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Thread: Memorizing the neck

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    Default Memorizing the neck

    Hello all. Normally I just read here, there is so much I have learned just using the search function . Iím finding myself running into a wall. Like many in here I have played other instruments, primarily guitar for a long time. I was a rhythm player and vocals so I have never done much with any single note lead playing. This is shifting in a big way on mandolin. I am still playing a lot of chords and singing but I am way more compelled to go further on this than I ever was on guitar. Iím driven to practice every day which never happened on other instruments I donít know what it is about this thing but I have a hard time putting it down. I have bought Don Julinís mandolin for dummies and the exercise book but still stuck. I canít seem to memorize the actual notes on thr neck, or the notes that make the chords. I have always played by ear but itís going to take more than that to do what I want to be doing. Itís a big wall. The scales all seem to over lap each other and I canít seem to remember thr, I can always find notes that work but that is not taking me to where I want to be. It feels like math. How is this all remembered? I am part of a quartet and Iím fine on rhythm as long as I stick to three finger chords rather than 4, it works. I lack theory and application. I canít seem to break through and make it happen in a real way. I now realize this has always held me back.. I donít seem to remember thing with no context. Any shared experiences would be helpful.

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    For me, it's been a long journey to get to where I feel reasonably competent maneuvering about the fretboard, so my first piece of advice is "Give it some time". I've been going at it for 12+ years now (I forget how long, exactly), and it's only recently that I've realized that I can tell someone what note I'm playing. Fretboard knowledge accrues incrementally.

    I've found patterns to be more important than names. The mandolin layout is so logical and repeatable that patterns move very easily, both up and down the fret board, and even across, from one course of strings to the next. One of the first things I discovered (accidentally, just through noodling around) was the G pentatonic scale. Playing along with recordings in G, I realized that I could stick with this palette of 5 notes, and none of them ever sounded "wrong". This was all in first position (only up to the fifth fret). Then I realized I could start that pattern on the D string, and have it work for the key of D. Eventually, I moved these patterns out of first position and further up the neck, so I had to remember where the G's, D's and C's were further up the fretboard, and plant my index finger there. All incremental.

    The next big break-through for me was discovering double stops. Once again, a very incremental process. The way it works in my head (self-taught theory) is that I can take any 3 or 4 finger chord, and break it down to any of the 2 notes on adjacent strings in that chord. That 2 note pair will function as a double stop that substitutes for the larger chord. Take a 4 finger G "chop" chord, 3-2-5-7 (from the E course coming down). 3-2-x-x, x-2-5-x, and x-x-5-7 are all G double stops. And they move in patterns just the same as the full chords. The next step was figuring out ways to move from one double stop to the next in a melodic fashion. This has all happened in the last 3-4 years, but it's made a world of difference in my melodic playing.

    I don’t seem to remember thing with no context
    This is the same for everyone, IMHO. The key is to give yourself more context. You don't mention if you're a fiddle tune player, but I'll go ahead and extol their virtues. Fiddle tunes are a great way to learn melodic vocabulary and to see how melodies relate to chord structure. There's a component of rote memorization involved, but I personally find them very addictive. There are lots of sources of TAB and notation in the archives.
    Mitch Russell

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Take tunes and songs you know well and play them up an octave or even just starting in higher positions. Take your time working these out and see where the same notes reside on the upper frets. Work out your breaks for songs you do in your group up the neck. Just take your time—it will come.

    If you read music you can find some rudimentary etudes in violin books that move you up to third and second positions.
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    Registered User gfury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    I agree that patterns and relationships are more important than memorizing note names (at least that's what's been working for me).

    The pentatonic scale is great, but it's easy to get stuck with it. As mentioned before, it's hard to hit a wrong sounding note. However, I've become too dependent on it and it has hampered my ability to create more interesting improvisation, and my ability to figure out melodies by ear.

    Look at the FFCP method (https://www.mandolincafe.com/eschliman2.html) to see movable scale patterns.
    Greg Fury

  7. #5

    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Thanks Mitch ! I have the pentatonic G scale. ...I make a lot of mistakes, your feedback is encouraging. I just learned my first fiddle tune , whiskey before breakfast and it’s soo much fun. I brought it to my band last night and before I knew it we were all taking turns and it became quite lively ! I think we will start doing more of these. How do you learn them ? This I learn through tab, took a looooong time, while last night it took our guitar players 5 minutes ! Ha ! But I have only been playing this since June or July so I will give myself a pass.

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by gfury View Post
    ... patterns and relationships are more important than memorizing note names ...
    Heartily agree! Even now that I can somewhat quickly figure what any note is, that's not the way many of us play.

    What I DID initially memorize (even if it was on guitar!) are the notes at each fret marker up the neck, starting with only the E string(s). After a while, the notes on adjacent strings, a fourth/fifth above/below (mixing guitar & mando here) become apparent, and eventually the others fill themselves in.

    But actually PLAYING is a different thing. While a pianist has to memorize each white/black, sharp/flat for the keys they play in, we fretted folks are given a big break, especially on mandolin. All we really have to remember (when playing above open positions) is the location of the root note / root chord, and then follow the pattern of whatever tune you're playing. The singer needs to change key? Find the new root note, follow the same pattern. THAT is a big reason that the FFcP exercises are so often noted here, because they're so easily moveable.

    Six or eight years ago, when I thought I was getting decent on mandolin, I took a clinic with Barry Mitterhoff where he gave us some unnamed Mozart sheet music that initially floored me: in Bb and very broken 6/8 time. "Uhmm, okay the B note is flatted and, uhmm, I guess the E note also. Now where's the next one of those?" Barry lifted the fog by strongly hinting that, "Here's the root note, and here's the pattern (from FFcP) that your scale is on. Think more about which note from the pattern you're going to play, rather than whether that note is flatted or not ...", and it did fall together.
    - Ed

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    I learned to play from a real " by ear" musician, my dad. He had no idea what he was doing, no theory knowledge at all. If you asked why he did a certain thing musically he would tell you that was what was needed. In other words what he heard in his head he could put on the instrument fretboard. As a result I learned to play by patterns and hunt and peck methods. My knowledge of theory is still limited but I have some concept of why I do certain things and in learning a new song I can think out things that will work given enough time. Ask me what note I played at the start of the second measure I can figure it out but I can't just call it as I play it. To me it would be the same place in the pattern whatever chord I was playing in and that is how I build my breaks. This is how you play a break on a song you don't know. The well rounded musician would know pattern and theory.

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    I’m a hunter and a pecker. I started playing violin in first grade and never ever learned to read music, I learned the song by hearing it. I could “every good boy does fine and all cows eat grass” til the cows come home and still can’t do it. I totally excited that I want to learn this badly, being in a group of amazing musicians far beyond my skill set keeps a fire lit under my butt. Those movable chord patterns are really helpful and the idea to learn the notes at the markers is also a good idea. So if I’m listening, how do I identify the root. I assume if I’m playing. G C D I assume the root is G. Not sure how to figure out from there

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Lots of great stuff here. One thing I'll say that I believe that may sound sacrilegious - don't worry about theory!. I think some of us theory geeks get too easily caught up in it and try to convert everyone, but truth be told, theory is mostly useful for talking about music in the abstract. For most of us, using theory for the making of music in real time comes waaay down the road. That being said, some theory is useful right out of the gate, but it's very basic stuff - no higher math involved. For example, the root (or tonic) of a chord is the note that is the name of the chord - e.g., the root of a G chord is a G note. This is handy in finding the starting point for patterns. In the G chord I mentioned above, 3-2-5-7, there are two G notes, the 3rd fret on the E course and the 5th fret on the D course. So, any time you play a chord with this shape, you have the root note under your middle finger and ring finger. If you shift this same shape over one course for a C chord (x-3-2-5), you have a C note under your middle and ring fingers. Move that shape up the fretboard two frets for a D chord, same result - the root under the middle and ring.

    It's all about patterns.
    Mitch Russell

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by onassis View Post
    Lots of great stuff here. One thing I'll say that I believe that may sound sacrilegious - don't worry about theory!. I think some of us theory geeks get too easily caught up in it and try to convert everyone, but truth be told, theory is mostly useful for talking about music in the abstract. For most of us, using theory for the making of music in real time comes waaay down the road. That being said, some theory is useful right out of the gate, but it's very basic stuff - no higher math involved. For example, the root (or tonic) of a chord is the note that is the name of the chord - e.g., the root of a G chord is a G note. This is handy in finding the starting point for patterns. In the G chord I mentioned above, 3-2-5-7, there are two G notes, the 3rd fret on the E course and the 5th fret on the D course. So, any time you play a chord with this shape, you have the root note under your middle finger and ring finger. If you shift this same shape over one course for a C chord (x-3-2-5), you have a C note under your middle and ring fingers. Move that shape up the fretboard two frets for a D chord, same result - the root under the middle and ring.
    It's all about patterns.
    This is exactly the stuff I need to learn. I feel like it will make a big difference, I guess it’s just memorization

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    Registered User Valerie Jestice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Would this chart help you?

    When I was learning how to play the mandolin, my mother made me learn how to read notes. Though I really “can’t” read notes now (well, I can, but it takes to long), I learned where they are on the fretboard. It’s really useful to know, especially when I’m playing in different keys, or finding harmony notes.

    What I found out that works for me when learning new songs, is to find a good recording, and listen until you can almost play it, then go find some tablature.
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    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Green Arces Music View Post
    Would this chart help you?

    When I was learning how to play the mandolin, my mother made me learn how to read notes. Though I really “can’t” read notes now (well, I can, but it takes to long), I learned where they are on the fretboard. It’s really useful to know, especially when I’m playing in different keys, or finding harmony notes.

    What I found out that works for me when learning new songs, is to find a good recording, and listen until you can almost play it, then go find some tablature.
    Well it helps me Thanks!

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    If you teach yourself to play 'tunes / melodies' on mandolin by seeking out the 'sounds' (notes - i'm an 'ear player') - you'll eventually learn all their names almost by default. I never bothered with learning which 'notes' i needed to play,just where their 'sounds' were. As long as i knew the key that they were in,i found them,& as i say,they eventually 'name themselves',
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Just to clarify, are you wanting to learn the names of the notes everywhere on the neck, or are you wanting to learn how to play chords, scales and arpeggios everywhere on the neck?
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    I would recommend a method book. Those books have a progression that gets you playing and understanding the notes very quickly. Watch for codes here for Mel Bay, sometimes they offer up to 30% off, a great investment.

    Some will tell you donít bother to learn reading music or theory or memorizing notes and such...I say itís a great investment in your future playing and understanding of how music works. Theory unlocks the fretboard, and allows you to move about. Itís an additional skill to have not some horrible task to get through.

    Add a few moments of theory to your practice routine, the mandolin tuning is so user friendly that once you learn something it applies all over the fretboard. Look into the FFCP stuff here and check out some of the other theory things like Tommy Norris, Marilyn Mair...so many to choose from.

    Last spend some time on YT and check out places like Mandolessons, Banjo Ben, Pickiní Lessons, tons of stuff out there. Have fun!
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    do a quick search here and look for pete martin’s mandolin improv from scratch series and his chord tone scale stuff. it is excellent

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  25. #17

    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Green Arces Music View Post
    Would this chart help you?

    When I was learning how to play the mandolin, my mother made me learn how to read notes. Though I really “can’t” read notes now (well, I can, but it takes to long), I learned where they are on the fretboard. It’s really useful to know, especially when I’m playing in different keys, or finding harmony notes.

    What I found out that works for me when learning new songs, is to find a good recording, and listen until you can almost play it, then go find some tablature.
    Ya. That helps ! You have a smart mom !

  26. #18

    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    Just to clarify, are you wanting to learn the names of the notes everywhere on the neck, or are you wanting to learn how to play chords, scales and arpeggios everywhere on the neck?
    I would like to be able to identify scales so I’d someone calls out a key I know what chords I need to use and where the scales are so I am able to play a break. At this point I guess, or I will hit 4 good notes by accident and then lose it.

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectic1 View Post
    Ya. That helps ! You have a smart mom !
    I know I do, she plays piano, so kinda of make sense. My brother plays banjo, and he doesn’t know where all the notes are, he wishes he does though.
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    pickloser Laura Cauble's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    This might be of use in getting the patterns of the mandolin ingrained.
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/en...to-Doublestops

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    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    My path to the fingerboard started by having a REASON to remember where the notes are.

    Overly simplified, my reasons are twofold:

    1) To find the root of the key, so that I can put my index finger there and use the major scale to play a melody (ear training). Some call it using the "Bluegrass Box".

    2) To find the root of the key so that I can use double stops to follow the chord progression and enhance the music. (Learn doublestops by working through 'Pickloser's Guide')

    Memorize the notes on fret 10- FCGD. You likely know more of the rest than you think. Fret 7 is "next open string" -DAEB. And you probably know the notes from fret 5 down just from playing tunes and common chords. (Fill in the gaps for flats & sharps on the fly.)

    To learn frets 5, 7, & 10 only involves 12 notes. Pick one or two and learn those for a few days or a week.
    Use them. Move on. Within 6 weeks you can know every note.

    If you try to stuff too much into your brain all at once, you'll likely fail. Start with a max of 2 notes and use them for a week.

    It will work if you do it.

    Oops. Laura (author of "Guide...") was typing while I was writing my novel.
    Phil

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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    ..... I have been in many forums, I have never seen anything that compares to the generosity and outpouring of support as I have experienced in here. I have been reading it for a year before posting and I’m so glad I did. This is exactly what I needed amd I know that it’s just going to be a matter of time and this will eventually click in. I have just started working the movable chords but when I’m playing in the group and singing harmony I can’t incorporate it as of yet so stick to open chords and short little licks. I will get it eventually. Thank you all

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    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    "If you try to stuff too much into your brain all at once, you'll likely fail."

    Already there are enough suggestions here to keep one quite busy. I'd approach this by looking for what piques my interest. Going from what you know and seeing something similar.

    I keep a picture of a mandolin neck with all of the note names on the frets.

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  35. #24

    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    I am thinking any up-the-neck discussion should include the aonzo scales:

    http://www.mandozine.com/techniques/...ly_scales.html
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    Default Re: Memorizing the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    ... Oops. Laura (author of "Guide...") was typing while I was writing ...
    OH NO!!!

    While it's wonderful that we now know who Laura is and what she's done for (to?) us... Please say it's not true that the name "Pickloser" is gone forever?
    - Ed

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