- by Kevin Deal
If you want to take your guitar playing skills to the next level, you will need to learn the basics of the guitar fretboard.
First and foremost, what is it? And why should you learn it?
In this guide, I will help you answer these questions with tips to follow in learning the guitar fretboard. Interestingly enough, I will also detail the things that need to be avoided in learning the fretboard.
Remember that knowing what to do and what not to do, will enable you to play the guitar more efficiently and become a guitar pro in no time.
You need to watch out for two important things outlined in this article that will help enhance your learning further. Specifically, you need to do these two things:
- Memorizing the fretboard notes/chords
- Basic music theory
But as promised, let me define what a fretboard is and why you should be learning it in the first place.
What is Fretboard?
A fretboard is your guitar’s board—a long strip of wood (or other material) where the frets are located or embedded. This is where you press the strings against when you hit a chord or a note.
Some call this fingerboard, which is also present in most stringed instruments. The fretboard or fingerboard is an important component of the guitar because it is where the pitch changes as well as the vibrating length.
Why do you need to learn the guitar fretboard?
So now you probably have a clue why you should be familiar with the fretboard. If you understand its function, you will be able to play more efficiently. By efficiently, I mean faster.
Understanding the physical aspects of your guitar is the key to improving your playing speed.
You should know your guitar like the back of your hand. Like any other instrument, make the guitar an extension of yourself. That way, you can play more passionately.
The great guitar shredder, the late Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, started to learn finger tapping by learning the fretboard.
Who knows? You might be the next big thing in guitar shredding, crazily executing those guitar note frenzies and finger tapping flurries.
Learning the basics of the fretboard enables you to be familiar with the frets. And when you are familiar with the frets, memorizing the finger placement of each chord will be easy peasy.
The importance of Memorizing the fretboard notes/chords
Memorizing the fretboard notes/chords is one of the main highlights of this guide. But why do we have to learn the fretboard notes/chords?
Apart from mental accuracy and speed, you have to rely on familiarity with the frets to play efficiently. This is very useful when you start playing guitar with a group or band.
You may easily get distracted with other instruments playing in the background, but if you can instantly recall the placement of your fingers for certain chords in the frets, then everything will flow smoothly regardless of how fast or slow the tempo of the song is.
Basic music theory as a necessity
Music Theory refers to the modes, scales, chord progressions, notes, and chord structure, to name a few. But let’s start with the simplest and most basic ones which are the seven notes of music: A B C D E F and G. Each note has its placement in the fretboard. Within these notes, there are also sharp and flat notes. The sharp notes include the following: A# C# D# and F#. On the other hand, the flat notes are Bb, Db, Eb, and Gb.
Combine this basic knowledge in music theory with the familiarity of your guitar’s physical aspect (fretboard), and you will discover how easy it is to put things together.
For instance, when you need to play A#, you simply have to form the natural note A with your fingers on the next higher fret (half step). If you play a flat note such as Bb, you simply have to form the natural note B one fret (half step) lower.
Now that you understand the necessity of basic music theory and its application on the guitar fretboard, let’s continue with other important details focused in this guide. Take note of these tips to help you learn the fretboard a bit more.
What to do
- Practice constantly to remember every note and finger placement. You need to practice the fretboard every day for at least 10-20 minutes.
- Know and understand the standard tuning and string numbering. From the sixth (thickest), down to the first (thinnest) string, the standard tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E.
- Familiarize the frets and fret movements. If you don’t already know, most guitars have 22 frets and 138 notes. The frets are numbered starting from the headstock to the guitar body (1-22). On the other hand, fret movements are horizontal, vertical, upward, or downward.
- Do ascending and descending exercises. Do not look at a tablature or guide when you do this. Mention every note that you play, so you will eventually memorize them.
- Listen intently to the notes and familiarize their sound.
- Use a 60-bpm metronome for timing. Try to increase the beat to 20 bpm as you progress so you can practice speed playing.
What Not to Do
- Avoid practicing too many notes/chords in a single session. It is better to start with the natural notes first and familiarize their placement in the fretboard.
- Do not focus on memorizing the placement of fingers on the fretboard alone as this will be a tedious exercise. Always associate each note with the sound it produces.
- Do not resort to shortcuts in learning the notes. Take your time and try to learn all the notes in each fret, not just frets 1-12 but also the remaining 13-22 frets.
- Do not lose patience. Always be patient with yourself. Rest for a few minutes if needed.
- Do not pressure yourself to learn more about the elements of music theory. Take one step at a time, or else you will get information overload.
Did you learn anything from this guide? Again, the purpose of this guide is to help you understand guitar fretboard and its importance in efficient guitar playing.
Now that you know what to do and what to avoid doing, go ahead and get your guitar. Practice until you can play at a faster speed. Discover ways and techniques that you find comfortable and never stop learning.
Happy guitar playing!