One simple exercise to master the fretboard

Turn upside-down your fretboard knowledge

In this article I'm going to talk you about an amazing and very simple exercise which will completely turn upside-down your fretboard knowledge, and remarkably improve the way you play guitar. In the past I worked it out literally for hours, and occasionally I practice it even now (by the way, if you need to kill time in office or just want to hack your fretboard practice, check my Fretboard Cyber Trainer online software out).

When you practice scales, commonly you do it in a vertical way. For example, when you are practicing C major scale you start - let's say - from the third fret on the A string and, playing two or three notes each string, you go upward. Of course this is the very first approach in practicing scales - and it's a good approach.

guitar fretboard notes exercise

Even more useful is to get yourself used to practice scales from different positions, starting the root note from different fingers. I recommend three positions at least: from the index finger, from the middle finger and from pinkie.

guitar fretboard notes exercise
guitar fretboard notes exercise

But even practicing scales in this way, you could still remain stuck to a vertical vision of the fretboard. This could limit you, and sort of become a mental cage: a bad habit! Actually, when you look at a great guitar player playing a solo, you can see his fingers moving with confidence up and down all over the neck. This exercise I'm gonna talk you about today will extraordinarily help you in breaking this kind of mental ties. Introducing it in your daily practice routine you'll develop a really deeper knowledge of the fretboard, along with a incomparable better confidence with scales and tonalities. Guarantee! Well, here's the exercise. It's very simple. Basically we're going to practice a scale on a string by string basis.

That means we're going to play the scale in a horizontal way, not a vertical. Let's take for example the C major scale. The C major scale has these notes: C, D, E, F, G, A and B. What we're going to do is playing the C major scale on just one string, let's say the E string, from the lowest note possible (which in this particular case is the open string, because E is part of the C major scale) to the highest note possible. And return: from the highest note possible, downward to the lowest note possible.

guitar fretboard notes exercise

When we have done this, we're gonna do the same on the next string: we're gonna playing all the notes of C major scale from the lowest note possible on the A string to the highest note possible, and return.

guitar fretboard notes exercise

Then comes the D string, same thing; then the G string, same thing. And so on, for all the other strings. That's it! It's not important that you play this exercise very fast. It's definitely more important focus on playing accurately just the notes of the scale you are practicing on. You have to feel confident and natural. I suggest you playing just one scale for a consistent amount of time, a week or two at least. When you'll handle it with confidence, you can try the exercise with another scale. Obviously you can choose whichever scale you want, but I strongly recommend you going around the circle of fifths (here you can find a nice pdf about the circle of fifths): so, for example, after the C major scale you can practice the G major scale, which has these notes: G, A, B, C, D, E and F#. As we said, we're gonna play these notes on the E string, from the lowest possible to the highest possible, and return; then we'll do the same on the A string; and so on.

guitar fretboard notes exercise
guitar fretboard notes exercise

When you'll feel at ease with the G major scale, you can carry on along the circle of fifths: the D major scale, the A major scale, the E major scale, and so on. Take your time, don't rush: dedicate the proper time to each scale, weeks or even months, until you feel very comfortable with it! As time goes on, you’ll expand amazingly your fretboard knowledge: you’ll be able to move freely through tonalities, and you’ll definitely raise your skills to a upper level!

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