the process that I just laid out for you today, then you start to look at the whole guitar fretboard and its possibilities. You can also divide the fretboard into smaller sections,
put some limits on yourself. Look at, say, okay, I'm gonna look at this fretboard and I'm gonna think of all the possibilities that I have between the fifth fret and the eighth fret. You might wanna do that today. Go home and see, well, what chord shapes can I see there? What scale patterns can I see there? What key could I play in different keys at that area? And how could I do that? Visualizing these things.
I used to do this in school. I tell you that I would do chord shapes under the desk at school, but I would also think, you know, sometimes high school students, you think they're just daydreaming. Well, I might've looked like I was daydreaming, but I was hard at work visualizing the guitar fretboard. Then if you do that though, if you do the fifth fret, eighth fret thing, you can make things a little bit more manageable and over time build up those things. Think about reference points on the guitar.
What's your go-to? If somebody said, "We're playing in the key of D, go." Where would you put your hand on the guitar? Quickly. Would it be the D chord in the open position? Would it be your pinky at the 10th fret? Would it be your second finger on the, pinky at the 10th fret of the E string? Would it be your second finger on the A string at the fifth fret? Where would you go? But to me, I have those little things. Somebody tells me a key.
I know where I'm going on the guitar, right? (laughs) So using these visualization exercises like I did, that can improve your awareness of the guitar. You'll be more present when you're making decisions about those. Think about the notes. Think about the shapes in your mind before you play something. Think about that. So say, "Okay, I'm gonna play an A chord."
And think about what it's gonna look like before you play it. That's really, really helpful for those things. And just start simple. Start simple and gradually add some more complex chords or scale patterns into your practice routine. And the last thing that I do, and I do this with all my students, is make sure that we think of the guitar as the whole fretboard, not just one area. We start with a simple scale pattern. We practice playing it in all positions before we move on.
That way, when you practice, you start to say, "Okay, well, I spent the time learning this. When I run through it, it's only gonna take me a minute to run through all five of the patterns." But I'm gonna add that to my regular practice routine. The fretboard starts to open up. So I didn't do the work for you, but what I did do is I gave you the path. I gave you the 30,000 foot view, looking down and saying, "Okay, this is possible."
If you're at home and you're struggling and you can't get the fretboard figured out, this is something that you can do. It's not an easy thing, but I can help you with this. I help people with this all the time. So several different ways I can help you with that. One is in the individual courses. The fretboard recognition is built right in. In the membership where you get all the roadmap courses, it's built in for the time that you are in. It's built in for the stage of guitar that you're working on. And then in coaching, I can one-on-one help you with that.
And I do it all the time and you can do it too. I have no doubt that you can open up this fretboard and really start playing the guitar. It's going to be a lot of fun knowing that I've helped you and you letting me know how these things work. So visualizing the fretboard can be a challenge, but with a little bit of practice and a systematic approach, anyone can improve their skills. I've seen that happen over and over and over again.
So what do you need to remember? Take your time. Make sure you put fretboard memorization, visualization in your practice. Don't let it go. Common chord shapes and patterns, arpeggio patterns, scale patterns, playing them in different keys and positions. It's not hard stuff and this is something that you can do. You just have to intentionally do it. So that is a wrap. Thanks for tuning in today for the Play Guitar Podcast.
Don't forget to hit the subscribe button to stay updated on all of the latest episodes and then consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or iTunes if you found this valuable. But wait, there's more. If you are ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, lock in your membership to the Academy and support the show and get exclusive access to the private podcast. You will get more, five more episodes a week where you'll learn directly from me and get a lot more fun and interesting guitar infotainment right there in your online home base for a guitar.
This week we'll be discussing how to memorize chord shapes, scale patterns and arpeggio patterns on Wednesday, practicing visualization exercises. And Thursday is gonna be mastering the part of the cage system that I like, the one that's actually helpful. So don't miss out on these things. We're taking this topic and we're going deep on all of it. Thank you again for listening and I will see you on the next episode of the Play Guitar Podcast. Bye-bye.
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