23. Learning The Fretboard


As a young player, I wished that I could learn the fretboard complete. I dreamed I could ‘do anything’ if I did. Much like learning ‘all the chords’, it is basically an illusion. Even if you are able to memorize every note on the board, it is context that really matters. It is in that spirit that I share with you a way to better learn the notes on the board by seeing them as parts of chords you may already know, and as simple octaves.

Consider an F major barre chord:


F        C        F       A         C        F

The notes of the chord are F, A and C. Note the box on the right. F appears THREE times, at the 6th string, 1st fret, 4th string, 3rd fret, and 1st string, 1st fret.


These octave relationships between the F notes are a great assist if applied up the neck. Moving up 1 fret (1/2 step), you have F# in the same 3 positions in the box. Move it one fret higher again, you get 3 G’s in the same places, and so on:


Learning only one more octave relationship, that between the 5th and 3rd string, adds much more to your moveable ‘grid’ of notes:


Then add one more, between the 4th and 2nd string:


If learned, these octave relationships will build your fretboard knowledge very quickly and effectively.

© 2012 Jim Greenfield