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Guitar How do you visualize the fretboard?

k.robert

Local Dive Bar Favorite
Nov 11, 2019
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Hello there,

I thought it would be a fun thing to ask... so while playing/writing/improvising how do you visualize the fretboard? What do you see, what kind of "map" you have in your head?
Do you have the root notes and intervals as your base? Or note names? Or triads/chord shapes? CAGED? Scale shapes? Pentatonic boxes? Or something I didn't even mentioned?
 

William B.

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Do you have the root notes and intervals as your base?
    I think I do it kind of like this and try to go higher or lower. Also the other stuff as well some. Recently I remembered how the CAGED chords connect somewhere and with that could build another chord from one of the notes. Like at least one of the notes in the chord could be one in the next.
    I got to redo the pentatonic shapes
     
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    Chris Johnston

    Music Theory Bragger
  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Great topic!

    In a way, I think I use everything you mentioned - apart from the CAGED system (Its never stuck with me for some reason)

    I visualise the things you mentioned in layers, depending on what I'm doing - usually when soloing, I'm using small Triad shapes as a basis to get around, connecting them with scale fragments, pentatonic licks etc.

    For Rhythm/Chord work I'll base my chords off of where the Root Note lies and use intervals to find inversions/different places to play them etc.

    Mostly though, I'm using my ears/understanding of intervals by ear to inform my playing, but it's definitely easier to remember what a 'shape' sounds like 😊 one thing sort of helps strengthen the other!
     
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    William B.

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Hello there,

    I thought it would be a fun thing to ask... so while playing/writing/improvising how do you visualize the fretboard? What do you see, what kind of "map" you have in your head?
    Do you have the root notes and intervals as your base? Or note names? Or triads/chord shapes? CAGED? Scale shapes? Pentatonic boxes? Or something I didn't even mentioned?
    How about you?
     
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    TheTroller

    Stairway to Heaven Tab Studier
    Nov 16, 2020
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    I visualize it in terms of key. No CAGED, I just prefer applying standard piano theory directly to the guitar.

    It's almost like a game where the options become more limited the more detailed you go. You start from some blank slate base note and the possibilities emerge from there. Do I want a minor triad, do I want a sus 2? Do I want a sus4, an added chord tone? Etc etc.

    I think the species counterpoint exercises that you can practice online really illustrate this.
     
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    Brian Haner Sr.

    Papa
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    Nov 11, 2019
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    What a great question!!! I've never really considered it before. I suppose it's a combination of everything. When I play blues I'm thinking more about pent boxes and scales patterns. When I'm playing jazz it's all about (or mostly about) connecting arpeggios (min Maj, dim) through chromatics. I also thinking a lot about actual landing notes, (Safe notes to land on at the end of a phrase).
    Envisioning the fretboard might be the hardest aspect of playing guitar. The tuning of B string throws the symmetrical part out the window. It's a constant adjustment - unlike other instruments.
    I try my best to play what I hear and just allow my fingers to do it without over-analyzing exactly what they're doing. We are so much smarter than we think we are. What I mean by that is sometimes if you just get out of your own way and let the creative side of your brain just "figure it out" - great things can happen. Obviously you have to be a fairly proficient player to get to that level. But that's the goal. To play what you hear in your head.
     
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