Connect with us


Mastering the Notes on the Neck



Welcome to the first installment of Chuck Anderson’s new column, Exploring Jazz Guitar Improvisation.

Let’s begin by eliminating the hype and misinformation about jazz guitar improvisation. It is not three easy steps. It is not 50 jazz guitar riffs that you must know. It is not based on “boxes”. The only “shortcuts” are based on knowledge, organization and work. 

There are those who improvise well “without” knowledge. That’s not really true. Many outstanding players aren’t conscious of what they do or how they do it.  They may not have the information organized or they may not be able to put it into words. 

Back in the day, guitar players spent much more time interactively with other musicians. There were more “jam” sessions and more late night sessions. I remember, in my career, playing after hours clubs from 3:00 AM to 7:00 AM. This was often after the “regular “club date ended at 1:00 AM.

Today, with so many demands on time from family, work and other obligations, we need a more organized, streamlined approach to this very challenging subject. Each month, I will give you another step in your pursuit of jazz guitar improvisation. It’s a big subject but the rewards are absolutely worth the effort!

This is only available here, in Jazz Guitar Today.

Lesson One in the Exploring Jazz Guitar Improvisation Series: Mastering the Notes on the Neck

We’re going to begin our journey into jazz guitar improvisation in what may be thought of as an unlikely place.

Historically, guitar players have been very weak on their knowledge of the notes on the neck. By knowing the notes, I don’t mean that you can figure them out. Some try the fret by fret approach. Some try the octave approach but in the final analysis, you need to be able to identify any note on the guitar instantly.

The following is from the introduction of your free book on notes. “No matter how many times you’ve tried, you still can’t seem to master their crazy layout. Notes repeat… but sound different. Open notes, fingered notes, notes at octaves … 

Example from ebook – download below

The guitar has a non equidistant tuning system (perfect 4ths and one major 3rd) that’s at least partially responsible for the confusion on note locations. Other string instruments have equidistant tuning, valve or key combinations or the more obvious black and white set up of the piano. 

However, mastering the notes on the neck is critical for the development of the guitarist. For one thing, it’s ridiculous to be ignorant of the notes on your own instrument. Beyond that, knowledge of the neck allows for an easier integration of music theory, reading, improvising and just plain knowing your way around your instrument. What you play on the guitar should be considered music ie notes, not just fingerings or mechanical patterns. There is room for chord diagrams, fingering patterns and tablature but not at the expense of knowing the notes on the guitar. 

There is no one magic, effortless way that will unlock the neck for you. But the Free ebook Download that’s included has a series of exercises and drills that when coupled with an overall philosophy of note awareness will result in mastering the notes on the guitar.


If you wonder whether your knowledge of the neck is where it should be, try these tests.  Name the notes on the guitar, without looking at the guitar, on each string at the 6th fret. Try other frets. Envision a chord and name the notes on random strings within that chord. For example, take a jazz chord formation for Ebm7 at the 11th fret and name the notes in random order.  

If you can instantly and accurately identify every note on the neck, you’re in a good place and ready to move on!

Don’t miss out – Chuck Anderson’s ‘Unlocking the Guitar’ ebook includes: (and it’s free…)

1. Sequential Fret String Order 
2. Random Fret Order
3. Key Fret Concept
4. Three Element Drill
5. Geometric Shapes
6. Held Chords
7. Isolation Drill
8. Visualization
9. Name Notes in Rhythm 
10. Random, Rapid Note Jumping 

Continue Reading

Join the JGT Newsletter

Featured Luthiers