Saturday, January 5, 2019

Learning the Most Important Notes

Many "learn the fretboard" exercises begin by suggesting you learn each note (A, B, etc.) on all six strings.

I sincerely doubt this is the way most accomplished guitar players learn the fretboard.

This method may be helpful to give you some initial feel for note positions. But when it is divorced from playing the notes in songs and exercises, you will inevitably forget the positions. And simply being able to recite "A is at D7", for example, will probably not help much when you are in the heat of the battle (i.e., when you're playing.)

Of course, eventually if you repeat "A is at D7" often enough you will look at D7 and think, "That's an A isn't it!" But just think about it for a minute. You have learned that C is at B1, like most guitar players who've gotten past the first month or so, because you've played it a thousand times.

Either you've played it in the kind of simple songs we all begin with (Ode to Joy!), or as the root of the C chord we all learn to play in our first couple of practice sessions.

And, by the same token, when you look at G3 you probably don't automatically think Bb. Why? Because that particular note has not been drummed into you as a point of reference (like G at E3, or C at A3, or C at B1.) And that's because beginning guitar players don't often play in keys that use Bb.

In order to learn them you must play them

So, after many attempts to come up with a "system" for learning the fretboard, I've come to the conclusion that the only lasting way to learn notes is to USE THEM - TO PLAY THEM - either in exercises, and even more effectively, in actual songs.

As I've said in other places, this almost inevitably means you will have to learn to read music. At this stage you shouldn't be surprised to hear that, since the impetus to learn the names of notes comes from the attempt to understand how the fretboard works. You've already pretty much bought into the traditional system by worrying about note names.

The Most Important Notes

The most important notes will be the ones you play the most and the ones that serve as a reference for others you use in your playing. For example, if you do a lot of playing in the keys of C, D and G, (as most beginning players do), those root notes (C, D, G) will be very important.

Chances are you already know them. And if not your first task should be to learn where these notes are in Section 1 of the fretboard (frets 0 -5).

C is at A3, G5 and B1
D is at D0, A5, and B3
G is at E3, G0, D5, and E3

Here are some exercises and songs to help learn these note positions.

Once you learn these note positions you should expand your repertoire of notes to include the rest of Section 1.

You could begin by adding E and A ..... and then F and Bb:

E is at E0, D2 , B5, and E1
A is at E5, A0, G2, and E1

F is at E1, D3, and E1
Bb is at A1 and G3

Here are exercises that focuses on these note positions.

We'll continue this conversation in the next post...

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