Memorizing the fretboard

Patty

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Does anyone have any advice on how to memorize the fretboard? I play fingerstyle, mostly classical, and find that I can’t automatically tell where to fret simply by following the standard musical notation. I keep having to look at the tabs below.
After 9 months of playing, it hasn’t become intuitive yet, and I’m getting a little frustrated.
Are there mnemonic tricks or anything? I do have a fretboard chart but it just won’t sink in.
I play GCEA, low G.
 

clear

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I think it just takes time. Give it a few more months and also play with a score that doesn't have tabs.

Another thing that can help is to notation the hand position (very useful) and possibly the fingering on the score. E.g. you have position I on the first 4 frets, if the section of notes needs position II (frets 1-5), you'd indicate it on the score; and so on. As for fingering, it can help in the beginning to ease the learning, but soon you'll not need this.
 

anthonyg

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What's wrong with TABS?
For the record, I don't sight read standard music notation while I play as it has no purpose for my style of playing. i have learn't to read, and then forgotten standard music notation several times, yet at the moment I'm not selling my services as a studio musician, and I perform from memory exclusively, so its just not a skill I need to keep.
What previous music experience do you have?
Can you sight read and play a piano?
Are you trying to play chords or just single notes?

Being able to sight read is a skill that isn't related to having fun with music. It's a skill you learn because.
My two bobs worth is that you need to have learn't your single note scales and your chord scales before standard music notation starts making much sense.
 

Patty

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What's wrong with TABS?
For the record, I don't sight read standard music notation while I play as it has no purpose for my style of playing. i have learn't to read, and then forgotten standard music notation several times, yet at the moment I'm not selling my services as a studio musician, and I perform from memory exclusively, so its just not a skill I need to keep.
What previous music experience do you have?
Can you sight read and play a piano?
Are you trying to play chords or just single notes?

Being able to sight read is a skill that isn't related to having fun with music. It's a skill you learn because.
My two bobs worth is that you need to have learn't your single note scales and your chord scales before standard music notation starts making much sense.
Thanks, Anthony. I used to play piano and violin, so standard musical notation is ingrained in me. And I play individual notes, not chords. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tabs—I love them! but I’d like to understand where the notes are on the fretboard without looking at the tabs. Tabs are valuable to me for showing me what position I should be in.
 

jinulele

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I’m on an exact same journey as you. As a fellow novice what I found helpful is to start with the A string, play c major notes up and down the string. It helps to remember the B and C note positions (they are easier to remember because they are next to each other without half note in between) - same for E and F positions. From them you can quickly figure out on the fly where D note is and G note is. A note will be open string and 12 th fret.


I try to make melody that I find pleasing using only A string and c major notes until it becomes second nature. Then I repeat with the E string mixing in the A string and the notes I learned. Keep expanding to the C string then G.

This has been incredibly helpful for me.
 
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anthonyg

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Thanks, Anthony. I used to play piano and violin, so standard musical notation is ingrained in me. And I play individual notes, not chords. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tabs—I love them! but I’d like to understand where the notes are on the fretboard without looking at the tabs. Tabs are valuable to me for showing me what position I should be in.

OK, if you have the skill then keep it. I just didn't want to see a newbie overwhelmed by learning an additional, somewhat difficult skill.
What you need to learn to move forwards is your single note scales.
There are specific patterns to learn, and it shouldn't be too difficult for you to attach/associate specific scales that you learn with specific notes on the staff.
Start learning the specific fingerings first, lets say for C maj to begin with, and then it will come together.
 

Mike $

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I've memorized a few places on the fretboard to use as a way to get my barrings. I know the notes of the first five frets, as should everyone. I used to play guitar, so the notes of the 7th fret of my uke are the same as the 12th fret of the guitar. DGBE. Since I know the 12th fret of uke are the same names as the open strings, I can easily add notes to the 7th fret and subtract from the 12th fret to know what the notes are. You can memorize the notes on the 9th fret if you want. Usually I am content not knowing the name of each note since I play mainly by ear, but in the rare case where I need to use standard notation, or tell someone which notes I am playing, I will be able to do it.
 

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I keep thinking in violin whenever I'm trying to read music for ukulele. Drives me mental. There are a few notes in first position that are SO CLOSE to violin, and a few that are identical, that it's enough to confuse me no end. But, I've only just started. It's getting easier, and I'm at least starting to remember the strings and frets in first position, but since violin is my "first language", I keep having that automatically impose itself as I'm trying to play from standard notation, lol.

I find the tab really useful for the reentrant campanella pieces I'm trying to learn, because I keep wanting not to use the high G as its own string (it's so weird to me), so that tab helps tell me what the composer/arranger intended. I had one song I was trying to figure out on my linear tuned ukulele, then when I switched to the reentrant, I had an immediate "aha!" moment, because the chords and notation were written specifically for reentrant tuning! It was pretty cool to discover that.
 

clear

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What's wrong with TABS?

Being able to sight read is a skill that isn't related to having fun with music. It's a skill you learn because.

@anthonyg, while I agree with a lot of what you are saying; I'd like to just point out a few differences in opinion.

The trouble with Tabs is that it is hard to see notes in pitch, intervals, scale runs, etc. This is useful in anticipating the sound; and of course, in singing (which many do when playing the uke). Unless you already know the song, it's really hard to sing with Tabs.

Being able to read standard notation opens up a lot of fun because much music is written in it. I think there's a definite benefit to knowing it; it's nice to be able to play a tune you see anywhere vs having to make a uke Tab version first. It's not hard to learn both standard/staff notation and Tabs, so why not.
 

ploverwing

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Oh and I just remembered this video:


Maybe it was linked herein at some point, or maybe drilling down the ukulele YT rabbit hole unearthed it, but I ran across it recently. Perhaps it'll help?
 

clear

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Does anyone have any advice on how to memorize the fretboard? I play fingerstyle, mostly classical, and find that I can’t automatically tell where to fret simply by

Interesting, after reading this thread again, I realized that nobody's addressed @Patty's question directly. Including my own responses :)

@Patty, you should learn all the notes on the first position. Use music that only needs the first hand position (i.e. frets 1-4). Once you've got that memorized where translating from the staff to the fret/string is like second nature, you can move to positions II and III. And so on. With this systemic approach, you'll learn the "entire" fretboard (at least up to position V) within a few months.
 

anthonyg

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If Patty is going to specialise in single note melody/scales/leads, then she should start with some good fretting techniques.
Now I'm not an expert on this myself, yet a basic starting exercise is to have your thumb behind the neck and use the index, middle, ring and little fingers on frets one to four, and then systematically, one fret after another play from fret one to four, on the low G string, fret one to four on the C string all the way up the neck, and then down again.
This is just a fingering exercise to develop your muscles.
Play the exercise up and down the neck.
If you play this exercise at the nut, leave the Index finger out as the nut is the index finger. Otherwise you will mess your patterns up when you move away from the nut.
After your fingers are working properly, you start working out your various scales across the strings. When you have the pure mechanical movements down for each scale it will be easier to associate finger positions with specific notes.
 

rainbow21

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To tag onto Clear's suggestion, I have learned the notes of the Cmaj scale in the first position and going further up on the A string. Now I just fill in the sharps and flats by moving up or down one fret from the natural note. If I want to go further up a string (like a F note on the C string, I just count upward without spending the time to memorize it... and then I tab it in the tablature if I need to.
 

Patty

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Oh and I just remembered this video:


Maybe it was linked herein at some point, or maybe drilling down the ukulele YT rabbit hole unearthed it, but I ran across it recently. Perhaps it'll help?
Wow, thanks, Ploverwing! This was really helpful. I’m gonna be returning to this video often.
 

Patty

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When you have the pure mechanical movements down for each scale it will be easier to associate finger positions with specific notes.
I’m sure you’re right, Anthony. First I need to get the mechanics down, then the lightbulbs will come on in my brain.
I adore the ukulele, but part of my difficulty is that I’m used to strings that are all the same distance apart—in fifths, for example (GDAE). With the ukulele, the steps from string to string are uneven and the logic of it hasn’t yet kicked in for me. But I’m determined! And everyone on UU is so encouraging. Thank you again!
 

Kimosabe

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One thing that is very important is to know how to locate chord tones.
Know where the third, fifth, sixth and b7 are. Then you don’t need to learn scales. These tones are located in patterns.

What becomes important then is just knowing where the root note lays.

Learning the root notes then becomes important and gradually teaches you the fret board. Start by learning the third and fifth. The third teaches you the fourth. The fifth teaches you the sixth. You won’t need to know the name of these notes, just their chord function. Think in terms of root notes. Give your head a break.

If you’r playing simple progressions such as C-F-G7. Learn where the C lays in different places, the F and G also. Learning these positions will help you with other keys. Pretty soon you’ll know how to make your own chords without needing a chord book.

My 2 and 1/2 cents.
 

ploverwing

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I’m sure you’re right, Anthony. First I need to get the mechanics down, then the lightbulbs will come on in my brain.
I adore the ukulele, but part of my difficulty is that I’m used to strings that are all the same distance apart—in fifths, for example (GDAE). With the ukulele, the steps from string to string are uneven and the logic of it hasn’t yet kicked in for me. But I’m determined! And everyone on UU is so encouraging. Thank you again!
Oh my goodness!! Me too!!!! I feel your pain ;)
 

Patty

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One thing that is very important is to know how to locate chord tones.
Know where the third, fifth, sixth and b7 are. Then you don’t need to learn scales. These tones are located in patterns.

What becomes important then is just knowing where the root note lays.

Learning the root notes then becomes important and gradually teaches you the fret board. Start by learning the third and fifth. The third teaches you the fourth. The fifth teaches you the sixth. You won’t need to know the name of these notes, just their chord function. Think in terms of root notes. Give your head a break.

If you’r playing simple progressions such as C-F-G7. Learn where the C lays in different places, the F and G also. Learning these positions will help you with other keys. Pretty soon you’ll know how to make your own chords without needing a chord book.

My 2 and 1/2 cents.
My problem is in playing melodies, though, not chords. I play mostly classical stuff. But it’s true that learning chord patterns would help make the fretboard more understandable. So thanks!
 

Jan D

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I adore the ukulele, but part of my difficulty is that I’m used to strings that are all the same distance apart—in fifths, for example (GDAE). With the ukulele, the steps from string to string are uneven and the logic of it hasn’t yet kicked in for me.
Patty, I came to the uke with good music notation sight reading skills (from years of piano and harp playing). When I decided I wanted to play more than just chords on my ukulele, I decided to learn where the notes were located on the fretboard. Two things helped me with that process - (a) understanding that every fret represented a half-step or semi-tone, and (b) playing scales. I knew that the open 3rd string was C, so if I fretted the C string at the first fret, I now had C# (or Db). The second fret on the C string would be D, on so on. Using that knowledge, I was able to find and play each note of the C scale. Rather than playing the scale up and down the C string (which would be less efficient when playing a tune, and would also reduce the sustain for each note), I took advantage of the open strings. When I got to the E note, I moved from the C string to the E string. When I came to the A note, I moved to the A string. Over and over, I practiced the C scale an octave up and then back down. I then tried playing simple melodies that only used notes in that octave. After that, I figured out the notes I needed to play the C scale two octaves up and down. And then worked on tunes that included notes in both octaves. Then it was rinse and repeat for the G and D scales, and playing tunes in those keys, so that I could become familiar with the F# and C# locations. Continuing to practice the scales over and over really helped. Some people find that saying the name of the note out loud while playing it also helps to reinforce the knowledge.

Early on, I realized there was more than one location on the fretboard for many of the notes. But I waited quite a while before attempting to figure out where those alternate locations were up the neck. Once I was ready, I starting looking for them, and then began incorporating them into my scale practice. As I became more familiar with various small groupings of notes higher up the neck, I tried using some of those notes when playing a tune, especially when it was physically more efficient to do so. Over time, using those higher up notes became more natural.

It’s a process, for sure. But one that is well worth the effort. I do play from tablature as well, but the majority of the fingerstyle music in my uke repertoire is in standard notation. A lot of the melodies came from my piano, harp, and hammered dulcimer music collections - which don’t exist in ukulele tablature. My musical world would be much, much smaller if I didn’t read music. :)

Wishing you the best of luck on your own journey, Patty!