Anchor Tones

In today’s post we will be discussing learning the notes on the guitar fingerboard! Yay! Everyone loves doing this! Woohoo!

But seriously, most guitar players have a strong aversion to learning the notes on the neck. Sure, some will earn the E and A strings fairly well, but how will you every really feel like you are in control if you don’t know the note names? Do you ever wonder why it seems you can’t break out of the same old ruts in your soloing and improvising? Well, learning the note names can certainly make you more in control of your improvising, as you will be able to understand harmony, theory, chords, scales, and melodies much better if you actually can say the note names in them!

For this introductory lesson on note learning, we will be dealing with what I can Anchor Tones. These are going to be 6 key notes you will learn on the low E and A strings.

Even if you are confident in your knowledge of the lowest 2 strings on the guitar, go ahead and review this lesson.

Find the PDF here: Anchor Tones

To really get the most out of these 6 notes, you have to memorize them cold, it isn’t easy.

A starter approach is to just get the first/lowest note down, and “count” up from there. Example: the first/lowest anchor tone is G, so if we just continue up the musical alphabet, we can find any other note. (GABCDE)

But that is just the first step. I want you to be able to immediately recite any anchor tone on the spot. You should know each fret by its note name, just like you would know a best friends name when you see them.

Keep in mind these 6 notes aren’t meant to be played like a scale. In fact, the less you play it like a scale, the better. Mix the notes up, use only your pinky to play all each one (not good technique, but that isn’t the point of this).


Tips for memorizing the anchor tones

  • Recite each note out loud as you play it. Play them in as random of an order as you can
  • Come up with a phonetic device to learn them, a sentence involving all 6 letters in order (I have yet to do this, I just thought of the word gab, and CD, like as in a music cd, and then just had to remember the E).
  • Use to play this game:
    • assign each note a number:
      • G=1
      • A=2
      • B=3
      • C=4
      • D=5
      • E=6
    • Set the parameters on 1=6
    • Each time you “roll” a number, find and play that note, reciting out loud it’s name

Later we will discuss how sharps and flats fit into this whole thing, as well as moving on to memorizing other strings. For now, stick to the 6 anchor tones, and really get them solid.

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