Fretboard Mapping – Part 2

In this video, Colin applies the pitch sets of Major Scales to the Linear Fretboard Exercise.

Applying theoretical knowledge to your instrument is an important step along your path to fretboard mastery. In this episode, I’m going to show you an exercise that implements diatonic thinking into your fretboard understanding to help you know your guitar inside out.

If you’re watching Part 2 of Fretboard Mapping, I assume you’ve mastered part one, where we chromatically mapped out all the notes on your guitar on one string at a time. Thank you for your comments on that video— as some of you found out Linear Fretboard mapping with the Chromatic Scale is a simple exercise to understand but deceptively difficult in practice, especially at the faster tempo ranges. Make sure you’re always saying the pitch names as you play them. It’s not difficult to play the notes on one string, but as soon as you start saying them and trying to keep up with the metronome, it really changes the game. It involves your brain much more which, of course, benefits your musical thinking.

Continue working on that exercise and have a friend quiz you by asking you to find specific pitches on specific strings. For example, G-sharp on your B-string—9th fret. Or G-flat on your D-string—4th fret. Being able to accurately locate any pitch quickly eliminates a huge barrier to your creative output on the guitar.

If you haven’t watched Part 1 yet, I highly recommend that you do that first, as it will help immensely with the exercise I will be covering here. In this video, we’re going to build onto that same exercise and apply some basic music theory to help further demystify the fretboard.

Before we begin this exercise we have to bring in some theoretical information. One of the most basic music theory concepts is knowing the pitch names of the Major Scale in every key. There are many ways to memorize the pitch set of each Major Scale. For example, if you know the Circle of Fifths trick, or the Major Scale formula, etc. If you don’t already know the notes of all of your Major Scales, do a little bit of homework on your own. There are plenty of resources that already cover that aspect.

So I’m going to rely on you to memorize those in a way that works best for you. That being said, below is a free PDF for you to download that has all of the notes of every Major Scale for your reference that you can use right now.

Free Major Scale Worksheet

Click below to download a free Major Scale Worksheet PDF

Like the exercise in Part 1, we’re going to use a metronome at four different tempi and we’re going to focus on one string at a time. But this time, we’re going to use the entire range of our fretboard instead of just one octave, and we’ll use the pitches of a Major Scale of our choice instead of the Chromatic Scale. Other than that, it operates exactly the same as before. We’ll say the pitch names while we play them in time with a metronome.

I’ll choose the key of Bb Major. It’s an easy key to start with because it has all natural notes except for two flats: Bb and Eb. Last time, I demonstrated the exercise on the E-string, but we can start on any string, so let’s start on the B-string today. Typically, scales are practiced from the root up. But for the key I chose, Bb is on the 11th fret of our B-string, leaving a huge area unmapped. So for this exercise, let’s not operate on the premise of only starting our scales from the root. Instead, we’ll start on the lowest available pitch on the string that we’re using. In this case, the lowest note available in the key of Bb on our B-string is C on the 1st fret, so that’s what we will play first. Then we will simultaneously say and play all of the pitches in Bb Major in the correct ascending order until we run out of frets. The highest note in the key of Bb on my B-string is an A on the 22nd fret. You may have a different amount of frets than I do. If you have an acoustic guitar, you probably have 20 frets. Some Fender guitars have 21. Gibsons typically have 22 if they are electric. Some modern guitars have 24 or more. The idea here is that you will play all of the pitches available in that key on that string for your specific instrument. Like before, when we get to the highest note, we’ll turn around and descend the scale. So let’s try it out and see how you do!

Some people struggle saying their scales correctly when they’re descending the string, so if that’s problematic for you, isolate that as an exercise until it’s strong enough to do the entire string up and down without stopping. 

The guitar is great because it is a visual instrument. We can see the intervals in between the pitches, so this exercise reinforces our theoretical understanding of the Major Scale. We know that in every Major Scale, there is a half step in between the 3rd and 4th degrees and also the 7th degree and the root, so those pairs of notes are one fret apart on our fretboard. The remaining pitches are all two frets apart, which creates a whole step. Look for these intervals as you practice through the different strings and in the different major keys.

Once saying and playing Bb Major fast is comfortable on your B-string, do the same process on the remaining strings. Then choose a new key and do the same process on each string for that pitch set. You may find that after doing a few keys that there will be a snowball effect, where it takes you less time to map out the remaining major scales.

Be thorough in your practicing—don’t cut any corners! Take this opportunity to really learn your fretboard inside and out. Building a strong foundation will benefit so many aspects of your musicianship. Thanks for watching, happy practicing, and I’ll see you next time on Inside Out Guitar!

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