Ev­ery month, Justin Sandercoe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: De­vel­op­ing the fret­board in your mind.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Food For Thought, Ses­sion Shenani­gans, Jam Tracks tips, That Was The Year, Phil Hil­borne’s One-Minute Lick and more.

De­vel­op­ing a fret­board in your mind is a fan­tas­tic tool that you can use in many dif­fer­ent ways. ‘Men­tal’ prac­tice can be some­times even more ef­fec­tive than phys­i­cal prac­tice in cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

The idea is to build a fret­board in your mind that you can use to prac­tice any time you want. Ideally you’ll be able to hear the notes too (this will be dis­cussed in a later ar­ti­cle) but to start with you should try to de­velop your knowl­edge of the note names on the fret­board.

I have a pretty clear men­tal pic­ture of the fret­board of my 1995 Fender Stra­to­caster Deluxe. I know where the frets are more worn and I can al­most feel it in my hand just by visu­al­is­ing it. I would sug­gest you try to build a spe­cific gui­tar in your mind rather than a generic one; it some­how makes it more pow­er­ful. Study the neck and then close your eyes and build an im­age of it. I can ro­tate mine from a front-on look to the po­si­tion it is in when I play. Try and do that too – re­ally imag­ine the feel­ing of it in your hand.

A great first ex­er­cise is to find the same note on each string, start­ing on the sixth and work­ing your way up to the first and back, us­ing only your first fin­ger and no open strings. If you are un­fa­mil­iar with the notes on the neck there’s a di­a­gram you can re­fer to on my web­site, but as soon as pos­si­ble you need to have that in­for­ma­tion off the page and into your mem­ory.

Let’s start with the note C. Imag­ine your first fin­ger placed on the 8th fret of the sixth string, then move it over to the 3rd fret of the fifth. Then fol­low across the strings and the note C will be on frets 10, 5, 1 and 8 and then back down. Just start with this C note and re­ally make sure it is solid in your mind. You can and should do this ex­er­cise on the in­stru­ment too! Once you are con­fi­dent with C, try G. Then do all the Cs then all the Gs. Then add D,A, E, B and F, re­mem­ber­ing to prac­tise the pre­vi­ous notes as well as the new one. This is an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful tool on its own but this next ex­er­cise is the one that re­ally con­nects it all for most stu­dents.

Now in your mind place your first fin­ger on the 6th fret of the sixth string. And name the note. Then move it down a string (same fret, fifth string). Now name that. Then move it down a string again and so on. You should have had the

Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Bb notes F and or their en­har­monic equiv­a­lents (A#, D#, G#, C#, F and A#).

Now pick a ran­dom note on the first string and work up. Maybe the 10th fret be­cause ev­ery­one gets a bit rusty up there. So, 10th fret, first string is the note?? Now name the note at the 10th fret sec­ond string, third string and so on. You should have D,A, F, C, G and D.

Five min­utes a day of these ex­er­cises (nail the first one be­fore even think­ing about the sec­ond) will re­ally help you get to know your fret­board – and do­ing it only in your mind will ac­cel­er­ate your learn­ing of it – and it can be done any­where and no­body even need know you are prac­tis­ing (do­ing it while driv­ing is not go­ing to be a good idea!).

Once you know the notes on the fret­board clearly and can see your hand on it – try play­ing some scales, arpeg­gios or ac­tual licks in your mind be­fore you try to play them. It’s a real learn­ing ac­cel­er­a­tor – give it a chance to grow and I’m sure you’ll find it ben­e­fi­cial. Happy mind games!

Men­tal prac­tice can be even more ben­e­fi­cial than phys­i­cal prac­tice

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