Fretboard Visualization Methods



I recommend checking Effective Music Practice by Prokopis Skordis:

His SFS approach is simple and amazing. It helped me a lot. Actually I found Cracking the Code thanks to SFS.



Great thread!
In my experience there are many approaches, too many and I tried almost all of them but still lacking a connection in real time with Music.
In my view all these are marketing solutions to sell to frustrated guitarist (like myself…), each approach is tailored for the one that found this approach but in the end what makes an approach work it is not the approach in itself but its application in Music.
We think that in order to be a great improviser we must know everything about notes intervals… in reality these are just human concepts that are used to teach and to communicate musical ideas, for improvising are necessary musical ideas and being able to express them conveying emotion…
People that play pattern on scale are the most boring musicians to listen in my view , what we need are emotions and communication.
As JakeEstner suggest the best way to practice fretboard knowledge is studying and playing the music you like, not patterns, shapes, do re mi fa sol., etc etc…
If I would apply Nir Felder approach I would have my head explode in searching the notes for that momentary scale… too mental for me! It is like thinking to each letter while we speak for me…
I think the best approach is to find a way to play what you like and gives you emotion on the guitar in as many places you can… the rest is just good for writing and selling books and methods…


I do think that for any approach - ANY approach, there is a phase of having to practice and ingrain it, then there is a phase where it can come out organically. I think in the end we don’t want to discredit approaches that seem ‘too technical’ because it’s possible that with efficient practice the approach will feel very natural. This is coming from someone who has practiced a LOT of extremely technical, detailed stuff…for me, a lot of things that require tons of brain power at first do eventually become natural.


Yes and no…

While playing scales up and down “as a way of life” is a pretty terrible thing, not even knowing anything is pretty much the opposite and also terrible, imagine trying to play any idea having zero technique.

The game is about finding the balance in between using the least possible amount of “bandwith” so you can focus on being musical and on a higher level respond to what’s going on around you.

Most people that are frustrated with scales haven’t gone deep enough into them so they can integrate them with the rest of their knowledge. At least, that’s what I’ve seen as a player and teacher for many years.


I think we are in an époque where there is an overflow of information that confuses us…
Few years ago there were no youtube, methods, site etc etc and there was A LOT OF GREAT MUSIC as well… people learnt to play instruments studying from LP, CD, tapes Music played by Masters without the 20 millions methods we have nowadays… I am just pointing out this concept, then you are free to study all the methods you want…
I did so (I got also a BA Hons in guitar) but at the end, the best way for me is just focus on the Music you love…


Sure you need to have the basics of H&T and develop your technique, I am just talking about the method for visualizing scales all over the fretboard…


Your point being… not having any?

No offense intended, just trying to get it…


My point is that we don’t need a method developed by whoever, we need to find our own solution, that one that works for you does not necessarily works for me…
Sorry I didn’t express it clearly…


Got it now, cool man.

That’s kind of the point of sharing here all the ways that we collectively know, so you can at least have some ideas of where to start depending on your preferences.

Finding your own way is probably a lot easier when you can understand what others have done before you.

“Different strokes for different folks” Frank Gambale :wink:


absolutely! Perfection is an iterative process that never reach the end…


I think you need a combination of all ways.

Personally I think knowing the note names is essential because then you can teach yourself 3NPS Scales, Arpeggios In Position, 2NPS Arpeggios, Triads, Drop 2 Chord, Drop 3 Chords, Shell Voicings, etc.

I found the best way to learn the notes on the strings was playing on a single string, finding a specific note in all Strings as fast as you can (ex. Where are all the D notes), and saying the note names aloud when you are playing scales and arpeggios.

Then it is about memorizing these shapes, and that is when I think about things from a root note perspective and what intervals I’m playing. Most of these shapes are also symmetrical and repeat at the octave- Example being 2NPS Arpeggios- all exactly the same just repeating the Shape an octave higher.

Of course for this you have to know your theory- how scales and arpeggios, chords (and chord Voicings) are constructed, and what notes are in them.


The best method I ever came across was just seeing the 3nps scales as ONE pattern.

I just imagine that I’m playing in P4 tuning (all fourths tuning), so I can visualize the 3nps major scale shape as one long repeating shape. It looks like this:

As you can see, it’s just a repeating pattern of red and blue chunks. So it’s a 7-string shape.

The tricky part is remembering to shift the shape one fret to the right when crossing from G to B string.

But all I do is practice bits of this shape across that G-B string border in order to ingrain that into my finger memory - no memory tricks needed. I don’t have to memorize 7 big 3nps shapes.

I hope everyone finds this helpful because it blew my mind when I first saw it.


I always assumed that Steve Vai saw the fretboard this way, and it was the reason he preferred a 7-string guitar.


Well, nothing prevents you from visualizing on strings you don’t even have…

I know I use 7th and even 8th string references on a 6 string.


Playing on a seven strings, I love this method too.
I was also amazed when I realized the 3nps pattern would loop after 7 strings!


Hi Patternblue,
interesting, this is also something I use, that I learned a long time ago in a lesson.

The cool thing is, the chunks repeat when going up the string as well as changing to another string. So knowing the 3nps shapes and their order is a lot easier.

BTW, did you notice, that the number of “sets”, are depended on the number of notes in the scale? So you have 7 in your case, and then they repeat.

If you look at, for example, the pentatonic, it also repeats but there are 5 “sets”, that repeat.

And so on, dependent on what scale is used. I find it a great way to visualize the fretboard. I have never seen anyone else mention. Cool :+1: