Step One: Memorize the Notes on the
Low E and A Strings
This step is fairly simple. Look at
the diagram below and simply memorize the note names at each fret on
these two strings (low E and A). If this seems like too large of a task,
then just focus on learning the low E string first, that is the most
important one to learn. One way to do this is to get out your guitar,
play each note all the way up the string, and name each note as you
play it. In order to become familiar with the enharmonic notes (F# is
enharmonic with Gb, etc.) without it being too cumbersome when you are
naming the notes as you play them chromatically, simply name the sharps
as you are moving up in pitch (from the nut towards the saddle) and
then as you move back down in pitch (back down towards the nut), name
the flats. For example, as you play the notes moving from lower to higher
pitch on the low E string you would say, “E, F, F#, G, G#, A,
A#”, etc. Then as you move back down you will say, “E, Eb,
D, Db, C, B, Bb”, etc. Memorize these note locations to the point
to where someone could say to you, “Eighth fret, A string”
and you would immediately be able to respond, “F” without
Step Two: Memorize
Three Main Note Pattern Relationships
G Note Patterns:
Below are a few of the patterns that you can use in order to find various
notes on the fingerboard. Here we are just looking at the G note, as
an example, but the same patterns apply to all notes.
Pattern I: Diagram I
The first set of patterns are shown in diagram I. Do you tune your guitar
by fretting the 5th fret on the low E string (A note) and matching it
with the open A note and then fretting the 5th fret of the A string
(D note), etc? If so, you know that this works on every pair of strings
except the G to B strings where you have to offset one fret to get the
match. If you know this tuning method, then the patterns shown in diagram
I are familiar to you. Take a look at the diagram for a moment. You
will notice that with the exception of the G to B string, everywhere
on the fretboard you find a G note, you will find that same note on
the next lower-pitch string five frets up. This is a very useful pattern
to know when you are moving from one area of the fretboard to another,
i.e., moving from a down-the-neck position to an up-the-neck position
or vice-versa. Knowing exactly where all your root notes are, and being
able to find them quickly, makes it easier to move around the fingerboard
in an efficient manner when improvising. When learning any of these
patterns, do not simply memorize the locations intellectually. Play
these patterns and gain a good kenetic feel for their spacing and distance.
II: Diagram II
The second pattern will be familiar to you if you have ever played the
bass guitar. Many bass guitar lines work around this particular pattern.
Take a look at the pattern. You will notice that from the low E and
A strings you can find another G note on the fingerboard by moving two
strings higher in pitch and two frets down the fingerboard. The same
is true at the 10th fret of the A string moving to the 12th fret of
the G string.
III: Diagram III
The third pattern is simple and pretty obvious. Since the low E and
high E strings are both E notes, then it stands to reason that at every
fret going down the fingerboard on those two strings the notes will
be the same. This is a good thing to remember.
can using these patterns help me?
Do you realize that if you know these three patterns and then memorize
where the G notes on the low E string of the guitar are located (third
and fifteenth frets), that you can easily find all of the other G notes
on the fingerboard in seconds! From one of the two G notes on the low
E string, any other G note is only one or two steps away using a combination
of one or two of these patterns. Test yourself and see how fast you
can get from one G note, to the next, to the next, to the next. See
if you can identify any new patterns, or note maps, that work for you.
Finding useful ways of visualizing the fingerboard will give you a good
mental picture of how all the notes are laid out. This can be very useful
because if you are improvising in the key of G and you have a good mental
picture and intuitive sense of where all the G notes are located you
will always be able to find your way back to the root should you get
lost. Finding the root will help you reorient yourself and you will
be able to continue with your solo instead of having to “crash
Familiarization with the G note patterns is just the beginning step
in your fingerboard familiarization training, but it is an important
one. Think about it — if you can find all the G notes quickly,
using these patterns, then you can apply these same patterns to the
other notes as well. Since you’ve memorized all of the notes on
the low E and A strings, once you’ve memorized these patterns,
you will be able to easily find any note on the fingerboard.
Getting a Feel for the one-note patterns
Anytime you learn a new pattern, lick, or phrase it is desirable to
work to get it out of your head and under your fingers in such a way
that it becomes second nature. It transforms from an intellectual idea
to an intuitive feeling. This requires getting the knowledge out of
your head and into your hands. In order to do this, you need to gain
a muscle memory of these patterns. Here are a couple of excercises you
can practice to begin to build muscle memory of these patterns and positions.
These are just two examples. After working with these see if you can
come up with a few more of your own.
Three: Memorize the Five Major Scale Patterns
Now that you know how to easily find any single note on the fingerboard,
I am now going to show you how to be able to easily play any major scale
at any location on the fingerboard. However, it requires a little bit
of work because you need to memorize the five “box patterns”
that are show on the next page.
Pattern 1 is built from a tonic, or root, note (I) that is positioned
on the low E or high E strings. Pattern 2 is built from a root note
that is on the A string, Pattern 3 is built from a root note that is
on the D string, Pattern 4 is built from a root note that is located
on the G string, and Pattern 5 is built from a root note that is located
on the B string.
Now that you know the location of every note on the fingerboard from
your study of steps one and two of this lesson, you should be able to
look at these patterns and play a major scale from any note on the fingerboard.
If you take the time to memorize and familiarize yourself with these
patterns, finding the major scales will become second nature.
After you have memorized these box patterns, the next step in fretboard
familiarization would be to learn how to connect them, for instance
you could play one octave of a scale starting with Pattern 1 and then
when you get to the root note on the D string, shift to Pattern 3 to
play the next octave. There are many various ways to combine these patterns.
The more you work with these patterns, by themselves or in combination,
the better informed your ear and fingers will become.
The chart at the bottom right corner of the next page shows you the
positions of various major scales. On this chart the scale pattern numbers
are along the top and the scale name is along the side. If you wanted
to use Pattern 1 to play a C scale, you’d simply look under the
Pattern 1 column and follow it down to the “C” row and find
that the root now is at the 8th fret. Of course, if you memorized your
note map (steps one and two), you’d already know that! But this
chart will help you in a pinch.
One way to practice connecting these box patterns in a more vertical
fashion (moving up and down the neck) is by practicing “Segovia
Scales.” They are called “Segovia Scales” because
they are based on fingering patterns that were devised by the great
classical guitar player Andres Segovia. I’ve provided the Segovia
G major scale exericse here. If you would like to find Segovia Scales
for other major, and minor, scales, they can be found at numerous web
locations through an on-line search.
An examination of the Segovia Scale for G major reveals a movement from
Pattern 1, to Pattern 3, to Pattern 2, to Pattern 4 while acsending.
Then he moves from Pattern 4, to Pattern 5, to Pattern 1 on the decsending
Four: Put it all to Good Use By Working With a Tune
The way I recommend you gain practical knowledge of these patterns is
to pick your favorite song and then learn to play it at every position
on the fingerboard. The method would be to take the root note of the
song and then learn how to play it at each different root note position
on the neck. As an example, I’ve done this with the first 4 bars
of the tune “Blackberry Blossom” as shown on the next page.
In Example 1, I start the G note on the open G string. In Example 2,
I start the same melody on the G note at the third fret of the low E
string. In Example 3, I start the melody on the G note at the third
fret of the high E string. In Example 4, I start the melody at the G
note at the tenth fret of the A string, and in Example 5 I start at
the G note located at the 8th fret of the B string.
Once you are familiar with scale patterns, taking any tune and playing
at various locations on the neck is a fun way to continue to explore
the fretboard and familiarize yourself with the patterns. Good Luck!