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Learnin' the Fret Board

Discussion in 'Ask Mike Watt [Archived]' started by Marsh, Oct 29, 2002.

  1. Marsh


    Mar 15, 2002
    Hayward, CA
    Hey, Watt. My name's Marsh.

    I started into music playin' sax and trumpet when I was 9. And now that I've jumped over to bass, I've hit a snag...

    See, I've been playin' bass for a little over 3 years, and I've had a heckuva time tryin' to memorize the fretboard. I can fake it all right, but I was wonderin' if maybe ya could maybe point a guy towards gettin' it down for good...

    Any advice ya would be willin' to share would be greatly appreciated.

    Your pal,


    P.S. I am a better person for havin' seen ya play. See ya next time yer playin' San Francisco. -m.
  2. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
  3. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    let me tell you, one of the funniest pictures I remember of me seeing when I was a teenager was seeing a picture of this new band from england, the clash and the bass player had the notes painted right on the neck, under the string and above the fret you were supposed to press on to get that note! then I saw a bass john entwistle was playing and he had the notes inlaid in the fretboard! if your bass' fretboard is maple, you can easily use a pencil to write the notes and erase them as you memorize them. for rosewood or ebony, hmmm... maybe white out? what I did was memoriz the notes at the fret markers first, especially the fifth ones cuz they're also the next open string too. yeah, that's a good idea - memorize the open strings to start things off, then the first three frets, then up to five, seven, nine - at twelve, everything starts over! one thing to keep in mind is every thing is a whole step apart (two frets) except from 'e' to 'f' (half step - one fret) and 'b' to 'c' (same thing). the sharps and flats are easy after you learn the basic seven. like this for the first three frets (big fat low string first):

    e - open
    f - first fret
    g - third fret

    a - open
    b - second fret
    c - third fret

    d - open
    e - second fret
    f - third fret

    g - open
    a - second fret
    b - fourth fret (ok, not just the first three frets)

    when you move up to the fifth fret, everything repeats like it was the next string starting at the open note, for example on the 'e' string:

    a - fifth fret
    b - seventh fret
    c - eigth fret

    another thing that can help is to remember the octave is always two frets and two strings higher, for example the octave for the open 'e' string is the second fret of the 'd' string.

    hope this helps. the bottom line is that you just gotta learn this stuff so when someone asks you to play a note, you'll know where it is on the bass. a very important concept for ensemble playing. drill drill drill!!!

    on bass, watt

  4. Borntu


    Nov 12, 2002
    St. George, Utah
    Great advice! One thing you can try when yer bored and trying to kill time at the office or in class, haha, is draw the neck on a piece of graph paper with frets and markers (ya need to learn where the markers are). Then write in the open strings and any other notes you've learned already. With the advice that Watt gave, find the octaves and the rest of the notes inbetween will come easily. After doing this a few times, the notes should be easier to find on yer bass. Good luck!

    PS- One thing he forgot to mention is the 7th fret on the A,D,and G strings are the octave for the string below it....
  5. Europa

    Europa Guest

    Dec 14, 2002
    Thousand Oaks, CA, USA
    I'm a beginner and one thing I found that has really helped me learn the fretboard is a software program that quizzes you in a number of ways.


    It's similar to what LoJoe recommended at Active Bass but this has a number of variations and uses a metronome too.

  6. Stupidnick


    Mar 22, 2002
    ...my room...
    you could see it this way

    A goes to A#, after A# goes B, B joins the navy
    and goes to C.. C goes to C# , C# goes to D, D sharp goes to D# , D# goes to E, After E comes F because E sharps just suck and. well they are just Fs.. after an F , you have an F# and then G, then G# sharp and then you start all over again.

  7. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    hell, why don't you write the notes on the neck w/white-out? it'll come off when you get those notes remembered. take the strings off first.

    either that or make up a set of flash cards and bone up!

    there's no sure-fire easy way, it does take some discipline. it'll be worth it though when you get it. all you have to do is really remember up to the fifth fret cuz it's repeated on the next higher string, five frets down.

    don't be ashamed about writing them on the neck - I saw john entwistle playing a custom made (big $$$) bass w/the notes engraved in pearl!

    on bass, watt

  8. Marsh


    Mar 15, 2002
    Hayward, CA
    Thanks very much for the advice, Watt!

    I just read the post here, and it's what I've already been doin'! Hey, great minds, huh? :)

    Things are comin' along, though...

    And thanks to the folks on the board for the pointers also.

    Take care, y'all.
  9. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO
    Watt's advice mroe or less what I would ahve said. I have only heard two major ways of memorizing the fretboard
    1) find a note and play it on every spot on the board. This gets confusing and you forget the notes easy, i don't like it.
    2) the way i was taught and love-Go to each of the marked frets and figure out the notes up and down the fret. Repeat these notes in your head several times a day (like when your driving around town or somethin) until you ahve brainwashed yourself can can't forget them. Choose a new, random marked fret each week ( I think everyoen knows the 5th and 12th without thinking if they have palyed for a year) and do the same thing until you can list any note on the board on the fly. Hope that makes sense!
  10. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    With me, it just eventually came to me with practice. Seems pretty obvious and just a general half-assed answer, but just keep practicing.
  11. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    agreed. practice is very important. there is no substitute, theory or shortcut around it. john coltrane used to practice hours and hours each day, this when he was far from a beginner. in fact, he was practicing big time all the way to his final days. prac is a good thing.

    one more concept: actors rehearse. folks w/music practice. just my opinion.

    on bass, watt

  12. When I was starting to learn the thunderbroom (I'd already been playing guitar for a couple of years), during study period in 9th grade I used to sit with a guitar magazine, opened up to a big enough pic of a bass (usually a full-page ad), take a piece of notebook paper, and write out a graph of all the notes on the fretboard. One of the smartest things I ever learned, and now that is second nature to me! :)
  13. What I've been doing, both to learn the notes AND in my quest to learn how to play, is simply listen to a record and figure out the bass part. When I have the part down to where I can play it on the fretboard, I take a handy little fretboard chart and find the notes I'm playing. So far, I have every note above the fifth fret. The rest I'm workin' on, LOL! And that little hint about octaves DOES work...one string up, one fret down...hasn't failed me yet! :D

    Rock on,

    P.S.: Watt, saw you play with Wayne Kramer at the Baked Potato back in October...you ROCKED on "Lookin' At You!" Any chance we might see you there again? ;) hehehheee...
  14. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    maybe I don't understand what you're saying completely but from my perspective for the octave it's two strings up and two frets up from the note you're making an octave from. "up" here means higher in pitch (closer to the bridge), not closer to the headstock (that would be lower in pitch and thus "down")

    forgive me if I misunderstood you.

    on bass, watt

  15. That's what I meant, Mike...sorry if I got confusing...I'm still learning (not to mention forgetful as HELL! LOL!)

    Rock on,
  16. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california

    didn't mean to sound like I was scolding or anything like that, just trying to help. I'm learning too, believe me.

    on bass, watt

  17. I know, I totally dig it, dude...:cool:

    And SINCE we're all learning here, hehehehee...I was curious...I have this low-end Fender bass amp (Squier, don't remember the model right off the top of my head...as I said, FORGETFUL, :D ) and I'm definitely considering getting something better...got any suggestions for someone without a clue? :)

    Thanks in advance, brother!

    Rock on,
  18. Mike,

    I see you've met one of my compadres from Project X (Strutter aka Liz)! :)

    BTW, welcome to the forum, Liz *hugs*

  19. watt

    watt the man in the van w/a bass in his hand Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2001
    san pedro, california
    liz (strutter),

    welcome aboard!

    what's the situation where you want to use this potential amp?

    on bass, watt

  20. Thunderbroom


    May 7, 2002
    I have the Ampeg BA-115 and really like it. It's a 100W combo with lots of tone-shaping possibilities.

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