Saturday, September 8, 2012

What happens if I don't understand the guitar fretboard?

If you don't understand the fretboard, you will have to live with:

  • Very poor sight-reading skills
  • Having to learn scales & chords by rote, instead of understanding them. This results in choppy, uninteresting improvisation
  • Uninteresting voice leading (choppy chords and harmony)
  • Having to learn pieces only by rote (much slower than through understanding). No steadfast knowledge of what you are playing
  • Poor, uninteresting (not to mention, slow and painful) composition
  • Plus all and any other problems arising from bad musicianship. The list goes on...


    Figuring out the fretboard, step by step...

    If you are to succeed at this, you will need to "disentangle" the guitar fretboard, step by step.

    The first point is that the guitar, like the piano, is based on the standard 12 tone equal-tempered system. This means that we have only 12 tones to choose from. These tones may repeat an octave higher or lower, giving us a different note, but those 12 tones are all we have. The only exception is when we bend a string, or use a tremolo bar.

    On a guitar, if you play two adjacent frets on the same string, you'll hear the interval of a semitone(or minor second). If you skip one fret, the interval is a whole tone (major second).

    Once we know this, we can start exploring our first view of the fretboard —along the each string:

    chromatic scale

    Then, we can start looking at scales and modes, and eventually melody:

    guitar fretboard diagram

    After we have understood the way the fretboard works along the strings, we need to connect them up by looking across the fretboard, at the relationship between the strings:

    minor pentatonic scale

    Connecting this view -across the fretboard- with the way each string is divided into 12 tones -along the fretboard- gives us a full view —the complete guitar fretboard chart!

    guitar fretboard chart


    howard said...

    Hi, Sorry I don't understand the second to last graphic you show - oculd you give a little more in the way of explanation as to what the numbers in circles refer to? Thanks.

    Addy Ho said...

    The number in the circle refers to the string in open position, i.e. 1 means open position of the first string.

    When there is an "8" below the circle, it means it is 1 Octave lower, i.e. In a "D" note, it is the open position of the 4th string when it is 1 Octave lower.


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