Before looking further at the guitar fretboard, it is important to observe some of its unique aspects as compared to other instruments.
One of the fundamental differences that sets stringed instruments like the guitar apart from other instruments like the piano or other keyboarded instruments, is that on the guitar fretboard, there is more than one way to play exactly the same note, chord or scale.
In the diagram below, we can see that the “middle C” on the keyboard only appears once, whilst on the guitar, it can be played on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th string on the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th fret respectively.
On the keyboard, you can play the major scale in the key of C with only the white keys.
However, for every other key, you need to use a different pattern of white and black keys.
That means you have to memorize 12 different patterns for the major scale and its related chords.
However, on the guitar, you can play any major or minor scale or mode in any key with the same pattern.
You just have to move it up or down the fretboard to change the key.
The same goes for most guitar chords.
However, this does not make the guitar easier to play!
The guitar has many challenges and advantages that make it a unique and fascinating instrument.
For one thing, the guitar has fewer notes than the keyboard.
A standard piano has 88 keys, which gives you 7 octaves plus a minor third.
A 24-fret guitar has only 30 notes, which gives you only 4 octaves.
Of course, that means you have a more limited range on the guitar.
However, on the other hand, the guitar can do many things that are impossible to do on a keyboard.
For instance, on the guitar, you can use many unique articulations like slides, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, trills, natural or pinched harmonics, vibrato and more.
These techniques give you excellent expressive and unique creative possibilities on the guitar.
Also, as previously mentioned, the guitar has many different ways to play the same scale or chord in the same key allowing you to use different patterns and shapes all over the fretboard.
This gives you more flexibility and multiple options for phrasing and improvising.
Of course, it is not a competition as to which is best, because both the keyboard and the guitar are wonderful instruments in their own right!
THE GUITAR FRETBOARD
Here is the guitar fretboard with all the intervals of the C MAJOR scale mapped out and presented in the simple colour and shape system that is used throughout the FRETPAL app and this manual:
We can see that regardless of the starting point, any pattern starting on the SAME ADJACENT FRETS on the 6th/5th string repeats on the 4th/3rd string 2 frets up and again on the 2nd/1st string a further 3 frets up.
We can also clearly see the colours and shapes of each of the individual notes.
Obviously, this diagram enables us to better understand how the major/minor scale and all of their modes are laid out on the fretboard as a whole entity.
However, for it to be of more practical use to us in the FRETPAL app, the diagram needs to be simplified.
As we have now established our colour and shape system and how the top and bottom 2 string combinations relate to the 2 middle string combinations, we can leave them out of our diagram.
Which leaves us with this :-
THE MASTER DIAGRAM
Now, using the relationship we have established, the diagram above gives us plenty of information that enables us when using the FRETPAL app to QUICKLY and EASILY find:
1. All whole and half-tones.
2. All MAJOR and MINOR 3rd intervals.
3. All root notes of the MAJOR and MINOR scale and their MODES.
4. The notes to be omitted (the very easy to spot GREEN and VIOLET diamonds) from any MAJOR or MINOR scale, which when left out, make the template for any MAJOR or MINOR pentatonic scale.
This is the basic diagram used throughout the FRETPAL app upon which all SCALE, MODE, PENTATONIC/BLUES scale or ARPEGGIO formations are plotted out for you.
Now, you are probably thinking that it would be a great idea to put markers like this directly on to your fretboard to replace the practically useless markers that are already there.
Well, yes it is, and at the same time, no it isn’t.
There is NO NEED to put these markers on your guitar fretboard or indeed anywhere else on your guitar to use the FRETPAL app,
However, if you were to put markers onto the fretboard in this way, the viewing angle for you while you are actually playing the guitar is way too awkward to be of any practical use to you.
Besides, there is no need to make any direct alterations to, or risk causing damage to your fretboard.
However, if you wish, you can make these markers and put them on the back of the guitar neck, near to, but not touching the top edge of the guitar fretboard as illustrated in the diagram below.
Remember that in this configuration, the pattern is that for the 3rd and 4th strings and you will have to move everything down by 2 frets when playing on the 6th and 5th string, or up by 3 frets when playing on the 2nd and 1st string.
These markers will help you to construct scale, mode and arpeggio patterns on the fly when you do not have access to the FRETPAL app.
If you want to make and use these markers, click on the link below to download a PDF file which contains download links to the PNG image files along with guidelines on how they should be made.
N.B. Due to right-click/copying restrictions in the FRETPAL app, you will not be able to download the image files directly from inside this application.
You will first need to download the PDF document to your computer by clicking the download icon at the top of the PDF file and save it to your preferred location.
Once you have done that, you can then download the image files for the markers by following the instructions in the PDF document.
Remember that it is NOT NECESSARY to put these markers anywhere on your guitar to use the FRETPAL application or this manual.
It is entirely your own choice.
There are 2 options for the markers available, with letters or without, both of which are on transparent backgrounds.
N.B. To preserve the transparency backgrounds in the templates, please ensure that they are saved in PNG or some other format that supports a transparent background.
USING THE FRETPAL APP
The FRETPAL app has been developed to include all the major/minor, pentatonic and blues scales, inversions, arpeggios, modes and modal pentatonics in the key of C major/A minor.
So, what about playing in different keys?
We shall return to that a little later.
Before looking at different keys, and ESPECIALLY if you are new to the guitar, it is best to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the FRETPAL app by exploring and practicing everything in the key of C major/A minor.
This is important because even If you are an intermediate or advanced guitarist, you may (and most probably will) find that you have never seen or used some, or perhaps many of the scale/mode patterns in the FRETPAL app.
How to practice and learn the scale/mode patterns.
1. PLAY ALL THE SCALES/MODES UP AND DOWN WITH A METRONOME.
This method WILL get you results, however, it is very mechanical and un-musical.
It is far better to learn all the scale and mode patterns by actually making music with them.
2. PLAY ALONG WITH MUSIC IN THE KEY OF C MAJOR/A MINOR.
Make sure that the music is in C major/A minor because you can use any scale/mode in the FRETPAL app as is, without needing to transpose it into another key.
Besides, C major/A minor are the most common keys in music.
Click the button below to find thousands of popular songs written in the key of C major/A minor.
There is sure to be something there that you like and would love to play along with!
Playing along with your favourite music is by far the best way to help you to use all the different scale and mode patterns in the FRETPAL app in the appropriate musical context.
Of course, you can replicate the melody, riffs, licks, guitar solos or any other musical content by exploring and using the many scale or mode patterns that are available in the FRETPAL app.
However, if you want to interpret the song in a different way, you can use the same patterns to come up with your own licks or solos.
3. PLAY ALONG WITH BACKING TRACKS.
There are thousands of backing tracks available for free on the internet for any scale/mode and in any key you want.
Without having to transpose any of the patterns in the FRETPAL app to another key, you will need to use backing tracks in:
The key of C major (C Ionian) or A minor (A Aeolian) or any of their modes – D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, or B Locrian.
Use the FRETPAL app to explore and play every relevant scale/mode pattern thoroughly.
Using backing tracks will enable you to :-
– Practice your timing and rhythm by following the tempo and groove of the track.
– Make music with the scale/mode you are exploring rather than just playing it mechanically.
– Express yourself creatively by improvising and adding your own flair to the track.
– Learn new styles and genres by exploring different kinds of music and playing techniques.
– Have fun and enjoy playing music without the pressure of performing in front of an audience.
USING THE FRETPAL APP TO PLAY IN OTHER KEYS
We already know that we can use the same scale, mode, chord, inversion or arpeggio pattern to play in any key all over the fretboard by simply moving their root notes to the desired position.
Let’s say we want to play in the key of D major.
First of all, remember that the D major scale is otherwise known as D IONIAN and then select the dashboard screen below:
The dashboard screen above shows us everything we need to know about playing in the key of D major.
We know that D is 2 half steps or semi-tones up from C.
Therefore, we need to move everything up by 2 frets.
Now, there is a very useful feature of the FRETPAL app in that you can open up as many instances of it as you need on the same device.
This feature is ideal for study and comparison purposes.
You can keep the D major dashboard screen open for reference and start up a fresh instance of the FRETPAL app.
Navigate to the home dashboard page and click on the FRETBOARD button which will take you to the master fretboard for the key of C major.
You can then navigate to any scale/mode, chord, inversion or arpeggio pattern you want to use.
For example, the diagram below shows you one of the 4-3 notes per string patterns starting on the 6th string which works in conjuction with a “G shaped” full C triad shape:
To play the equivalent chord shape or scale/mode pattern in the key of D, we simply move them up by 2 frets.
So, the “G shaped” C major triad in the screenshot above becomes a “G shaped” D major triad.
All the chord shapes, formations and fingerings etc for the scales/modes remain the same.
The only thing that changes is the notes within them.
If you are struggling to remember the notes/chords that apply to the key of D major, you can always refer back to the dashboard screen that you have kept open.
Don’t forget that to play in the key of D major, everything else in the key of C major needs to moved up by 2 frets.
That is, the IV chord (F) becomes G, the V chord (G) becomes A, the PHRYGIAN mode changes from E to F# and so on.
Again, keeping the reference dashboard screen for D major open will help to keep you on track.
You can either keep both screens open on your desktop or toggle between them from your taskbar, whichever is easiest for you.
The FRETPAL app interface has zoom in/out capabilities and can also be re-sized to suit the scale and layout of your computer display settings.
You can also zoom in/out by holding down the CTRL key while rolling the mouse wheel back and forward, or holding down the CTRL key and pressing either ++ or — (on the numeric keypad).
If, as was previously recommended, you have thoroughly worked your way through and explored everything in the key of C major, the process of using the FRETPAL app for other keys should be much easier for you.
Remember too that there is also another handy option in the menu just like in most internet browsers that enables you to store your favourites.
This will allow you to call up your favourite scale/mode patterns anytime to use in any key you like.