How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
Hana Suarez
KVRer
20 posts since 20 Jul, 2018

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:36 pm

I've been playing guitar since the beginning of the year. It's really fun, but I also would love how to learn to improvise/write  on the guitar. I come from playing the piano and have basic theory down (what makes scales, why chords work, how to know if something is "in key"). I'm now asking what the best way to learn the fretboard so that improvising can come naturally, and not really have to think about where I need to go for notes to fit.

Here's the thing though, I don't want to just memorize scales to play them up and down. Even though I'm sure that's one of the first steps, that just isn't music. I want to have fun with it and weave from chords to licks in between so that I can jam with friends or experiment on my own.

So how do I do that? Any input helps. I just ask that anything you answer isn't painfully complicated lol. Same if you're gonna recommend a youtube channel or couple of videos that helped. I don't want to sit through rambling or fancy, official-sounding musical terms that feels like I'm sitting in an algebra class.

Don't get me wrong, totally committed to putting in the work. But I want to get my hands on the guitar as fast as possible. That's how I learn. Hands on with someone explaining it to me in the simplest way possible.

I will note that I haven't learned any of this side of guitar. I learn from tabs and videos of songs I like, so all this is new to me. If you're gonna answer, do it straightforward, from point A to point B for a total beginner.  Every step from knowing the notes on the fretboard, to getting to that place I can just noodle something.

Thanks so much for reading. Didn't mean for it to be too long and I hope it makes sense, sometimes what's up here don't come out so well haha. 

 

resynthesis
KVRist
421 posts since 17 Sep, 2007 from Planet Thanet

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:42 pm

I like this bloke's channel. Lots of nice, simple ideas such as:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTE355VslW4

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Forgotten
KVRAF
4374 posts since 15 Apr, 2019 from Nowhere

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:06 pm

It depends on what kind of improvisation you will be doing.

Most people start with a pentatonic minor scale as it's relatively simple to remember and occurs very often in rock music. Depending on which keys you play in most, it makes sense to start learning those keys. Pentatonic E minor is a common one to start with as it includes all the open strings, as does A minor.

Some people like to remember the notes by remembering patterns, so if that works for you then it's a good way to start. For example, you can improvise in E minor by playing all the open strings, the 3rd fret on both E strings and the B string, and the 2nd fret on the A, D and G strings. This would give you a total of 12 positions to play notes when improvising without having to go any higher than the 3rd fret (you can learn other notes the scale later).

One thing that is easier on the guitar when compared to the piano is that once you learn a pattern in a certain key, then you can move that pattern up and down the neck to transpose it. For example, with E minor above, you can move that pattern up 3 frets to become G minor. So you would have all the notes on the 3rd fret, the 6th fret on both E strings and the B string, and the 5th fret on the A, D and G strings.

Jafo
KVRAF
1911 posts since 20 Dec, 2002 from The Benighted States of Trumpistan

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:27 pm

Having met a zillion shred dudes who know all the scales and nothing about music, I'd say to train your ears first. (Or at least primarily.) Learn relative pitch. Then, you'll think in terms of "I want a note that's up a minor third" or "that sad sound" and you'll know where to find it.
Joy and kindness are acts of resistance -- fight the power!

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donkey tugger
Boss Lovin' DR
6150 posts since 15 Mar, 2002 from the grimness of yorkshire

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:34 pm

http://www.discoverguitaronline.com/diagrams/view/55

For solos you really only need the first 2 patterns, and a shitload of distortion - you can bluff the rest for widdle, kept me going for 35 years. :hihi: Then go onto something more interesting like making up weird chords.

sjm
KVRAF
1951 posts since 17 Apr, 2004

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:37 pm

You say you're coming from a piano background. There is one very important difference between the guitar and the piano that's due to the way the piano's keyboard is laid out. On a piano, different keys require totally different hand positions because of how the black and white keys are placed. This means you need to learn each key and practice playing in each key as a separate exercise.

On a guitar, you can very easily transpose something simply by moving up and down the fretboard. The hand position doesn't change when going from, say, C major to E flat major, like it would on a piano. That really makes it easy to switch between keys and to learn fingering patterns up and down the fretboard. If you know an open chord shape, you can simply move that shape up the fretboard. If you learn to play the scale of E minor in the open position, you can move up the fretboard and use the exact same fingering patterns to play G# minor 4 frets up. You only need to learn the patterns once.

That is a real practical advantage. There are a lot of guitarists out there who might not know what notes they are playing, but they are playing the right notes. If you know your open chord shapes and how those chords tie together, you can transpose those chord shapes up the neck to switch to a different key or finger a different chord shape in the same key on a different fret.

This works both ways and helps you to learn the notes on the fretboard by name - provided you know the notes in each chord. If you know how to finger an A minor chord, and know where the C note is (the minor third), then moving up to the 7th fret using to form an E minor chord with the same shape means that you know that the B string is playing the G (or minor third). Now you know the name of the note at that position, and can find G if you need to.

There's a bit of a paradigm shift, which is why I bring this up. As someone who played piano and then guitar, I found it very helpful to thing of the guitar as an instrument that transposes while I was learning. You only need to learn something once to be able to apply it all over the fretboard. Memorise the patterns, and practice them, as that's what your fingers need to be doing. But you can do this by jamming over YT videos or whatever. It doesn't need to be boring scale practice. Though I would suggest you learn the E minor scale (and pentatonic) in the open position to the extent that you know where the notes in the scale are before you just jam away.
Voted KVR's resident drunk Robert Smith impersonator (thanks Frantz!)

https://soundcloud.com/steevm/

codec_spurt
KVRAF
3737 posts since 21 Sep, 2005

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:53 pm

You could do worse than learn the Hexatonic scale. It's sort of the bridge between Major and minor scales. It's a glorified blues minor pentatonic scale which is the most widely used scale on guitar (probably), mixed in with a cut down Major/minor heptatonic scale, depending where you root the tonic.

The operative words being 'pentatonic' (five notes) and heptatonic (seven notes). A hexatonic scale is of course six notes.

It forms a very elegant and simple shape up and down the neck and is very easy to visualise and transpose. I realise you aren't looking for scales as such, but the benefits of its easy visualisation and transposition, coupled with its harmonic versatility make it an extremely powerful scale to know, and one that isn't that difficult to learn.

This is a very good lesson that should get you up and running:

http://www.fretjam.com/hexatonic-scale-patterns.html


You can easily get a taste of the modes and wider harmonic theory as well with this scale. That lesson explains things very well in this regard, so I won't bother repeating it.

If you master this scale (not hard) then you can quickly jump between all out blues/rock noodling around a minor pentatonic box, and skip quickly to more interesting diatonic (heptatonic) scales such as Dorian etc. once you learn your modal theory. Of course you could just stick with playing the hexatonic scale in whatever key, and that is a very interesting and musically fulfilling scale in its own right. A bit more involved than a simple minor pentatonic, but without quite the richness (and ability to mess things up) that a Major/minor (Ionian/Aeolian) conjures up.

In my humble opinion of course - people perceive these 'musical images' differently. But one thing is for sure: this is a very easy scale to learn (easier than a Major/minor) relatively speaking. And harmonically it provides a solid intermediary stage between (arguably) the easiest scale of all (minor pentatonic) and the Major/minor diatonic scale with all its inherent harmonic modes.

Go to that free lesson. You won't find better on the whole of the internet. And there is even a video and tutorial included with the shapes mapped out for you so you can see it as well as hear it in action.

The video is a little over ten minutes long and it sounds to me it might be exactly what you are looking for.
"you're all GUI whores." - banned KVR member 'snooky'.

codec_spurt
KVRAF
3737 posts since 21 Sep, 2005

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:19 am

Forgotten wrote:
Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:06 pm
It depends on what kind of improvisation you will be doing.

Most people start with a pentatonic minor scale as it's relatively simple to remember and occurs very often in rock music. Depending on which keys you play in most, it makes sense to start learning those keys. Pentatonic E minor is a common one to start with as it includes all the open strings, as does A minor.

-----

Eventually you will want to learn the the 'modes': Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian etc. etc.

If you focus your initial learning around the E minor pentatonic as advised, you won't go wrong!

E minor is the relative minor of the G Major scale. And it holds very special properties that no other 'scale' does on the guitar neck. One of those reasons has been mentioned - it includes all the open strings.

Here I illustrate by including the guitar neck for the G Major scale.

Image

Included in this 'guitar neck' is not only the E minor scale and the G Major scale, but all the modes as well.

This is the reason you want to start with GMajor/Eminor, because not only does it include all the open strings, it includes all the 'cowboy chords' as well, aka 'open chords' that will become the basis of your knowledge of the guitar.

But, scale wise, there is no easier 'guitar neck' pattern to learn. Why? Because of those dots on the neck and how they will help you memorise the notes and also because of how the shapes fall between them.

Look at how ALL of the modes in GMajor/Eminor fall on the neck:

1: GMajor (Ionian)
2: Aminor (Dorian)
3: Bminor (Phrygian)
4: CMajor (Lydian)
5: DMajor (Mixolydian)
6: Eminor (Aeolian)
7: F#dim (Locrian).


Go to jguitar and see for yourself:
https://jguitar.com/scale?root=G&scale= ... tes=sharps

Choose A as your root note and Dorian as the scale, and you will see:

Image


Most people remember the modes with a Mnemonic: I, Drink, Pop, Like, My, Aunt, Lucy.

Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian.

Make one up that works for you.

Maybe that made sense?

You don't want to run before you can walk, but you will eventually need to learn at least a major and minor feel for the guitar neck - the modes are just the spices on top really, not absolutely necessary to bluff it (like Donkey Tugger :lol: ), but nice to know even in small amounts if you want to progress a bit further.

Anyway, this was just a quick illustration of why you want to start visualising the neck from a GMajor/Eminor perspective. To recap:

+ It contains all the 'cowboy/open' chords.
+ It follows the structure of the dots on the neck.
+ It doesn't contain any sharps or flats (apart from the one F# - which is Locrian and the most useless and least used of all the modes).
+ It provides a solid foundation for visualising the modes as they pertain to the Major scale.

Go to the link above (jguitar) and play about with root notes and modes. You will see that the entire neck remains the same, from top to bottom, with only the root notes and 'box' shapes transposing up and down.

[For some reason the hexatonic scale is not included in jguitar and it's a glaring omission in my eyes. By 'hexatonic' I mean the scale as used in that lesson/video I linked to above. There are other 'six note' scales of course.]

And don't forget there are both minor and Major hexatonic scales. As fret jam said, a hexatonic scale can be thought of as either adding a note to a pentatonic scale, or omitting a note from a heptatonic (Major/minor) scale. Depending on which note you add/subtract, you will end up with the relevant Major/minor hexatonic scale.

Which hexatonic scale was the one used in the tutorial video by fret jam (Major or minor)?

Clue: It was Major. C Major Hexatonic -

Image


This is a good tutorial as well:

The Attractively Balanced and Highly Musical E Minor Hexatonic Scale

https://www.guitarworld.com/magazine/st ... cale-video



How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?


That very bottom note on the very first string is as good a place as any!

There is nothing stopping you choosing a different starting point that works better for you, but you have to start somewhere. There is just a certain kind of 'symmetry' and elegance to the Eminor/GMajor scale, overall and in aggregate, that no other key provides. IMHO.

Everything starts with an E...
"you're all GUI whores." - banned KVR member 'snooky'.

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vurt
addled muppet weed
51803 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Re: How to begin learning the fretboard so I can improvise?

Post Sun Sep 22, 2019 9:33 am

write notes on to squares of paper.
a - g plus several sharps, flats and naturals.

make 2 piles, one with the letters one with the modifiers.

pick a letter plus a modifier
find every occurrence of this note on the neck.
practice, get faster, know stuff!

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