Learning and Remembering the Notes on the Guitar

My Struggle & How I Triumphed:  Learning and Remembering the Notes on the Guitar – without the Struggle  by Philip Glaser


Philip's Learn ALL the Notes of the Guitar Flash Cards


Editor’s note – Solid reading skills are the key to using the many fine available Etudes, these cards will jump start anyone’s efforts to establish excellent reading skills, as Philip’s story makes clear.

I’m an amateur guitar player, not a performer or a guitar teacher.  I do like to make videos of my playing for YouTube– mostly of classical guitar pieces.

Back in 2004, I could read guitar music, but not very well when it involved notes beyond the 4th fret of the guitar.  I was seeing a guitar teacher regularly, and I was also going slowly through Frederick Noad’s very good book, “Solo Guitar Playing, volume 1.”

In that book, when I got to the chapters covering learning the notes on the 5th and 7th positions, (5th fret and higher), I really got bogged down.  I did the exercises in the book again and again, but I just couldn’t seem to remember the notes very well.  I kept coming back to the exercises in those two chapters – I could play the exercises, but remembering the notes was something else.

My guitar teacher gave me a suggestion about learning the notes on the fretboard – I remember her saying “When you come for the lesson next week, show me where all of the A notes are, on the guitar.  I managed to do that, but that method didn’t help me a lot.  I needed to do something systematically  and on a daily basis to learn the notes, so I tried memorizing the notes fret by fret, looking at a chart that showed all the notes on the guitar fretboard.

That was also a frustrating and tedious experience, and didn’t help a lot.  Then I got the idea of making a set of flash cards –  one card for each note on the guitar – and using the cards every day to test myself in recognizing each individual note, saying what letter note it is and where it is on the guitar, and then – very important – playing that note.  Just a small number of cards each day – but testing myself every day.

The repetition of seeing and using these cards every day was the answer to my problem. This system is the same as that of using language flash cards. The repetition of seeing the cards and testing yourself with them guarantees that you learn.

With guitar flash cards, you see the notes on the cards again and again, and what you see again and again are exactly the same notes that you’ll see when you look at a printed guitar arrangement.  I like to say, now, that when I look at the notes in a guitar arrangement, I’m kind of looking at “old friends” – the same notes that I saw every day, with the cards.  This method changed my (guitar) life.  I can now easily play from printed guitar arrangements.

When a guitar playing friend of mine happened to mention that he can play only from tablature, and that he can’t read guitar music, I thought that my cards might also be the answer for him. I also noticed on YouTube the number of people looking at videos about learning the notes on the fretboard, and from their comments, I could see that many, many people do wish that they could be able to read guitar music, and get beyond just using tablature.  So I had the cards printed not too long ago, and I’m very happy to now have them listed on the great “Strings by Mail” website.

My name is Philip, so I “modestly” called my cards “Philip’s Learn ALL the Notes on the Guitar Flash Cards(Up to and including the 12th fret).”



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