Home  Guitar Home Page 

Copyright © 2017 by Wayne Stegall
December 27, 2017.  See Document History at end for details.

Mapping the Guitar Fingerboard

How to learn all of the notes on your guitar's fingerboard

New Book


Mapping the Guitar Fingerboard

Authored by Wayne Stegall

Mapping the Guitar Fingerboard is a unique and concise guide to learning the fingerboard of the guitar. Regular practice will produce instant recall of every note on the guitar fingerboard in all locations of occurrence. No claim is made of trivial learning ease, all worthwhile endeavors require work. Instead, I assert instead that the study material presented is efficient.

Vertical and horizontal note patterns play notes across the strings and along their lengths in the key of C. Mapping exercises play equivalent notes everywhere they appear on the keyboard in the context of triplets: first in the key of C, then in C-flat and C-sharp.

I originally created the beginning of these exercises for my own use after being admonished in the book Solo Guitar Playing One by Frederick Noad of the importance of the mastery of the entire guitar fingerboard. After proving these exercises in those positions easily accessible to a classical guitar without a cutaway - positions allowing a reach to fret 12 and little beyond - I thought they would be useful to others. To this end, I wrote a computer program to generate the data for the exercises then validated the program against the original material prepared manually. Then I used the same program to generate the data for wider ranges on the guitar, ranges for lower notes on all guitars and to the upper notes of both classical and 24-fret electric guitars. The data was then mapped to standard music notation using a music editor. Conveniently, the scientific music notation output by the program translates directly into material benefiting students without knowledge of standard notation as well.

From first pages of the book:


In Frederick Noad’s book Solo Guitar Playing One,1 he said

It is hard to overemphasize the importance of working toward a thorough knowledge of the fingerboard.  Many students of the guitar who have been playing literally for years have only the vaguest knowledge of the higher positions and are afraid to try pieces that are well within their technical capacity because of the reading difficulties.

After a search for classical guitar materials to implement how I interpreted his suggestions and finding none, I wrote my own.  To his suggestion to learn notes at each fret across the strings, I thought it best to play C-key patterns across the strings that encompassed two frets instead because the varying patterns involved seemed to have more mnemonic value than straight patterns with accidentals.  Then learning the notes up and down the strings would complete the task perpendicular to way it began.  These exercises I called vertical and horizontal note patterns.  To implement his suggestion to play equivalent notes – that is to play each note on all the strings on which it resides – I decided to play triplets in all their positions instead.  As a result the many string crossings that occur would connect knowledge gained on each string with those adjacent and also generally impart a more thorough knowledge by giving each played note a context.  This exercise I called mapping.

I played vertical and horizontal note patterns and mapping in the key of C until I felt I could advance by playing mappings in other keys.  However playing twelve keys seemed much, therefore I chose to prepare learning materials for those keys with all sharps or flats only:  C♯ and C♭.  These turned out so helpful that returning to practice the key of C seemed trivial.

Originally, I wrote exercises to master those positions easily accessible to a classical guitar without a cutaway, which is to positions allowing a reach to fret 12 and little beyond.  However, for a complete book, I added the same exercises beginning higher to reach fret 19 of the classical guitar and fret 24 of the electric guitar.  For those who do not read standard music notation I repeated all of the exercises in scientific music notation as well.

1Frederick M. Noad, Solo Guitar Playing One, (New York: Schirmer Books 1994), p. 159.

Document History
December 27, 2017  Created.