Visualize the Fretboard

Dear Students,
I hope you’re enjoying the guitar course and I hope you’re doing well in general. I want to share with you a technique that I’ve been using for over 20 years that allows me to immerse my brain in guitar as often as I choose. It doesn’t require a guitar, in fact, this technique requires that you DON’T have a guitar while doing this. It can be done anytime, anywhere in the world, in almost any situation you find yourself in throughout your day.

We will visualize our guitar and ourselves playing the guitar. This will make you a faster & smarter guitarist when you are holding your guitar because we have to use our brain before we fret & pick notes. As you become more advanced at visualizing your guitar, this technique will become a meditation.

(Be sure there isn’t a guitar that you can see while doing this – you’ll want to sneak a look – don’t!) Blur your vision or close your eyes and picture your guitar in your mind. See every detail of it. The body, the neck, soundhole (or pickups), headstock, tuners, bridge, nut, saddle, strings, the metal frets, even the fret markers (the dot markers on your fretboard.) See all six strings. Count them from low pitch to high pitch. E A D G B E. Hear the open strings in your mind – all six.

Let’s do some chromatic visualization. Going from low pitch to high, what are the notes on the 1st fret? (F Bb Eb Ab C F) What are the notes on the 2nd fret? (Gb B E A Db Gb) What are the notes on the 3rd fret? (G C F Bb D G) Do this all the way to the 12th fret.

You can count up each string chromatically. E F F# G G#, etc, while keeping track of the frets for each note. On the E string, what note is on the 9th fret?

Now let’s visualize scale & arpeggio shapes. The G major scale is: 3, 5, next string, 2, 3, 5, next string, 2, 4, 5, and so on. The G major arpeggio is: 3, next string, 2, 5, next string, 5, next string, 4, next string, 3, next string, 3, 7. Now do it backwards.

All the while we are trying to imagine what these notes sound like – all in our mind. Most of our ear training work is mental, and this is great practice to learn the sound of our tones.

Let’s visualize some chords. Do a mental picture of every detail of a G chord. Imagine the exact spot each string touches each finger. How close are your fingers to the metal of each fret? Are you muting any strings by accident? Do some mental strums and hear it. Cycle through various chords this way.

Now let’s visualize a song or chord progression we’ve been working on. This helps to memorize elaborate pieces or sections of songs that are tricky. Play the song in your mind. Every note, chord, and detail is important! See the frets, the patterns & shapes, the finger movement, the strum & picking pattern, and see the arrangement or score as if looking at the sheets. Hear it as you play through in your mind.

Finally, we will visualize improvising a solo. I do all of this every day – especially improvising. It centers & relaxes me when I’m in situations without my guitar. Pick a key, pick a scale, and start playing in your mind. Hear every single note. Use techniques (yes, mental techniques) like slides, pulloffs, bends, etc. Shift through positions up & down the fretboard. This is guitar meditation.

This whole thing may sound strange or mystical at first and you may not be good at visualizing at first, but keep practicing – you’ll get better! I am not a mystical person. This is simply using our brain to prepare us for playing the guitar. Do this in any situation where you can’t be playing (in the car, shower, business meeting, classroom, etc.) This will help you immensely – I promise!

Thanks to you all for your reviews & support – I really appreciate you! Talk with you more later,

-Dan (your guitar teacher)