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Four Ways to Visualize the Fretboard

Having a visual sense of the fretboard can help you navigate its entire length as well instantly articulate melodies and phrases when inspiration hits you during performance.

In this video, guitar instructor Tyler Larson takes us through four different ways to visualize the fretboard. His methods include:

Patterns, such as three-note-per-string or triad patterns

Shapes, such as the shapes of triads. “You’re not necessarily looking for these shapes over chord progressions,” he says. “You’re using them as reference points to create your own solos.”

The music theory approach. This involves knowing all the notes on the neck and the intervallic relationships between them and chords. As Tyler demonstrates, this can be a great way to emulate the sounds of your favorite guitarists by targeting the intervals that they commonly use.

By feel.

“I think the best way to visualize the fretboard is to have a combination of all these things,” Tyler says. “These are the four ways I think will help you learn to do this if you’ve never considered visualizing the fretboard in this way before.”

Take a look, and be sure to check out Tyler’s Music Is Win channel on YouTube.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player (opens in new tab) magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World (opens in new tab), a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.