A Fretboard In your Mind

This exercise will help you visualize and work out chords, scales, etc., without a guitar!


View the full lesson at A Fretboard In your Mind | JustinGuitar

Coming from a different instrument this exercise is similar to how I approached notes on the fretboard when I first started.

I started by doing paper exercises on the circle of 4ths, and major 3rds (for the G->B string interval). Then I just had to memorize the notes on the thickest E string. It still took me a while before I was able to do it with any speed. Triads and Octave intervals definitely helped so I can calculate a note multiple ways at once if I have to.

The problem I have now is occasional choice paralysis. I have to think about which method would require the fewest amount of mental steps before I start figuring out a note… but it’s coming along.

I found these heuristics useful to cut through the paradox of choice.

  • E string: memorize
  • A string: 5 half steps higher/4th higher than E/memorize
  • D string: octave interval back to E
  • G string: open g chord octave interval back to E
  • B string: open c chord shape octave interval to A string
  • e string: memorized

Purely a suggestion; I use a free cuecard app. It takes a little setting up initially, but once done it randomizes the cards and will even keep score and/or show a timer (if you want to get competitive :-)).
I simply set up cards for each string up to the 12th fret in two formats; string/fret and note/string. So ‘String 4 Fret 7’ requires me to give the note name, and ‘D on the 3rd string’ requires me to give the fret number.
This method can obviously be used with or without a guitar, doesn’t need paper, and the randomizing element means I don’t control the sequence of the questions!!