Guitar Fretboard Exercises.

Knowing Your Guitar Fretboard Well Is A Great Skill To Have.

The better you know your fretboard, the easier it is to learn anything on a guitar.

Some of the advantages to knowing your fretboard really well include:

  1. You learn songs much more easily
  2. Learning guitar solos takes much less time.
  3. Your own guitar solos improve tremendously. Improvisation becomes much easier
  4. Learning new scales and fingerings becomes a breeze
  5. You memorize anything with much less effort because you see all the connections and relationships on the fretboard
  6. Music theory becomes easier to understand because you see how everything relates on the guitar neck.
  7. It improves your sight reading.
  8. Your playing becomes much more free, more expressive, more inspired. The reason for this, is that you are less in your head, and more in the moment and in the music.
  9. You become much more confident as a guitarist, and it shows on stage
  10. You play much better shows. You feel more in control.

Some people just want to learn songs, and that is totally fine.
But for the students who really want to learn how and why things work, and who get interested in learning more about theory, guitar and so on, I always give those students fretboard exercises.

Download following pdf with exercises.

Fretboard exercises

Here’s what you do with this.

The first bar in the pdf shows where all the C’s are on a guitar.
Play the first C (8th fret on the low/bass E string), then figure out the C on the A string.
Play these 2 C notes (the one on the low E string and the one on the A string) back and forth.

For maximum results and progress:

  1. say the fret numbers out loud (8… 3… 8… 3… 8… 3… ). Or even better, say: 8th fret on E string, 3rd fret on A string, 8th fret on… etc.
  2. look at your fretting hand,
  3. feel how your fretting hand is moving around, feel the distance from fret 8 to fret 3 and back.
  4. take all the information in, sharpen all your senses.

The idea is that you activate as many senses as you can at any given time.
Say it, see it, hear it, feel it!

Keep repeating the two C’s, jumping back and forth, till you can do jump super fast between them without having to think anymore.
Then add the C note on the D string.

Important: you should practice this in both directions.
What I mean by that is:

Play C on the low E string, then C on the A string, then C on the D string… and THEN, C on the A string again and then C on the E string, and so on.
Don’t skip strings: move from E string to A string to D string to A string to E string, to A string, to D string and so on.

Repeat all of the above, but now including the C note on the D string.

When you feel very comfortable with those 3 C’s, add the one on the G string.
Apply the same method: moving from E string, to A string to D string to G string to D string to A string to E string, to A string to D string, etc.
Don’t skip strings. Again: you want to be able find all the C notes in either direction from top to bottom and vice versa.

Repeat all of the above, but now including the C note on the G string.
When you feel very comfortable with those 3 C’s, add the one on the B string.
Repeat all the above, then finally add the C on the E string. This should be easy, as it is in the same location as the first C you learned on the low E string.

Keep playing all 6 C notes up and down till you feel you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Bravo: you now know all the C notes.
THAT, was the hardest part.

When you still have brain power and energy left, move on to doing all the above exactly as explained, but now with all the D notes.

This should be way easier, because it is basically everything you’ve just done (the C’s), but now up 2 frets.

Once you covered all the D notes, don’t move on to the E notes.
Instead: go back and do all the C’s again. Repetition is good for you. Repetition leads to better memorization.

For now, skill ALL the combination exercises that alternate between 2 different notes (letters).
Only practice the exercises/measures that cover 1 note only.

As such: your next exercise will be to learn all the E notes.
Do everything exactly as outlined above, but now with all the E’s.
These should be easier because you don’t have to learn the outer 2 strings, which are both tuned to E notes.

When you have the E notes down, revisit all the C’s and D’s for memory purposes.

After this: move on to all the F notes, doing all the above, then all the G’s, then all the A notes and finally all the B’s.

You could practice this over several 5-10 minute sessions throughout the day.

Important: do these drills every day! Don’t skip a day.
The more regularly you do these drills, the sooner you will get the notes on your guitar neck memorized.
Memory works best, when the same information is fed to it very regularly.

It’s been my experience that 9 out of the 10 times, when a student says “I’ve never been good at memorizing things”, that the REAL issue is that the student has never been good at organizing or prioritizing their practice sessions.

Effective memorization merely depends upon 2 elements:

  1. Regularity: Prioritize and get organized so you find ways to repeat the information and exercises on a daily basis.
  2. Have a system that boosts memorization. In this case: combine all your senses as discussed earlier in the blog.

If you apply all this: you should see amazing results in the improvement of your fretboard knowledge.

When you learned where all the C’s, D’s, E’s, F’s, G’s, A’s and B’s are, start doing the combination exercises that alternate between 2 notes.

Once you covered all of these: move on to doing all the above, but with the black keys of the piano. (C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, G#/Ab and A#/Bb)

This is going to keep you busy for a while. 🙂

Turn This Into A Game for More Practice Fun.

If you want to push things to the next level, you could turn this into a game using a timer.
Start your timer, and as fast as you can, play all the C’s up and down the strings, then the D’s, then the E’s etc, and when you finish your last B note, you quickly stop the timer, and write down your time.

The day after: you do this again trying to beat your record.

To raise the level of difficulty, you could also change the order of the notes.
Do following exercise with a timer:

Play all the C’s up and down as fast as you can, then all the F’s, B’s, E’s, A’s, D’s and G’s, then stop the time.
Practice the notes in that order.

Have fun!
You’re well on your way to fantastic musicianship!

Be on the look out for more blogs about everything guitar, music, songwriting and music education.

Meanwhile: give this blog a rating and give me your feedback in the comments section below. I believe everything can always be improved, and I gladly would implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.


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