Tag Archives: fretboard memorization

Fretboard Navigation – Stop Wasting Time On The Wrong Exercises 😲

I get comments on like this very often:

There are 1000s of lessons online that talk about learning the fretboard, but you only get exercises that are not in position or in all positions, and there is a huge problem with that advice, because that alone will NEVER get you there!

Instead, you need to get more practical and strategic than just mindless exercises or a theoretical way to think about the notes. I will show you a method in this video. And it doesn’t include that very famous Mick Goodrick exercise

that I don’t think works for this at all.

What Is Moving Freely Around The Neck?

Let’s start with a look at the harsh reality so that you don’t have too many illusions of 10-second fixes and hacks. All the exercises that you probably already saw in other lessons are not necessarily bad, the problem is that they don’t really get you there. Let me explain, and then I’ll show you some things that are easier to play when you are not “stuck” in a position.

I suspect you will recognize most of this next list, but never thought about why. If you want to be free to move around the neck and improvise then you need to:

  1. Be able to improvise in any position, because being free all over the neck also means being free anywhere on the neck, I’ll return to this in a bit.
  2. You want to be able to shift position freely, and in the real world that means moving from one place that you know really well to another place that you know really well: Often these are scale positions, again something I’ll expand on later
  3. You want to have a way to organize the notes in a way that makes sense for the music that you want to play. For some styles of music this is pentatonic scales,
  4. for other styles it can be other scales or even just chord tones.

B-roll (for above list)

  1. Improvising a line that moves around and then improvising in one place on the neck
  2. close-up of playing a line and then moving to a neighbor position
  3. Guitar Neck with Pentatonic scales fading in (write pentatonic) then major scales, then arpeggios

The list:

  1. Freely over the neck = Freely anywhere on the neck
  2. See notes around the place you are playing
  3. Know what notes you need to play

This next part probably feels like I am just telling you that you are already doing the right things, and I suspect that you are, just not all of them: You should spend time practicing scales in positions, whether it is pentatonic or major scales or something else, that really depends on what you want to play.

You can also see why it makes sense to practice scale positions next to each other in a key (b-roll) Because that helps you see the different areas that you have available when you play, and help you have an overview of what positions are next to each other since that stays the same in other keys.

This next part is probably tied more to Jazz than to Blues or rock, but it describes how you think of the fretboard when you play Jazz. The reason I am starting with a scale and then using that as the basic framework is that it is a practical way for me to have a hierarchy of the notes I use in a solo, and a way to understand all the notes:

Illustration: Pyramid: Chromatic, Scale, Chord Tones/Pentatonic/other arp ADD EXAMPLES FOR EACH SOUND OVER A Cmaj7 chord

For a Cmaj7 I will see the C major scale as the available “inside” notes, then the chord tones as the “important” or “foundational” notes

C Major Scale

Cmaj7 Arpeggio

but in the scale I could also focus on another subset of the scale like an Am7 arpeggio

Am7 Arpeggio

or a pentatonic scale that works over Cmaj7 like Em pentatonic

Em Pentatonic

and have this lick:
In that way, I have levels of how it relates to the chord and the music. The notes that are not in the scale are then chromatic notes and they are great to  put to use as well.

This shows you why it is nice to practice arpeggios in a scale and how to think about the notes when you are improvising,

but it is all very locked in a position, and on the guitar some things are a lot easier to play of you are not stuck in a position.

Positions Makes Some Things Difficult

This is maybe not how most people explain this, but I am sure you’ll agree that one good reason to play things out of position or along the neck is that it becomes easier to play that way.

Here’s a pentatonic pattern that sounds great and dreamy over an Fmaj7:

And that is a lot easier to play because it is a motivic melody using this way of playing a pentatonic scale across the neck in a repeating pattern:

A similar example is using several triads in a line. Moving along a set of strings makes both phrasing and technique a lot simpler:

And this is built around playing triads on the middle string set:

So exercises like these two are useful for certain types of melodies. Remember that we play exercises to be able to play music, not the other way around, but if you want to play lines like those then you also know what to practice. Let’s look at a way to develop freedom on the fretboard in a more step-by-step manner.

The Fretboard Process – Practical Knowledge

First you want to  build knowledge and make sure it is what you really need when playing. Luckily that process is a bit like earning interest on an investment,

which makes it a lot less overwhelming once you start.  After that I’ll show you how to practice moving around the neck.

If you play songs where you are used to dealing with several chords and scales, then you probably already know that it is a problem if you have one spot where you are forced to move somewhere else.

Clearly, if the goal is to improvise solos, then that needs to be a part of the process, exercises are not enough.

Start with a song you know and choose an easy position for that song. The important thing is to make sure you know EVERYTHING in that position for the entire song. Once that all feels easy and you can play solos that sound like music then you want to expand that, and here you want add a position next to the one you already have.

Mainly because you then have more places to go when you solo without having to skip around. This is  where the interest on investment parallel comes into play: The more positions you add the easier this process will be, and you will benefit from what you already learned in the positions you already checked out making it easier and easier.

But this is mostly about using positions to get an overview that works when you play, and you need to develop some other skills as well.

An Exercise That Doesn’t Work (for this)

Some exercises are not as useful for developing the ability to move around the neck as you might think. I already hinted at this in the beginning, and Mick Goodricks Unitar exercise where you solo on a single string is one of them.  To me, it is a limitation exercise that can be good for a lot of things but it is not really that practical for learning to move freely around the neck because the neck has two dimensions and we rarely play things on just one string,

in fact more than 90% of the building blocks that make up your vocabulary use more than one string. I guess this is similar to how you don’t only want to develop your ears hearing intervals on an app and also want to get used to hear things in real music.

The Exercises That Do Work (for me)

I would suggest a different approach for this, and the good thing is that you can start working on this while learning positions without having the whole neck covered. There are three variations you want to explore.

Let’s say you are working on Ladybird and have two positions covered:

This (play) and this (play)

 

You want to get better at moving from one to the other

so start with just the Cmaj7 chord and come up with lines that move from one position to the next. Like this where I am connecting two arpeggios across positions:

Or a descending line that uses a bit of chromaticism to go from one position to the next.

You can explore this on a part of the song or on the entire song just to get used to connecting vocabulary like arpeggios and other short phrases across positions, and you especially want to pay attention if something is easier to play like that, and example could be this way of playing arpeggios in a repeating 2-string pattern:

From this, you can start to do the same in time while trying to keep playing lines that move from one position to the other:

B-roll example solo ladybird back and forth

And as you become more and more comfortable in several positions you can expand this to moving all across the neck while soloing like I am doing on this F Blues

If you want to become better at moving around the neck freely when you solo then that is what you should practice: soloing while moving around the neck. It is similar to how you don’t learn to play great Jazz solos by only practicing scale exercises. There are skills involved that require you actually to practice playing solos.

Practical Exercises For Chords and Comping

This is also true for chords, you don’t get anywhere just practicing inversions and chord voicings, instead, you can check out this video where I cover some of the essential exercises that help you develop the real skills that you need for comping, and luckily these exercises are also a lot more fun and musical than inversions! Check it out!

Learn Jazz Make Music.

3 Basic Jazz Chord Exercises That Will Change Your Playing in 2024

 

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The Biggest Problem With Scale Positions and How They Can Ruin Your Progress

You have probably already realized that it is important to practice the right things so that you don’t waste time, and one of the things that most people, including myself, often tell you to work on is learning scales in positions but is that really what you should be working on? One aspect of this approach can waste a lot of time, but being aware of that can also be very useful for pretty much everything else you want to practice.

3 Position systems

There are different ways of creating scale positions with 3 main systems. I actually used or use two of them:

CAGED:

5 positions, built around 5 campfire chords and emphasizes never spreading your left-hand fingers.

3 notes per string:

7 positions built on consistently having 3 notes on each string

The Berklee scale system:

7 positions is focused on staying in one position on the neck.

 

Of course, they all work for more than major scales, so for each system,you have arpeggios and other scales that work together.

I learned scale positions very early on, first a mix of CAGED and 3NPS and later the Berklee scale position system, really just going with what I was told to practice by my teachers, and it was not presented as a grand system that would solve all my problems. On a recent video, I had a conversation with a commenter where we also talked about how we don’t always know exactly how people like Wes and Charlie Christian practiced.

Some of the later guys like Joe PaSs taught things to students and wrote books, so with them there is a better picture of how they worked on things like scales.

ish

With Wes, I don’t know how he thought about it, and I can’t really see it in his playing, but with Charlie Christian, you often clearly see chord voicings as the basis of the line,

which is also why he uses drop2 chords as arpeggios here and there. I think he played from chord shapes more than separate scale shapes.

For this video I am not going to get too much into a discussion of whether you should practice scales at all, it worked for me,  it is clear that Joe Pass did, and Barry Harris uses scales really a lot in his teaching, which is also a part of why it worked for me. I also don’t really want to get into the huge discussion of which scale position system is better, I used the Berklee system and 3nps the most but I also have had periods where I don’t practice scales in positions at all. You can check the old video on my technique practice on the channel if you want to know how that works

Scale Positions Are Great!

Before we get to the problems then let’s first look at why scale positions are useful, because In my experience both as a teacher and a student, then learning scales in positions is a very efficient and practical approach.

#1 Chunks

It is a way to make fretboard overview easier to learn. Instead of learning the entire neck, you can get a very solid overview of a small part of the neck and still start to improvise and develop those skills, so you can learn C major here and improvise over a song in that key and use the diatonic arpeggios to hit the changes.

#2 Moveable

You can move them around. On the guitar, you can move around positions and learning one position really means learning it in all 12 keys, and learning 5 or 7 positions is a lot easier than having to learn the neck for every key, and since the same scales go together in songs then you can move those relationships from song to song and key to key as well.

#3 Complete You won’t play yourself into a dead end in the middle of a solo – Illustration: playing a moving line on Cmaj7, but then have to move back to the play something on D7

It is also very complete. Sometimes I have seen students who were free over some chords in the song and then very limited on other chords, and which meant that they could solo all over the neck but kept being pulled back to one place when certain chords came by.

So there are many reasons for beginners to start with positions, and Joe Pass actually demonstrates a C major CAGED position in the video. (show video with diagram?) and later a scale position that certainly isn’t CAGED, maybe more Berklee System.

Scale Positions Can Be Tricky!

But no system is perfect, and working with positions then there are also things that you do need to take care of so that you actually make the information useful and can use it freely when improvising. Though these first ones are not that difficult to overcome, and not as serious as the last one.

#1 Open up the scale

You need more than just playing the scale. You don’t want to end up sounding like you are just running up and down the scale and only playing scale melodies.

You want to really play lines, and Jazz lines also have other things like arpeggios, triads, and chromatic phrases.

However all of these things can be practiced in the scale, so you can practice other melodies in positions by working on diatonic triads, chords, and triad inversions. Of course, you need to practice using them as well but working on that makes sense for so many reasons, and this is of course also what you will hear if you study Barry Harris stuff:

#2 Tie It Together

You want to Connect the information! This is probably one of the most important parts of fretboard visualization. I mentioned in the beginning that all of the different scale systems are not only major scales, they also have arpeggios and other scales, and you want to connect these things as well to get the full benefit of what is going on.

Getting those connections is not that difficult if you are already practicing, for example arpeggios and major scales, just choose a chord and a scale where that chord is diatonic, play the scale position, and try to see the arpeggio in there.

Maybe see if you can make some lines with that material.

Keep in mind that this is the kind of thing that you don’t want to approach in a too systematic way, something I will get back to later.

#3 Scale Boxes Should Not Be Prisons

Another common problem that you will need to overcome is that when you play then you want to be able to move from position to position. The positions should not be walls on the neck that you can’t get over, and there are some really good exercises to really connect the fretboard and become free.

The main thing to spend some time on is to improvise forcing yourself to change position, getting used to seeing the notes in the positions around the one you are playing in, and being able to move to them while continuing your phrase.

Another thing that is useful to work on is practicing along the neck with scales, arpeggios, and other things that you also use in the positions, hopefully recognizing those same shapes in the scale positions.

Here you have a Cmaj7 arpeggio in a C major scale position (using 3NPS)

It Is How You Think About It

B-roll: practicing a scale with overlay of scale fingering? or picture of a neck with overlay

What I mostly see getting in the way with scale position systems is that they are systems and that everything should be approached as a system. It is easy to think that we should learn things in a system, but if you think about it then it quickly becomes clear that working like that is probably going to have you practicing exercises in positions 14 hours every day for years and years, while not playing any music which is not going to work.

You can quickly learn to play the scales in a way that requires very little effort. You see the notes on the neck and use muscle memory, and you also take some exercises to that level, like diatonic triads or 7th chord arpeggios,

but you can’t have that as a goal for every exercise, and at some point playing an exercise probably becomes more about relying on how well you know those basics and then hearing your way through the scale and using that you know the position. It is about a much more useful flexibility.

In the roadmap course, I teach a song using a small area of the neck because I want the students to practice some scale stuff, but the important lesson is what you can do with that, and what many also experience is that if they work on it like that then it becomes something that you can actually improvise with. But in the Roadmap I also get questions about making all the exercises into huge projects in all keys and all positions, and in my experience, that really doesn’t work and you end up not getting the material to a level where you can really use it in your solos.

The main thing to get rid of is probably the idea that you need to play things entirely automatically or as muscle memory, but instead it is about working on exercises to become better at moving and hearing them as melodies through the scale position.

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Two Intervals For Every Note – Why You Need To Know This

This is a video that discusses how to think about the notes that we play. Why I think in note names as well as intervals and why you need different things to play jazz solos.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:23 Not All Notes Are Created Equal

01:30 The Important Details – Visual & Practical

02:32 Losing The Bigger Picture

04:44 It’s About Two Things

05:07 No Real-time Calculations

05:47 Not Only The Scale

06:57 Communicating With The Rest Of The Band

07:48 Fretboard Knowledge That Makes Sense For The Music

08:05 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

 

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How To Really Explore The Fretboard with Jazz Chords

The best way to learn the fretboard is to work on the things that you need when you play and get an overview of what you use! Fretboard memorization should not be empty knowledge, it is something you build and connect to the things that you use.

This video will give you an introduction to some of the exercises with chords that can help you learn the fretboard in a practical way and while also expanding your chord vocabulary.

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Content:

00:00 Intro

00:32 Systems and Inversions For Chords

00:55 A Simple Chord

01:45 Fretboard Exercises with Music

02:18 Inversions You Never Checked Out

03:29 Putting Inversions To Use

05:04 Diatonic Chords – And A lot more voicings

06:06 Inner-voice Magic

07:00 Practice More Problem Solving

07:30 Fretboard Knowledge using Jazz Licks and Exercises

07:36 Like the video? Check out my Patreon page!

 

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Freedom on The Fretboard – Great Exercises

Of course, you want to play the guitar and be completely free to find whatever lick or melody wherever you are playing on the neck. That is the goal of knowing the fretboard.

And you need to have a solid overview so that you can use it while you improvising.
In this video, I am going to show you a strategy and some of the best exercises to develop that.

Content

0:00 Intro

0:26 Jazz as a Language and You can use that

1:02 onlyapesappreciateheavymetal

1:45 Charlie Parker Lick 

2:27 Side-note using a Finnish Sentence 

3:24 Exercises you probably already know

3:38 Basic Scale overview

4:22 Adding Harmony

4:46 Really Understanding How To Play Arpeggios

6:08 Moving Around Real Music

8:44 Important point about All Positions and All Options

9:22 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!

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Fretboard Challenge! 12 Licks in a Single Position

Learning the Fretboard and having an overview of the keys is quite difficult on the guitar. This fretboard guitar lesson goes over 12 licks to give you material for each key in a single position.

You can put this to use as exercises, or as inspiration for your own material exploring the different keys. Another way to explore the fretboard is to take one of the II V I licks and then move that around all the positions your use.

There are lots of options!

Exercises like this are really useful for exploring where everything is and also what is practical in each key in this position. I think it is very important to keep that in mind:

It is more important to have practical, playable and good sounding solutions in each position than knowing everything in all positions.

More information on Fretboard Knowledge

If you want to check out more videos where I discuss fretboard knowledge and knowing things in all keys then check out one of these articles:

Fretboard Visualization That makes musical sense for Jazz Guitar

Practice Major Scales like this and You will get more out of it!

#1 C major – Dm7 G7 Cmaj7

#2 F major – Gm7 C7 Fmaj7

#3 Bb major – Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7

#4 Eb major – Fm7 Bb7 Ebmaj7

#5 Ab major – Bbm7 Eb7 Abmaj7

#6 Db major – Ebm7 Ab7 Dbmaj7

#7 Gb major – Abm7 Db7 Gbmaj7

#8 B major – C#m7 F#7 Bmaj7

#9 E major – F#m7 B7 Emaj7

#10 A major – Bm7 E7 Amaj7

#11 D major – Em7 A7 Dmaj7

#12 G major – Am7 D7 Gmaj7

Really digging into a Single Position

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3 Things You Want To Know In All Keys And Positions

When you play jazz you are improvising over chord progressions that move through different scales. And you need scale positions that you can connect and have an overview off in a way that makes it easy to improvise solos.

In this video, I am going to go over a basic way to practice and test your fretboard knowledge by taking progressions and use them to work on scale positions on the guitar neck. This will help you memorize the right information in the right context for when you want to improvise solos and will help you become freer when you play.

The 3 Levels

I am going to go over the exercises in 3 levels getting more and more difficult, but the exercises are essentially quite basic. This is about knowing essential chord progressions, scales, and arpeggios in a position and being able to improvise with them.

Working on this is not really something that belongs to every day practice for hours and hours, just go check this and find ways to work on this that also involve the repertoire you play.

2 Approaches

When you work on this type of exercise you can do this 2 ways: Staying in one position and going through all keys or choosing one key and going through all positions. Both are useful and you should try what works better for you.

Level 1 – 1 Position, Basic Scale and Chords

The idea is to work on knowing essential material for a position. If you improvise in G major, then the G major scale and the arpeggios for the basic cadence are essential to know. The same goes for the arpeggio from the 3rd of these chords.

For G major we have this scale position:

And the basic cadence is Am7 D7 Gmaj7.

These arpeggios are shown below:

And the arepggios from the 3rds of these chords would be

Am7: Cmaj7, D7: F#ø, Gmaj7 Bm7.

Once you know these arpeggios you should work on being able to make lines with them in this position on a II V I.

Two examples of this, one with the basic arps and one with the arpeggio from the 3rd are shown below:

Level 2 – Altered Dominant

A logical next step would be to alter the dominant, in this case D7.

Let’s first take a new position for G major:

And for the D7alt I am using an Ab7 and a Cø arpeggio.

Both are found in the D7 altered scale and contain the C and the F# really spelling out the D7 sound.

And the arpeggios from the 3rd (with Cø being the arpeggio from the 3rd of Ab7)

Improvising with these arpeggio sets could yield lines like these two:

Level 3 – Making it a complete Turnaround

The next thing to do is to add a secondary dominant for the II chord. This is one of the most common dominants to come across so it makes perfect sense to add this to the exercse.

First a new scale position:

For the E7alt I am doing the same thing as the D7alt which gives us a Bb7 and a Dø arpeggio.

And then the basic arpeggio positions:

The Arpeggio from the 3rd:

Get Your Changes Playing from Turnarounds to Giant Steps.

If you want to check out some more material on how to really nail changes and still play great lines then check out this lesson on using Target notes on Rhythm Changes:

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

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Fretboard Visualization – How To Develop A Complete Overview

Using limitations to check and develop your Fretboard Knowledge.

In this video I am going to go over a way to practice that teaches you how to find material and use it everywhere on the neck when you are improvising. One thing is to practice all the things you need like scales and arpeggios in all positions. You also have to make sure that you get it to a point where you can use it in music. And ironically the best way to become free all over the neck is it to limit yourself to limit yourself to one position while playing a song.

For me this was an essential way of building my ability to move around the fretboard freely. I have, by now, spend a lot of time with this and still keep coming back to it to work out a bit on tunes I am studying. You can always find new things here and develop further.

Content:

0:00 Intro

0:22 Limit Yourself to remove your limitations

0:53 The Exercise – Practice to be Practical

1:28 The Four step process

1:51 #1 The Song/Progression

2:35 #2 Choose the Position

3:08 Be realistic and practical with position playing

3:14 Prepatory Exercises

4:33 Think in Long term goals

5:03 #3 Playing the Song

5:42 Solving problems you come across

5:57 How to Look for basic material

6:44 Be Practical!

7:54 #4 Creating Variations and New Material

8:43 Practicing while making music

9:00 Improvising only with Scale Movement

9:45 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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Fretboard Visualization That makes musical sense for Jazz Guitar

Fretboard Visualization is the way I organize and visualize the notes on the neck. Which also reflects how I think about the notes and order them for improvising.

In a guitar solo a note is not just a note: It can be a chord tone, a passing tone or extension or even a chromatic passing note. The way I try to think about the notes on the guitar I try to take this into consideration and have a way of thinking that will help me solo and categorize the notes in a useful way.

List of Contents:

0:00 Intro — Fretboard Visualization for Jazz Guitar 

0:35 3 Layers of note priority 

0:43 Layer 1: The Chromatic scale 

1:16 Layer 2: The Key or the Scale 

2:02 Layer 3: The Chord and the Arpeggio 

2:24 Practical Example on a (very) simple song 

2:59 The Key of the song 

3:30 The Arpeggios of the Progression 

4:23 How to play all modes of all scales 

4:36 Practicing towards this way of thinking 

5:07 Seeing a Scale on the neck 

5:20 Learning Positions ( I use 7) 

6:07 Examples of Scale Positions 

6:19 Learn the scales and the notes in them! 

7:01 Connecting The Positions 

7:32 Learn the Arpeggios in the scales (Literally!) 

8:49 All Arpeggio notes in a position 

9:46 The advantages of this approach 

10:13 No Modes! Just Diatonic Arpeggios and subsets! 

11:54 Further Perspective on this approach and the next level 

12:36 What is your approach to view and organize the notes on the fingerboard 

13:36 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page!