Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Note-Well - Mastering the Fingerboard

if you are still struggling with the fretboard and names of notes it can be pretty daunting to try to apply concepts that you learn, especially in real time, say in a jam.  If someone is calling chords out, or you're looking at a chord chart it's just simply frustrating if you don't know the names of the notes you're playing. It can feel like you're playing blind.  

A good portion of us have 4 strings, with 21 frets... that's 84 different notes to learn.  Again..it can be daunting.  Yes there are only 12 notes, and they repeat, but if we want to be fretboard masters, we really need to know all 84 notes, more if you're a 5, 6 string player.  

... I watched an Anthony Wellington master-class video on Scotts Bass Lessons.. he jokes about running into a student and saying "15th fret, A string" and that student has to know it's C .. but..he's serious.. it's your vocabulary.. no.. your alphabet and if you're denying yourself that, again you'll find frustration trying to follow a lead sheet and know where to put your fingers .. "you'll see the chord is AbMaj7 .. you'll know the notes are Ab C Eb G .. but .. where are those notes on the fretboard? How can you play it anywhere and groove, and and be musical, and interesting, and have a bass face that doesn't look like you're screaming "HELLLLP MEEEE" on the inside :P  

Other than saying "ya just gotta learn it" ( which maybe works for some) there has to be an easier way right?  ( insert cheesy late night infomercial voice here ) .. "  Whyyyyy yes there is!!! Call now to buy the Note Well, if you call in the next 10 minutes we'll throw in a new pick and a half of a ham sandwich. " 

Ahem.. but seriously... I used to use this terribly cheesy thing with younger students that has worked well in the past... the description is a bit cheesy but the concept works, and it's essentially what Anthony is talking about.. I call it the Note-Well ... it's  the place where you keep all the names of the notes on the fretboard, for later retrieval.  

so.. if you start out and completely fill your note-well with every possible note and then try to retrieve one at a later date it'll be tough.. it's too many notes to keep track of too soon.  

So start with literally just one note ( you probably already have more than one ) .. but .. just one note on one string.. say... 8th fret on A .. it's an F. Great... now.. put that note in your note-well ( this is where I'd make the motion of taking the note off the bass and inserting it into my head by squishing it in forcefully... kids dig it.. teenagers just think you're weird ... adults start scanning for the nearest exit ) and don't forget it..

Now same as Anthony says..if I walk up to you on the street and say where is an F on the A string.. BAM.. you know where it is.. easy to remember...one note.  Success.  

Then..start adding notes one by one.. here and there... great you have say 4-5 notes.. cool... now.. if I said where is an F# on the A string.. Bam.. it's easy because you already remember where F is.. you just need to go up one fret... and now because F is in your Note-well the recall time is much faster... and chances are you barely thought about the F, you just went for the F#.  

until eventually.. you fill your-note well in an organized fashion...and you know where everything is ( in relation to everything else ) .. because you took the time, one by one. 

Then on your next Jam you're presented with a lovely AbMaj7 chord and all of a sudden you're an AbMaj7 fretboard monster, grooving like mad.