Do you have to learn the whole fretboard to understand chords?


MoonlightJB
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MoonlightJB
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07/20/2023 2:03 am

One reason I stayed away from guitar and approach to piano before was the ability to see the shapes of white and black keys to understand chords and I can place my hands easily as it repeats on each octave. However, with guitar, It is nothing like the piano, so I would assume that learning the entire fretboard just to know where each note is form any guitar chords.


I know the CAGED theory is what makes it easier to play chords as long as you are familiar with the shapes and play it around, since I know that you should just know the root and keep the chord shape as you go up higher.


My question is there an actual technique or theory to know what each note of the chord you're playing WITHOUT learning the entire fretboard first? I know you should know scales like what is the 1,3,5 of a triad, but finding it as you go up the 6 strings rather than one single string is hard!


Or should I be real that learning the entire fretboard is the only way for me to understand to play major7ths, 13ths, dominants, etc? Especially learning inversions confuse me!


I hope my question isnt confusing lol. Thanks.


# 1
William MG
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William MG
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07/20/2023 8:55 am
#1 Originally Posted by: MoonlightJB

One reason I stayed away from guitar and approach to piano before was the ability to see the shapes of white and black keys to understand chords and I can place my hands easily as it repeats on each octave. However, with guitar, It is nothing like the piano, so I would assume that learning the entire fretboard just to know where each note is form any guitar chords.


I know the CAGED theory is what makes it easier to play chords as long as you are familiar with the shapes and play it around, since I know that you should just know the root and keep the chord shape as you go up higher.


My question is there an actual technique or theory to know what each note of the chord you're playing WITHOUT learning the entire fretboard first? I know you should know scales like what is the 1,3,5 of a triad, but finding it as you go up the 6 strings rather than one single string is hard!


Or should I be real that learning the entire fretboard is the only way for me to understand to play major7ths, 13ths, dominants, etc? Especially learning inversions confuse me!


I hope my question isnt confusing lol. Thanks.

The advantage the keyboard has over the fret is that everything is in a nice straight line. With easy visuals like the black keys as you mentioned. 


But if you look at the fretboard in the same way and memorize where the "C" is on each string, you will begin visualizing the fretboard in the same way and with some time in you won't think twice about it and know what notes your fingers are on.


Not sure if that was your question but I interpreted your post as being concerned about learning the fretboard. Try this for a week and you will know the fretboard. 


This year the diet is definitely gonna stick!

# 2
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
ChristopherSchlegel
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Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
07/20/2023 1:00 pm

"One reason I stayed away from guitar and approach to piano before was the ability to see the shapes of white and black keys to understand chords and I can place my hands easily as it repeats on each octave. However, with guitar, It is nothing like the piano, so I would assume that learning the entire fretboard just to know where each note is form any guitar chords."


It is a little more difficult to visualize at first because the guitar fretboard makes no distinction between natural notes & accidentals. There is also the confusing issue of being able to play the same note in more than one place on the guitar.  So, it's kind of like 6 small, linear overlapping keyboards!


But once you learn the pattern that the musical alphabet makes on the fretboard it's pretty easy to get around.  And the guitar does have it's own version of repeating octaves.


Depending on your skill level here are some links to tutorials that will help.


C major scale for beginners. 


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/363


Then you can expand those major scale shapes in repeating octaves across the fretboard.  This gets into intermediate level territory, so I only mention it here to show you what's possible.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2643


Musical alphabet in the context of theory.  Lesson 4 in particular.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/495


"I know the CAGED theory is what makes it easier to play chords as long as you are familiar with the shapes and play it around, since I know that you should just know the root and keep the chord shape as you go up higher."


Yes, and I prefer looking at the basic triads that form the CAGED patterns, so you see the fundamental chord tone patterns without the clutter.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/148


Once you get that much I have a whole series of tutorials on visualizing all possible major & minor triads & inversions across the fretboard.


https://www.guitartricks.com/collection/triads-and-inversions


"My question is there an actual technique or theory to know what each note of the chord you're playing WITHOUT learning the entire fretboard first? I know you should know scales like what is the 1,3,5 of a triad, but finding it as you go up the 6 strings rather than one single string is hard!"


Yes, that's how players that don't read or know much theory get around the guitar.  They see the patterns of the triads & scales I linked above.  But it's a lot of trial & error.  


"Or should I be real that learning the entire fretboard is the only way for me to understand to play major7ths, 13ths, dominants, etc? Especially learning inversions confuse me!"


There's no reason not to learn the musical alphabet pattern.  It only makes it easier to get around & understand what you are doing.  Learn the basic pattern, apply it to one string or one section of the fretboard.  Gradually expand it as you learn more.  It's essentially just a simple pattern that repeats over & again across the fretboard.


Hope that helps!


edited
Christopher Schlegel
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# 3
MoonlightJB
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MoonlightJB
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07/20/2023 11:48 pm
#2 Originally Posted by: William MG

The advantage the keyboard has over the fret is that everything is in a nice straight line. With easy visuals like the black keys as you mentioned. 


But if you look at the fretboard in the same way and memorize where the "C" is on each string, you will begin visualizing the fretboard in the same way and with some time in you won't think twice about it and know what notes your fingers are on.


Not sure if that was your question but I interpreted your post as being concerned about learning the fretboard. Try this for a week and you will know the fretboard. 

Thank you for this! You had answered my question right as I hope you haven't been just as confused with mine haha. But yes this is a neat way to look at it. 


# 4
MoonlightJB
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MoonlightJB
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07/20/2023 11:54 pm
#3 Originally Posted by: ChristopherSchlegel

"One reason I stayed away from guitar and approach to piano before was the ability to see the shapes of white and black keys to understand chords and I can place my hands easily as it repeats on each octave. However, with guitar, It is nothing like the piano, so I would assume that learning the entire fretboard just to know where each note is form any guitar chords."


It is a little more difficult to visualize at first because the guitar fretboard makes no distinction between natural notes & accidentals. There is also the confusing issue of being able to play the same note in more than one place on the guitar.  So, it's kind of like 6 small, linear overlapping keyboards!


But once you learn the pattern that the musical alphabet makes on the fretboard it's pretty easy to get around.  And the guitar does have it's own version of repeating octaves.


Depending on your skill level here are some links to tutorials that will help.


C major scale for beginners. 


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/363


Then you can expand those major scale shapes in repeating octaves across the fretboard.  This gets into intermediate level territory, so I only mention it here to show you what's possible.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/2643


Musical alphabet in the context of theory.  Lesson 4 in particular.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/495


"I know the CAGED theory is what makes it easier to play chords as long as you are familiar with the shapes and play it around, since I know that you should just know the root and keep the chord shape as you go up higher."


Yes, and I prefer looking at the basic triads that form the CAGED patterns, so you see the fundamental chord tone patterns without the clutter.


https://www.guitartricks.com/tutorial/148


Once you get that much I have a whole series of tutorials on visualizing all possible major & minor triads & inversions across the fretboard.


https://www.guitartricks.com/collection/triads-and-inversions


"My question is there an actual technique or theory to know what each note of the chord you're playing WITHOUT learning the entire fretboard first? I know you should know scales like what is the 1,3,5 of a triad, but finding it as you go up the 6 strings rather than one single string is hard!"


Yes, that's how players that don't read or know much theory get around the guitar.  They see the patterns of the triads & scales I linked above.  But it's a lot of trial & error.  


"Or should I be real that learning the entire fretboard is the only way for me to understand to play major7ths, 13ths, dominants, etc? Especially learning inversions confuse me!"


There's no reason not to learn the musical alphabet pattern.  It only makes it easier to get around & understand what you are doing.  Learn the basic pattern, apply it to one string or one section of the fretboard.  Gradually expand it as you learn more.  It's essentially just a simple pattern that repeats over & again across the fretboard.


Hope that helps!

Hello Chris!! Just want to say I've been studying your tutorials ever since this question came up. Alot of information but real happy to learn. So when you replied, I knew I was going to get my answer. I'll definitely look into this. Thank you so much!


# 5
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
ChristopherSchlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor
Joined: 08/09/05
Posts: 8,312
07/21/2023 11:49 am
#5 Originally Posted by: MoonlightJB

Hello Chris!! Just want to say I've been studying your tutorials ever since this question came up. Alot of information but real happy to learn. So when you replied, I knew I was going to get my answer. I'll definitely look into this. Thank you so much!

Good deal.  You're welcome!  Best of success with your guitar learning!


Christopher Schlegel
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Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory
# 6
aliasmaximus
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aliasmaximus
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10/13/2023 2:08 pm

Hey moonlight,


I suggest that you start with Chris' aforementioned Chord Theory: An Introduction tutorial. That whole series of theory lessons is awesome, albeit pretty intense for a beginner. I still need to go back frequently to review some of the lessons. In my experience, trying to memorize (into long term memory) an entire fretboard diagram of notes is a brutal proposition for most of us mere mortals. Without the fretboard reference points provided by knowing chords, I just keep forgetting portions of the fretboard, over and over. So instead, I learned a bunch of chords first, and now make sure to pay attention to the notes that make up the chords that I play, every time I play them during practice. I do the same thing with a few basic scales. So far, so good. I'm making progress on memorizing the fretboard... slowly. Remember that everybody learns in slightly (sometimes radically) different ways so it may take some experimentation to figure out how to best learn the fretboard.


So, the short answer is "No", you don't need to memorize the fretboard before learning chords.


Sascha


edited
# 7

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