Simple tools for teaching and learning.
Guitar players have developed some unique ways of communicating their musical ideas beyond what we might consider standard music notation. In fact, one would expect that many (if not most) guitar players are far more familiar with reading TAB’s, chord charts, and neck diagrams than traditional music scores. Some might think this is because guitar players are generally lazy when it comes to reading music (a case could probably be made for this) but it could also be explained as a simple matter of instrument anatomy.
Fretted instruments are unique because they require a fretboard in order to communicate musical ideas. While the piano has every note laid out in order of the musical alphabet, the guitar neck could be viewed as six short keyboards stacked on top of one another. Each one starting from a different note at the open strings.
This is where the idea of shapes becomes quite an important theme in learning how to play the guitar. As we learn, we begin engaging with all sorts of different shape combinations on the fretboard. We find there are limitations in the shapes that our fingers are capable of playing. We notice that numerous shapes repeat themselves in various ways across the guitar neck. We begin to see how all of these different patterns overlap and interconnect with each other. The need to sort through and organise this geometric information, is precisely why fretboard diagrams are an essential visualization tool for many guitar players.
Using and creating fretboard diagrams can be extremely helpful regardless of experience or skill level. While fretboard templates can be useful for various purposes, their three main functions are as follows:
1 | Memorizing Shapes: Using diagrams is a helpful way to memorize new shapes such as chords, scales, intervals, and arpeggios. If you are a teacher, you will already know how important these types of diagrams can be as worksheets for students. They assist in communicating new ideas visually and demonstrate how musical concepts relate to the guitar fretboard practically.
2 | Understanding Shapes: Secondly, fretboard diagrams can be used to breakdown the chords and scales we already know. This can be a helpful way to understand more thoroughly what we are playing. Ultimately, the end goal is always to be musical with what we are learning. Memorizing shapes isn’t an end within itself, but a tool to assist us in our creativity. Learning how chords and scales relate to each other, and understanding the notes and intervals that comprise these shapes, is an important part of this process. Attempting to visualize this information all at once can be very difficult, especially while playing. Using neck diagrams as visual aids make this task significantly easier.
3 | Creating Shapes: Lastly, fretboard templates are useful for writing down the various shapes and chord voicing’s we might discover when experimenting with new progressions and song ideas. Even when we record our ideas, sometimes it may be hard to discern on playback the precise shapes and positions being played. This is particularly true if we are listening back to an idea weeks, or even months, later. Additionally, these types of diagrams are also helpful in communicating our ideas to other guitar players.
If you’re not already using neck diagrams as a basic tool in your playing, there are a few key points to consider. This pack of blank templates consists of numerous fretboard layouts for you to create diagrams from (both horizontal and vertical). While there are possibly more templates here than you would ever need, these will provided various options for visualizing the fretboard in different ways. May they assist you in continued learning and creativity.
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