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Thread: Learning the fretboard

  1. #1

    Default Learning the fretboard

    I want to learn the fretboard thoroughly, so that I instinctively know that if I play this fret on that string it's a particular note.

    I have fretboard diagrams, but they aren't really helping me internalize it. I've also tried playing scales while naming the notes aloud, but that's note quite doing it either.

    What have you found are the best ways to really internalize the fretboard?

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Sight reading has helped me more than I could have imagined. I'm just breaking out of first position with the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 and have begun learning 3rd and 5th positions for the runs near the end.

    Its also quite amazing how the headache of learning to make the connections from note to fingers pays off. I played guitar for 15 years without sight reading and never really learned what I was doing - a few months of reading notes on the mando and its opened up a whole new world to me.

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    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    These two patterns cover the lines and spaces - They're pretty easy to visualize and match against the written staff on demand:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    (<-body nut->)

  4. #4

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    I have found that avoiding TAB notation produces the quickest learning of the fretboard. I play guitar, mandolin and lap steel guitar all in different tunings and have no problem going from one to the other. The assumption is the ability to read music and understand the concept of thirds and fifths. At first I have to mentally count off the frets from the open string but that usually stops within the first hour of practice. I also subscribe to the First Position/Second Position/third Position concept so I'm not trying to learn the whole fretboard at once.

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Pardon my ignorance but would someone describe,i.e. diagram those positions or provide a good source to learn more about those?
    Thanks

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    In the first position, you're using the first fret (or nut really) as an anchor point for the "lower end" of a 7 fret playing field or range on the neck - you would ideally confine your fingering between the nut and 7th fret. I am not certain where the other positions start, I *think* that 3rd position starts at about the 5th fret and goes up to the 12th.

    Of course, with accidentals (sharps and flats), you may occasionally move out of the position range and play up an extra fret or down one to make a note fit.

    You might begin by finding a piece of music that you're somewhat familiar with but can't play yet. Figure out the lowest note and highest note and see if you can figure out which position would be most comfortable to play it in. If you find some violin music, you'll find lots of easier stuff in first position (lowest note being the open G strings) and highest note being somewhere near the A (5th fret) or B (7th fret) on the E strings. Once you can sight read in this position you can try to learn to play it in a different position - play as much of it as possible that way, but replacing open string notes with fretted ones on the 7th frets etc. Use your pinky as much as you can handle to get those higher frets internalized.

    Hope this helps. I'm sure there's more than can be added to my very basic understanding. Its helping me move from just playing music to understanding music as well as my instrument.
    Last edited by Bryon Winger; Dec-03-2008 at 12:09pm. Reason: Blatent errors

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Here is a link to the notes in first position - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi..._chart.svg.png.

    Its from a Wiki page on the violin, but the fingerings are the same for mandolin.

    Also, in my first post I said I was learning the 3rd and 5th positions - this is incorrect. I should have said 2nd and 3rd position. I'm not up to 5th position yet!

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    Gilchrist (pick) Owner! jasona's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    Pardon my ignorance but would someone describe,i.e. diagram those positions or provide a good source to learn more about those?
    Thanks
    Grisman's Mandolin Position Study.
    Jason Anderson

    "...while a great mandolin is a wonderful treat, I would venture to say that there is always more each of us can do with the tools we have available at hand. The biggest limiting factors belong to us not the instruments." Paul Glasse

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    You guys take something that should be simple and try to make it complicated!

    Sing the notes (names) of the G major scale while you play it.
    You get:
    your basic theory (what notes are in what scale,
    your ear training
    ,
    your ear>hand synchronization,
    and your digital practice,
    all at the same time!


    (OK. that gives you 7 of the 12 pitches, albeit you are probably still in the 1st position.)

    Now, sing/play the G natural minor scale.....which gives you three other pirches (Bb, Eb, F). Plus the ear training, and getting an a/b sonic comparison into your ear/head between the sound of major/minor.

    Repeat with A major (and A minor).
    Repeat with D major (and D minor).
    Repeat with C major (and C minor).
    Repeat with E major (and E minor).

    before long, you should know where all 12 pitches lie on the neck in open position. (You might as well continue the process for all 12 keys and get all your basic scale theory in "song format")

    Take the process and apply it to arpeggios.

    Or play/sing scales in different positions (if you're are ready for that), or restric yourself to moving up and down on one string only.

    Niles Hokkanen

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    There is a great piece of software for helping to learn the fretboard: The Absolute Fretboard Trainer

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

    It works for mandolin as well as guitar. I think that you can download a sample version of the program to try for 30 days.

  13. #11
    Handle Of Science UnityGain's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Here are a few peices of advice.

    Learn your intervals. Understand chord construction. Figure out what notes are the 1, 3 and 5 of all the chords you know. You can play them anywhere on the fretboard. Realize that the nut of the mandolin is like an imaginary finger barring those notes to make your open chords into closed chords. Take a peice of music and figure out all of the harmonic intervals between notes and how they relate to the chord being played as well as the key of the song. This will lead into doublestops and more complicated chords.


    Learn a song purely by ear.

    Hear a note, find that note. Repeat. Helps if you hum the note if you can. Think about the last note you played and try to use your knowlege of intervals to listen and decide how far away the next note might be. At first, you might be pretty far off. But after a while (maybe months, but it will happen) you'll be able to locate the right note pretty quickly because your've spent enough time guessing that your 'guesses' are going to become more and more accurate. Being able to hum aloud all the intervals will make this much, much easier. The goal is to be able to tell by ear how many frets apart two notes are. Once you have that, its just a matter of figureing out how to put your finger on that note.

    Hope this helps.

    oh and FFCP helps a lot too. http://www.jazzmando.com/ffcp.shtml
    Pay attention to the intervals.

    direct link to excersizes: http://jazzmando.com/FFcP.pdf
    Gotta start sometime, might as well be now...

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    Registered User Laurence Firth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Here is how I learned it.
    1) learn this sequence A B C D E F G
    2) now learn this sequence A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#
    3) now learn this sequence W W H W W W H (where W = whole step and H = half step)
    4) now learn that the mandolin is tuned in 5ths. From the G string up to the D string is a 5th
    5) now learn that moving from the D string to the G string is an interval of a 4th
    6) now learn that an interval of a 5th is 7 half steps and an interval of a 4th is 5 half steps

    now pick an open string : start with the G string. next fret the G string at the 7th fret : thatís 7 half steps. You now know that this will be a 5th above the G - if you can remember the sequence stated above in 2) you will know that this is a D note. try fretting it at the 9th fret. That is 9 half steps - so again you know that this is going to be a 6th above the open string and is therefore an E note. Continue trying this at any fret and ask yourself how many half steps is this and then related it back to the sequence in 2)

    The sequence in step 3) is the number of whole and half steps in the major scale. use this knowledge to help you finger the major scale in any key using any string or set of strings. Remember that the strings are tuned in 5ths.

    Practice and this will become simple.

    Good luck
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Thanks for the ideas. I have been working on playing scales while naming notes...I'm adding the FFcP versions of that because my pinky needs training and strengthening too. I can play by ear, and read music ok...so hopefully it'll come along with some focused work. I'm going to try some of these other ideas as well.

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by dorenac View Post
    Pardon my ignorance but would someone describe,i.e. diagram those positions or provide a good source to learn more about those?
    Thanks
    First position is playing two frets per finger up to the seventh fret, at which point you go up to the next string.

    Third position is playing a fourth up. Its called third position because you are putting your first finger where your third finger would have gone. You start on the fifth fret, and work across the neck. If you play without open strings, the two positions would have almost identical fingerings and differ by a fourth.
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    what's helped me is just learning scales and doublestops. Also, learning tunes. I think you should slowly build your knowledge and not expect to understand it all at once. start out with understanding 1st position scales and doublestops, and see how they relate to tunes you know and chords to those tunes. then move to arpeggios. I am only just starting to see the fingerboard as a series of repeating doublestops an scales. Another thing to do is to try and play in different keys than you normally would. If you don't use the notes, you won't learn where they are.

  18. #16

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Those position studies by Grisman are pretty cool. Some great information being brought out by the board members. I am thoroughly enjoying it. Some more stuff to work on. Makes me keep on keeping on.

    Weagle

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    Registered User Chris "Bucket" Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    [QUOTE=mandocrucian;603086]You guys take something that should be simple and try to make it complicated!

    Sing the notes (names) of the G major scale while you play it.
    You get:
    your basic theory (what notes are in what scale,
    your ear training
    ,
    your ear>hand synchronization,
    and your digital practice,
    all at the same time!


    AHHHHH---The common sense approach.............
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Does anyone really sing "G A B C D E F-Sharp G" out loud?


    Oh, and wasn't it Steven Wright who wondered if the alphabet was in that order because of the song....
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by alanz View Post
    Does anyone really sing "G A B C D E F-Sharp G" out loud?
    Yes, but not in key.
    Jason Anderson

    "...while a great mandolin is a wonderful treat, I would venture to say that there is always more each of us can do with the tools we have available at hand. The biggest limiting factors belong to us not the instruments." Paul Glasse

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Great thread! Niles breaks the log jam, and the Grisman position study is an awesome exercise when you break down the key signatures and note names/positions while you exercise. Two thumbs up.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Moveable scale patterns helped me learn the neck quickly and effectively.

  25. #22

    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Make flash cards, just like you would for any other information you want to memorize. Practice both note to location and location to note.

    I would recommend reviewing them without the mandolin in hand. Forcing yourself to "see" the fretboard in your mind will make a stronger memory.

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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosmic Graffiti View Post
    Moveable scale patterns helped me learn the neck quickly and effectively.
    Yea that is really what got me up the neck.

    One doesn't have to learn the letter names for every fret on every string up the neck. Seriously, that knowledge comes with time, but it is not necessary for playing up the neck, and I am not sure that memorizing it helps in learning to play up the neck.

    Moveable shapes, FFCP, Picklosers guide to double stops, singing or humming along so that ear and hand coordinate, experiencing and learning intervals - what's a fourth, a fifth sound like, and where do I place a finger to play a fourth above where this finger is here, trying to "sound out" a well known tune in a different key starting somewhere else, or playing up in third position. All that kind of stuff. Nile's post 8 years ago is great.

    Being able to recite the letter associated with a given fret on a given string, while good to know, IMO it is down the list of priorities.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    A lot of good ideas in this and other threads. One thing I know instinctively is that memorizing note location is part of it but not the only or the most important part, feeling the notes under my fingers and hearing them emanate from the mandolin is as big a part of learning the notes as memorizing their locations. It all goes hand in hand, so I'm going to work more on remembering note names/locations while playing scales, octaves, arpeggios and by fretting specific notes on each string around the fretboard.

    I think I might try one of the phone apps people write about as well, only as something to do when I find myself with down time and no mandolin at hand.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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    Default Re: Learning the fretboard

    The same scale played open, say a G, D, A is the same pattern up the neck. If you don't know the notes count up and find where you need to be. Knowing what part of the scale works for the 1 the 4 and the 5 in the open position is the same up the neck. Use this open position scale pattern up the neck until you are comfortable with it, you can do a lot with just this. When you are comfortable start exploring other pattern like starting with your middle or any other finger on the root note and find the pattern. Remember a minor pattern is exactly the same as a major pattern you are just in a different place on the pattern. Key of C you can play Am starting at the C and use the same pattern, you need to remember to resolve of the A. It will vary with different tunes, but it works. Now you can see where the Am is starting with an A note. Since you already (hopefully) know the C scale it makes it easier to find the minor ones. Works the same with all the relative minor's. D to Bm, G to Em, A to F#m etc. It gets to be fun.
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