Learn Your Fretboard!

I teach 67 students a week how to play guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, and
dulcimer. With the exception of four or five students, most always blow off
learning the notes on the fretboard. I had a teacher, Pat Buchanon, who later
played with Cindy Lauper and Daryl Hall, when i was about fourteen years old
who constantly harped on me to learn the fretboard. I always blew it off and
went to G.I.T. in 1988 and learned all my scale positions and modes in
geometrical shapes from Jimmy Herring of The Dead and Gov. Mule. This helped
tremendously but something was missing.

I finally learned all my notes after playing for 27 years and teaching for
ten, just from playing so much. I strongly suggest all of you younger
players to learn them as quickly as possible. The following reasons are reason

  1. You never have to think of modes and other scales in terms of patterns,
    you simply think of the combination of notes you are playing, and this will
    also eliminate those boring up and down scale runs.
  2. You will also be able to apply great second, third, and octave
    harmonies with ease, especially if you are a second guitarist.
  3. You will be able to create alternate chord voicings and triad
    inversions you may have overlooked until now, creating great harmony chords.
  4. You will be able to call out notes instead of names of scales to
    communicate with other instrumentalists, saving you tons of time in the studio. You
    will become a better band leader and composer this way by transposing
    instruments that are written a whole step higher, like saxophone.
  5. By knowing that B and C and E and F are half steps apart, you should
    be able to pick up any stringed instrument and by only knowing the tuning, be
    able to play chords and scales immediately.

You can learn the notes by a short cut. You simply start with F on the
sixth string, first fret, and find the octave on the third fret, fourth string
and work your way down the neck. Learning the sixth string gives you the
first string since they are both E, therefore you have learned three strings at
once. Now apply that to the fifth and third string as well as second.

Eddie Van Halen once stated. "There are only twelve notes in music, how you
put them together is up to you." While this is a simplistic statement
coming from Eddie learning most of his theory on piano and not knowing scale
positions, it is very true. Whatever notes you use will end up being some type of
mode or scale, then you just need to know what chords to play them over,
which also stems from the scale.

Good luck.

Jeff Lawrence teaches guitar and several other instruments in the Park City, Utah area. He went to the Guitar Institute of Technology, as well as Lander College, to study music.

He has recorded nine CDs, and is currently working on three new instructional DVDs.

Jeff Lawrence