Fastest way to memorize fretboard?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Murmaider, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. Murmaider


    Oct 20, 2013
    I've been told that it is very important for me to memorize where every note is on the fretboard.

    I am an intermediate player in a band, and while none of my bandmates really know much theory or anything to the point where I NEED to learn this, I still want to know my instrument inside and out, like the back of my hand. I'm sure this will put me further on the right track to becoming a better bass player and also a better musician.

    So yeah, what's the fastest/most efficient exercise I can do? Just running up an down fret by fret?
  2. 10cc


    Oct 28, 2013
    Turn the lights off. Practice some in the dark.
  3. BigRedBassPlayer

    BigRedBassPlayer Supporting Member

    I don't know about fastest. The way I really started was starting on the E, or B, string and walking fret by fret saying the note. When I would hit the next note, I would try to raise my voice to match it. It was a weird way to me, but it worked for the most part.
  4. Zootsuitbass


    Mar 13, 2011
    This is a VERy deceitfully difficult thing.

    Just learning the names of the notes? yah… not too hard.

    Learning your fret board…years!

    On that..[practice your inversions and stay in a narrow range. like a five fret span and learn how to function with in that.
  5. Just keep playing. You'll get there eventually. ;)
  6. Pako

    Pako Are we having fun yet?

    Jul 31, 2002
    USA, Montana
    Scales. All of them, in varying positions up and down the neck. Time.
  7. I'm a beginner. Part of my warm up is to start with C and find all of the C's up and down the neck on all strings. Then I do F, then Bflat, Eflat and so on all around the circle of fifths to get all the notes. Some days I go around the circle of fifths t'other way. C,G,D,A,E,B,Gflat,Dflat etc.
    Gravedigger Dav likes this.
  8. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    1. Do varied fretboard exercises.
    2. Do them a lot. A hell of a lot.
    3. Sightread music.
  9. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Why learn the whole fretboard? Learn reference points and just start practicing what you normally would, the rest will all fall into place with time. Trust me.

    When I say reference points I mean stuff like the 5th fret will always be the same as the string above it and the seventh fret will always be the string beneath it, an octave is always only two frets away!
  10. I'm just recording a series of 3 video lessons on this exact topic as we speak. I'll let you know when they're uploaded.
    I recorded one lesson on the fretboard notes yesterday that ended up at over 50 minutes after editing so I'm splitting it up and re-recording That just shows how deceiving this topic is.

    I'll try and give you an idea of what I'm covering to try and help you out with this.
    The first thing I do is start from the very beginning with learning the alphabetic sequence of natural notes: ABCDEFG and also tones and semitones (whole steps/half steps). You just need to know there is a semitone or one fret between B to C and E to F. Then it's a simple case of running through that sequence of notes on the A string from open to 12th fret. Just as a primer.

    So then the 1st Method is just a case of learning the natural notes at the fret markers.
    E string (3rd, 5th, 7th frets) G A B
    A string (3rd, 5th, 7th frets) - C D E
    D string (3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th frets) - F G A B
    G string (5th, 7th, 9th frets) - C D E
    You can then add the open E string and 1st fret F to give you quite a usable set of notes. The vid lesson covers accidentals at the start so you can then use that knowledge to work out the sharps and flats from these guide notes.
    The exercises then involve sticking to a single string eg. GAB on the E string and playing through a sheet of these notes, randomly written, one note per bar to a metronome/drum machine/foot tap. That should seem almost too easy as you finish a full page. I'd love to develop an app that can just randomly display flash cards of customised note names for this test.
    Next move onto the A string notes (CDE). Test until nailed and too easy. Next combine E and A string. Test until nailed and too easy. Move onto D string etc. etc.

    Method 2 then uses this same test principle but applied to particular neck positions. I use two positions to cover the neck up to the 12th fret. Low position is frets 1 to 5 and open E string (no open A, D or G). There's a C major pattern in this position giving all the natural notes.
    E string - EFGA
    A string - BCD
    D String - EFG
    A string - ABC
    Go through the same test system as used in the fret marker method.
    Once nailed, add the sharps and flats.
    Next move onto position 2 which is the 7th fret to the 10th fret.
    E string - BCD
    A string - EFG
    D string - ABC
    G string - DEF

    12th fret is a repetition of the open strings so you can go through the exercises again an octave higher but there's probably no point because by this time you should be pretty competent.

    The final exercise I use is going up each string playing the natural notes from the open string to the top fret on your bass and back. Then do the same thing with every fret (every note) and use sharps on the ascent and flats on the descent.
    As practice material I'm going to include a load of different chord progressions to play through.

    Phew. Hopefully that should help a little. If not then the videos will be on Youtube and in the next few days. I'll let you know.

  11. As a follow up, people are right to say learning the notes on the neck takes time to learn properly but to give you a time frame and an example, I taught myself this method about 23 years ago in preparation for music college. I was scared to death of being thrown into sight reading and I heard all these stories about playing in the college orchestra etc. I could play to a fairly high technical standard at the time (thought I was the next Billy Sheehan lol!) but my reading sucked as did my overall knowledge of the fretboard. I had the 6 weeks summer break to prepare so I practiced this stuff each day. I learned the notes of the fretboard fairly quickly and then used the same position based principle to get my reading up to speed. Using the same string isolation exercises.
    By the end of those 6 weeks I had a very good knowledge of the fretboard notes and a basic level of reading ability enough to get me through the college sight reading and not look like a complete idiot.
    So it is possible to learn this stuff fairly quickly. Once you have the basics you just need to apply it and keep up the practice. After a while it'll be so ingrained that you never forget it. find as many chord progressions as possible and play through them in as many positions as possible. Limiting yourself to certain areas and certain strings is the best way to do this. These days my reading improves the most on gigs when I have to read something after getting myself stuck in an uncommon key in an unfamiliar area

  12. Dave Curran

    Dave Curran Lilduke

    Jul 27, 2013
  13. Nick303


    Jun 9, 2013

    This doesn't answer the question, it does help with playing without looking at the neck though. :)
    Learn your scales in as many positions as you can and you'll be fine.
  14. Rosebud


    Jan 3, 2007
    what I did, when I started out was make a chart on a piece of paper with 4 lines and name all the notes open string through 12th fret etc... then I could see what notes were where and then my teacher would test me Ab on the E string, C# on G string etc... eventaull y it was chord arpeggios on a given note. This method worked for me. BTW playing in the dark is a great method of learnign things, regardless of what we're talking about here.
  15. Fastest way to learn the fretboard?

    A perplexing question .... I suppose it depends on whether you want to just know the names of notes and in proximity to other named notes or

    If you want to know what notes relate to other notes in terms of melody or harmony

    The fastest way is probably wrote learning the names of notes and that is a good thing to know

    As to how useful it is in terms of playing music it is somewhat limited because playing music involves more than just knowing the notes and that's where the years of dedicated time comes into it

  16. bass_case

    bass_case Maintain low tones. Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2013
    Miami, FL
    Hint: the notes start over at the 12th fret.

    Seriously though... depending on how your brain works, you can use a mathematical approach to reinforce note locations and intervals. The difference between each strings is 5 half-steps, so an octave (12 frets on one string) is equivalent to + one string + 7 frets, or + two strings + 2 frets.

    A major third is four frets (half-steps) so that could be played + one string - 1 fret.

    Not a substitute for understanding harmony and playing scales, more of a mental exercise.
  17. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Try not to think in patterns, but in notes. Play things you know, but on different parts of the neck.
  18. ZenG


    Dec 13, 2013
    Near the fridge
    I just memorize the grid patterns for major scales basically.

    Helps me a lot.

    For example......if you can play a major scale starting at 'A' on the E-string, the scale and fingering positions are the same for most of the neck and frets.

    So if you know what you're playing sounds like at "A" it will sound the same if you drop down to "G" etc .

    So if you played a song in 'A' you wouldn't necessarily have to recall what note it is technically, if you played it in 'G' because you "remember" how you played it in 'A' and simply do the same thing in 'G' basically.

    Modes are good too.

    Like if I'm playing something in 'G', I like to know where every other 'G' is on the neck. Because you can create subtle nuances playing the 'G' grids on other frets.

    I think people get too caught up in learning all the different types of scales.

    A large majority of songs don't stray too far from the barn in terms of scales.

    Every song is different anyway and it's more about "punctuation" and note placement in a groove or melody than what kind of scale it is.

    Pretty easy to figure out minors if you know majors.

    I like remembering where I can find a particular scale-grid first.
    Once I get there I can do whatever I want with notes within or around the grid.
  19. Transposing your band's songs into all 12 keys will give you excellent knowledge of the fretboard, methinks.

    Personally I find it is conceptually easier, and arguably more musical, to think in patterns rather than note names. For example, my brain finds it easier to play "ii7 in Ab" compared with "Bb-Db-F-Ab." It is like when you learn to read English, at first you sound out each individual letter (C-A-T) but then you learn the words (cat). Likewise in music there are certain "words" like "do-re-mi-fa-sol" or "descending major triad" or "diminished 7 arpeggio" so you don't have to conceptualize each note individually.

  20. I agree that transposing is a good thing to do... I don't do enough of it....