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Thread: Learning the fretboard

  1. #76

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I have made improvements to the Learn the Mandolin Fretboard Intelligent Flashcards and updated the classified add. (See below.)

    If you try the deck, post here how well or poorly it worked for you. I will try to improve it based on feedback.

    If you already started with the first version, you might want to abandon it and restart with this one, because it will teach you all of the enharmonic equivalents. If you rate the items you know well as "easy" they will quickly be sorted to a less frequent review schedule.

    The images below show sample questions with their answers under them.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    These flashcards will teach you every note on the mandolin fretboard. Given a location on the fretboard, you will be able to name the note(s). Given a string and note name, you will be able to find the location. The deck is to be used with the Anki flashcard program, which schedules cards for review based on how well you know them.

    Download Anki here: http://ankisrs.net/download/ and install it.

    Then download the deck here: https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/1339226410

    The reason this system is superior to any apps currently available is that it presents reviews according to how hard an item is for you. You do not waste time reviewing what you already know.

    Send me a message if you have any questions.

    Improvements in Version 2.0

    The fretboard now shows all 24 frets.

    The fretboard more accurately represents a real fretboard, with marker dot at fret 10, only 1 marker past the 12th fret, and a small Florida extension.

    Deck includes all enharmonic equivalents.

    A blank fretboard is given with all "locate the note" questions to give you an image to imagine the note position on. This might help your memory.
    Last edited by JonZ; Jan-28-2017 at 3:27pm.
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  2. #77

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    A more fun way to learn the fretboard is to capo the 3rd fret and play some familiar tunes. Phrases that go below the low Bb can be "folded" up an octave.Next capo the 5th fret and play the same tunes. Next 7th fret, etc.

  3. #78
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    If you try the deck, post here how well or poorly it worked for you. I will try to improve it based on feedback.
    I've been using this tool at the recommended 5 minutes per day setting, and it has been helpful. I have been unable to remember to do it every day, so my progress with the app has been retarded a bit, but it has helped me progress to the extent I continue to use it.

    A blank fretboard is given with all "locate the note" questions to give you an image to imagine the note position on. This might help your memory.
    If I'm understanding this correctly, the format now shows the fretboard for all the questions rather than string number/fret number, then this is the improvement that I need with these cards. I'll download the new deck and continue with the app. Thank you for making this available.

    EDIT:
    JonZ, what is the significance of the 1, 2, 3, 4 that appears below this deck? Does it come with four variations, if so, can you explain what the difference?

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Jan-28-2017 at 7:23pm.
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  4. #79

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    There are two types of cards: locate the note and name the note(s).

    The prompt is still a string number and note name for "locate the note". But now I show a blank fretboard so you can mentally picture the note on the fretboard before checking the answer, to help imprint the image in your memory. In theory, you could imagine the fretboard with the note location in your mind, but I found it difficult to do so. So the image helps me. When I use the deck, I have my mandolin on, and I first find the note on the mandolin and say it, and then imagine it on the blank fretboard. You could do either, or both in the opposite order. I can't really say which is best.

    "Name the note(s)" cards show a fretboard with a dot on one string/fret coordinate to prompt you to name the note (D), or notes (C# Db) when there are enharmonic equivalents.

    The apps I have seen require you to select either sharps or flats to practice, but I think it is better to train yourself to think of both enharmonic equivalents at the same time.

    The sub decks 1, 2, 3 and 4 contain all the cards that make up the main deck divided into four zones. This allows the notes in the first six frets to be introduced randomly, then the next six frets, etc. So you do not start the next zone until you have seen all the notes in the zone that precedes it. Eventually all of the cards become mixed, but I thought people might be a little more comfortable working their way up the neck one zone at a time at first.

    The user can ignore the sub decks. Just open the main deck and it will take you through them.

    I accidentally set my deck for a 15 minute time frame, and it worked fine. So you can increase the time, if you want to complete the process sooner. It's just a question of how much of your daily practice time you want to spend on this. Or you could set the deck to add a certain number of unseen cards a day, and stop when you have gotten all your daily reviews correct. Five new cards a day would move you along. Do whatever works for you, and adjust as necessary. All of these settings can be accessed through the "Options" button in the main deck.

    The most important thing is to grade yourself accurately. If your goal is instant recall, then one second to find the note is "good", two seconds is "hard" and anything else is "again". You shouldn't be thinking "C is here, so this is C#". You are "good" at C# when it just pops into your mind. Be a tough grader on yourself. Probably no cards will be "easy".
    Last edited by JonZ; Jan-28-2017 at 11:17pm.
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  5. #80
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    JonZ, is it possible to filter so that you only view 'name the note' cards, and vice versa?

    I agree, thinking of both enharmonic equivalents is a good feature, as some of them give me pause to do mental calculation of the alphabet at present.
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  6. #81

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    There are a number of ways to separate the cards into groups, but it is a little more complicated than I can fully address here. I will tell you how to sort the cards into “find” and “name” groups. Then you can look at the manual to decide whether you want to

    • Suspend and then unsuspend one group. (Easiest way if you will rarely separate the cards.)
    • Add tags and create custom study sessions. (A little more work to set up, but will let you separate quicker if you will be doing it often.)
    • Export the cards into two separate decks. (Use this if you always want to study them separately.)



    To sort the cards into the two card types.

    • Open the main deck.
    • Click the Browse button.
    • Click the Search button.
    • Click Sort Field at the top of the left most column.



    This will sort the cards by what is in the first field. All of the cards that start with “Paste” are “name” cards. All of the cards that start with a note name are “find” cards. As you scroll down the list, you will see where one group stops and the other begins. Dragging the cursor across a group of cards will select them. Now you can look at the manual to do one of the procedures I listed above.

    https://apps.ankiweb.net/docs/manual.html

    The “best practices” I have seen recommend keeping cards mixed for best learning results.
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  8. #82
    Registered User Don Julin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I have been using a series of drills to teach the location and names of notes on the fingerboard. Step one is to understand the musical alphabet or chromatic scale. (no sharps or flats between b-c and e-f) Next, memorize the open strings. The concept is to take one note and find that note on all four strings. What makes it challenging is that you are doing this to a metronome allowing four clicks per note. Let's say you are looking for the note G#. You play the G# on the G string, which would be the first fret. Then immediately start looking for the G# on the D string (6th fret) and prepare to play it in time with the metronome, giving each note the value of four clicks. So every four clicks you should be moving to the next note. Do this with all 12 notes and over a period of time you will surely know the locations of all of the notes on your mandolin fingerboard. I have recently uploaded a six part video series covering this method complete with practice tracks at Mandolins Heal The World. Remember that notes are like people in that the appreciate it when you remember their names.


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  10. #83
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Thanks Don, there is not much out there offering a systematic way to practice/accomplish this. You're the man!
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  11. #84
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Try practice exercises from one of the TEACH YOURSELF TO PLAY MANDOLIN books. I starterd ith ALFREDS.

  12. #85

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    The issue I have with Don's video is that you are learning a "route", rather than simply learning where each note is. The routes for many notes will be very similar: up this many frets, down this many frets, etc. This type of practice is why you see people who always start their phrases on the G string; that is the route they have practiced. You may eventually learn where all the notes are, but it is not what you are primarily practicing.

    It is a useful thing to learn how to move among the notes from string to string, as it can help orient you for position shifting. But you will get better results if change routes when one becomes easy: 1234, 1324, 2341, 4321, etc. You will get even better results if you keep track of the difficulty of each note, and practice hard ones more, easy ones less, and mastered ones not at all.
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  14. #86
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I just got this book. Bluegrass Mandolin for the Complete Ignoramus! https://g.co/kgs/QBpDwV instead of fret numbers on the tab he uses note names. Great songs and instructions/tips

  15. #87
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Sorry this is the proper link. http://nativeground.com/product/bluegrass

  16. #88
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Since we are all suggesting our favorite method sources. I'll pitch Stephen Wilson at AbsoluteFretboard.com He has many ways to study the fretboard and musical keys and staff notation. Far more that any I've seen so far.

    The best part however is his 'philosophy' page where he demonstrates that he knows where you are and describes how and why you are lazy and have huge gaps in your abilities. He has 'been there and done that'. It is worth being humiliated and shamed sometimes. Ha, ha.

    His software shows a large mandolin fret board with a small music staff. You learn the notes of the staff by hovering the pointer over a fret. It highlights the note on the staff. This alone is worth the price. You can show notes on the fretboard in all the keys, or learn just the notes in a 'range' from say, fret 7 to 12 or just across all strings on fret 6 for example. You can change the strings to mandola CGDA and learn that stuff. All the notes make a sound. Many exercises involve 'call and response' where a note appears on the fretboard and you chose the correct name or play along. There are progress charts. It goes on and on.

    And he has the same software for guitar and other instruments. And now I think he has email lessons.

    Absolute Fretboard Trainer

    http://www.absolutefretboard.com/aft/mandolin.asp


    Now how's that for a 'pitch'? Really I have no connection except that I'm pretty impressed with the stuff.

    Oh, I almost forgot. The easiest method is to leave your tuner on and play notes on the instrument to see what it says. VERY EFFECTIVE.
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  17. #89

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Doug,

    Did you learn the fretboard with ABT? I ask because I tried it and found it lacking. It has a lot of features, and potential to be a good program, but I got bogged down in it. Even though the program will track how well you know the notes, it does not schedule review based on this information. So, if there are only five notes in the first position that you need to work on, you generally have to practice the whole first position to review them. So you end up wasting time reviewing what you already know.

    I know I am being negative about methods other than my own, but I developed the (free) flash card system to solve what I feel is the problem with other methods. AFT uses a "brute force" approach. It has you review all of the notes in a lot of different patterns. But this becomes tedious because the better you get, the more your time is spent reviewing what you already know.

    Practice is most effective when what you are practicing is not so easy that it bores you and not so difficult that it frustrates you. I think AFT could be a great program if it presented notes for review based on how hard they are for you. Since it tracks this information, I am puzzled as to why it doesn't. (I even wrote to the vendor to request this feature.) The color coding of notes is helpful, but it gives you pretty limited control, and it doesn't take into account how long it has been since you last reviewed a note.

    I see this problem come up in a lot of practice recommendations. I cringe whenever someone says "Do this through the circle fifths", because it is "foolish completeness". If I can play an exercise in G effortlessly, I am not going to practice it again today just to complete the circle. I think this type of advice causes practice bloat, and is one of the main reasons people feel that they do not have enough time to practice, and quit.

    Do you get what I'm saying?
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  18. #90
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    JonZ, your post was directed at Doug, but I'm happy to play the devil's advocate with you once again.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    I know I am being negative about methods other than my own ... Practice is most effective when what you are practicing is not so easy that it bores you and not so difficult that it frustrates you. ... Do you get what I'm saying?
    OMG, Doug's been following this thread for awhile, I can't imagine that he's failed to understand your points. It's great to be passionate about your creation, and to be pleased or proud about the gaps it may have filled that remain other systems, but do you have to tout it on every page of this thread? Your points are taken, ad nauseum.
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  19. #91

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I have been following this thread from its beginning, and I have to say that I am pretty much astounded at how complicated-sounding it has become.

    I mean think about it. There are 4 strings, and 12 fretting positions (including open) before repetition. That is 48 TOTAL things to memorize. In perspective, that is less than memorizing the times tables all the way up to "5 times 10 is 50".

    Learning scales and arpeggios adds complexity, but it is like the periodic table of the elements--- no one but first-year chemistry students even TRY to memorize it without context. It becomes second nature when you have looked up the atomic weight of calcium so many times that it sticks in your head-- i.e., you memorize it by USING it.

    Arguing about which method of memorizing 48 items-- items that are visually right in front of you- seems absurd. "Jest muckle into 'er son", as my old friend might say.

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  21. #92

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    JonZ, your post was directed at Doug, but I'm happy to play the devil's advocate with you once again.
    OMG, Doug's been following this thread for awhile, I can't imagine that he's failed to understand your points. It's great to be passionate about your creation, and to be pleased or proud about the gaps it may have filled that remain other systems, but do you have to tout it on every page of this thread? Your points are taken, ad nauseum.
    Sorry if I have been too long-winded or persistent. I find AFT to be particularly egregious about wasting peoples' time, and it isn't cheap.
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  22. #93

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by jshane View Post
    I have been following this thread from its beginning, and I have to say that I am pretty much astounded at how complicated-sounding it has become.

    I mean think about it. There are 4 strings, and 12 fretting positions (including open) before repetition. That is 48 TOTAL things to memorize. In perspective, that is less than memorizing the times tables all the way up to "5 times 10 is 50".

    Learning scales and arpeggios adds complexity, but it is like the periodic table of the elements--- no one but first-year chemistry students even TRY to memorize it without context. It becomes second nature when you have looked up the atomic weight of calcium so many times that it sticks in your head-- i.e., you memorize it by USING it.

    Arguing about which method of memorizing 48 items-- items that are visually right in front of you- seems absurd. "Jest muckle into 'er son", as my old friend might say.
    It depends on how well you want to learn the fretboard. Some people would say that there are even fewer than 48 things to memorize, because if you know where A is, you know where A# is, and so on.

    But if you really want to be able to name the note(s) at any location instantly, and find any note on any string in any octave instantly, including all enharmonic equivalents, there are 326 different things to learn.

    While to some extent learning A gives you A# right next to it, and C is the same as B#, and being able to find C on the first string is like being able to name C when it is pointed to, and the first octave is the same as the second octave... in practice this is not the same as learning each item. And the differences become magnified the faster you want to be able to recall them.

    Can you really point to F on the second string in the upper octave, as quickly as you can in the lower octave? Try it.

    Having gone through this process, I can tell you that every note you learn helps you to learn other notes, but you still have to learn and practice naming and locating every note to get equally good at all of them.

    Whether you should be able to name and find all notes all the way up to the 24th fret, instantly, is another question. There are many great musicians who cannot do it. Also, there is something to be said for just learning notes as you need them. (If you don't need 'em, why learn 'em?)

    On the other hand, it is not that hard to learn all of them at speed. It took me about three hours of 15 minute sessions to be able to do it. It will still require review to make the skill permanent, but the length of the review sessions will decrease and the spacing of review sessions will increase over time, until they trail off to nothing.

    Drilling notes into memory and using the notes in context are complimentary. If you have them memorized, it will be easier to use them in context. If you use them in context, you will remember them better.
    Last edited by JonZ; Feb-04-2017 at 10:00pm.
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  23. #94
    Registered User Don Julin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    The issue I have with Don's video is that you are learning a "route", rather than simply learning where each note is.
    Sorry Jon but it doesn't seem that you are fully understanding this system if you believe that this is a simply a "route". In fact this is the complete opposite of that approach if you spend the time working through the drills that are part of the video course. By finding the same note on all four strings in ascending and descending patterns followed by incorporating arpeggios (combinations of notes) and then extending this to chord shapes and scale patterns you get the best of both worlds. You learn the patterns that everyone shows you (with I think is your "route") but by searching on each string for a specific location you will memorize were the notes are. The only thing about drills like these is that simply talking about it won't accomplish the desired results, you actually need to put the time in to reap the rewards. Once you know the notes, you won't ever forget them.

    It is a useful thing to learn how to move among the notes from string to string, as it can help orient you for position shifting. But you will get better results if change routes when one becomes easy: 1234, 1324, 2341, 4321, etc. You will get even better results if you keep track of the difficulty of each note, and practice hard ones more, easy ones less, and mastered ones not at all.
    This is what I would consider a scale, sequence of notes, or a pattern. These are also a very useful part of mandolin playing but these fingering exercises don't require knowing the actual names of the notes. I have seen thousands of mandolin players that could make their fingers go up and down the fingerboard without knowing the names of the notes. In fact that discourages learning the names of the notes as you will be noodling up and down those scales thinking you sounds great without knowing the names of the notes.

    Consider this: How many times do you need to drive to the grocery store before you know how to get there? Getting to the same store from another location will be a new experience so your memorized route won't do you much good. You will need to figure it out again from a different starting point. Driving to Walmart is a different location and by driving there a few times, you can remember how to get there also. After a few times, you won't need a map or a GPS. You did not learn how to get there by memorizing and visiting every building on the road, you went directly to one specific location and learned it's location. Now that you know two locations, I could tell you that the hardware store is one block east of the grocery store and with that information, you could most likely find the hardware store. Eventually you learned how to get around and you can meet all of your needs in everyday life. It is my belief that by actually working through this method, you will learn the names of the notes on your mandolin fingerboard.

    Remember that notes are like people in that they like it when we remember their name.

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  25. #95
    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I come from a classical background, so I find some of this discussion a little weird. For me, the actual name of a note and its position is maybe 1/4th of what makes it musically useful. You can find the same notes at different spots on the neck, so the problem is: given a passage of written sheet music, do you know the notes well enough that you can think of sensible ways to connect them in the moment given the limitations of the shape of your hand?

    I think the best way of learning the notes is probably 1) a certain amount of 'brute force' memorization using an app like Fret Tester followed by 2) guided scale studies in which you practice moving patterns around the neck while saying/singing the note names in each position. The problem of course, being, that these are extremely dull things to do and most students would quit lessons if they spent their good money and were made to do interval drills instead of learning 'Fisher's Hornpipe' or something.

  26. #96

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Don,

    I may have gotten your course's methodology wrong, because I only saw that one exercise.

    My overall point is that the better you learn a pattern, or "route", the less you have to know the individual locations on that route independently of the route. Also, the more movable a route is, the less it will help you learn points on that route independent of the route. B on the 4th string to B on the 3rd string is "up 5 frets"; so is C to C. If I memorize "up 4 frets", I don't have to memorize where C is on the 3rd string, once I know the rule and the starting points.

    For some this is enough. They don't want to "know" where C is on the 3rd string, but they want to be able to "find" C on the 3rd string. They can find it by thinking "up 4 frets from the C on the 4th string."

    When I suggested changing the route--1234, 4321, 2314, etc.--what I meant was do your exercise of finding a note on each string, but follow different routes. So don't just go ascending and descending, but also starting from 3 or 2, skip strings, change direction etc. That way you really have to know where each note is without relying on a route. (Maybe you get to something like that in the rest of your lessons.)

    Patterns are great. As I said, being able to move root to root is very useful. I just don't think patterns ar the best way to memorize note names and locations to the point of instant recall.
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  28. #97

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Ok.

    I feel I know the fretboard. If you ask me to find any note on any string I can do it, essentially instantaneously. If you point to any string/fret position, I can name the note. (I only memorized this up to the 12th fret 'cause after that I pretend that I am playing an itty-bitty mandolin that starts at the 12th fret... I mean, really...).

    This certainly helps in sight reading. It helps me figure out new/interesting chord voicing more quickly. Beyond that, I guess I am wondering what good this really does me? I never use it when playing a song I know and I never ever use it when improvising. THINKING INTELLECTUALLY about the music is absolutely antithetical to creating with my hands and mandolin the music that I am hearing in my head (which is my goal when improvising). Does anyone actually think, " ... hey, next note I am going to play is going to be a C#, so there it is... gosh I am glad I could remember that position quickly...".

    Seems like the original poster asked simply for a method to help learn the fretboard. I'm thinking that if the OP spent the same amount of time memorizing the fretboard as in reading this thread, the task would be finished. It is just not that big a deal, and, while I agree it has merit, is not actually going to contribute much to one's overall musical ability, other than to improve sight reading, and speed up learning new material--both of which are laudable, but not deal-breakers in my opinion.

    Others, obviously, may feel differently.

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