5 Essential Tricks to Visualize the Guitar Fretboard Like a Pro – BERNTH

As a professional guitarist and instructor, I’ve encountered countless students who struggle with visualizing the guitar fretboard correctly. Many players find themselves trapped in a maze of shapes and patterns, unable to fully grasp the interconnectedness of scales, arpeggios, and modes.

Today, I’m going to share with you five essential tricks that will revolutionize the way you approach the fretboard and unlock your true potential as a guitarist.

Trick 1: Seeing the Notes on the Low E and A Strings on Guitar

The foundation of fretboard mastery lies in understanding the layout of notes on the low E and A strings. To simplify this process, I recommend visualizing the white keys of the piano on the fretboard. Start by focusing on the notes E, F, G, A, B, C, and D on the low E string. Once you’ve internalized these notes, you’ll notice that the same sequence repeats on the A string, starting from the note C on the third fret.

By recognizing this repeating pattern, you can quickly navigate between the low E and A strings, knowing that the note layout is essentially the same. To keep things simple, we’ll work with the key of C major throughout this article.

Trick 2: Building Chords on Each Scale Degree

The next step in mastering the fretboard is understanding how chords are built on each scale degree. To do this, we’ll add the third and fifth notes to each scale note of the C major scale. For example, on the first scale degree (C), we have C (root), E (major third), and G (perfect fifth), forming a C major chord.

To visualize this, there are three main arpeggio shapes you should know:

  1. Shape 1: Root (index finger) on the low E string, major third (pinky) on the low E string, perfect fifth (middle or ring finger) on the A string.
  2. Shape 2: Root (middle finger) on the low E string, major third (index finger) on the A string, perfect fifth (pinky) on the A string.
  3. Shape 3: Root (pinky) on the low E string, major third (ring finger) on the A string, perfect fifth (index finger) on the D string.

Practice these shapes and understand their fingerings, as they will be crucial for connecting arpeggios when improvising or playing at high speeds.

Trick 3: Understanding Seventh Chords on Guitar

To form more complex chords, we need to add one more note to our basic arpeggios: the seventh. Depending on the scale degree, this will be either a major seventh or a minor seventh. To find the correct seventh, count up seven notes from the root within the C major scale.

For the C major seventh arpeggio, we count up seven notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) and find that B is the major seventh. Now, you can play the C major seventh arpeggio using the three shapes we discussed earlier, adding the seventh note to each shape.

To visualize the seventh note, you’ll also need to know the notes on the D string. Don’t worry; the same sequence starting from C applies to this string as well.

Trick 4: Unlocking the Modes on Guitar

Here’s where the magic happens. By playing the C major scale starting from different scale degrees, you can unlock all seven modes of the major scale. For example, starting from D (the second note), you play the D Dorian mode. Starting from E (the third note), you get the E Phrygian mode, and so on.

To visualize this, simply add the second, fourth, and sixth notes to the seventh arpeggios you learned in the previous step. This will give you the full seven-note scale for each mode.

Practice playing through all seven modes of the C major scale using this method. As you do so, train your brain to see the underlying seventh arpeggio shapes within each scale position. This will help you think in terms of intervals and notes rather than just shapes on the fretboard.

Trick 5: Extending Scale Shapes on Guitar

The final step in visualizing the entire fretboard is extending the seven-note shapes you’ve learned into higher and lower octaves. To do this, simply repeat the scale formula and the seven notes in the desired octave.

For example, by repeating the C major scale formula, you’ll end up with the classic three-note-per-string scale position. However, instead of just memorizing the shape, you’ll be able to see the underlying arpeggios, such as the C major and C major seventh arpeggios, within the scale shape.

Applying the System in Practice

To hear this system in action, I invite you to check out the opening track from my album “Elevation,” called “The Kindling.” Most of the solos in this song came from improvising and combining scales and arpeggios using the tricks I’ve shared with you today. Thinking in this system has greatly enhanced my ability to create compelling solos and navigate the fretboard with ease.


By mastering these five essential tricks – visualizing notes on the low E and A strings, building chords on each scale degree, understanding seventh chords, unlocking the modes, and extending scale shapes – you’ll be well on your way to visualizing the guitar fretboard like a pro. Remember, consistency and practice are key. The more you apply these concepts to your playing, the more natural and intuitive they will become.

I encourage you to explore the endless creative possibilities that music theory offers. By understanding the inner workings of scales, arpeggios, and modes, you’ll unlock a whole new level of expression and creativity in your guitar playing.


How long does it take to master the guitar fretboard using these tricks?

The time it takes to master the fretboard varies from person to person, depending on factors such as practice frequency and prior musical knowledge. However, by consistently applying these tricks to your practice routine, you can expect to see significant progress in as little as 30 days.

Can these tricks be applied to other keys besides C major?

Absolutely! While we focused on the key of C major for simplicity, these tricks can be applied to any key. Once you understand the underlying principles, you can easily transpose the concepts to other keys and scales.

Are these tricks suitable for beginners or advanced guitarists?

These tricks are beneficial for guitarists of all skill levels. Beginners will find them invaluable for building a strong foundation in fretboard visualization and music theory, while advanced players can use them to deepen their understanding and unlock new possibilities in their playing.

If you’re ready to take your guitar playing to the next level, I invite you to check out my new beginner guitar theory course, available exclusively to my Patreon members. This course will guide you through the fundamentals of music theory and help you apply these concepts to your playing in a practical and accessible way.

Also, be sure to follow me on Spotify to stay up-to-date with my latest guitar music releases and exciting upcoming surprises.

Thank you for joining me on this journey to fretboard mastery. With dedication and practice, you’ll soon find yourself navigating the guitar neck with confidence and ease. Stay curious, keep learning, and most importantly, enjoy the process of becoming a better guitarist and musician.

Until next time, happy practicing!


• Listen to ‘The Kindling’ on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0Ca8Q…

• Buy my new album ELEVATION: https://bernth.myshopify.com/ • Instagram:   / bernthofficial  

• Facebook:   / bernthofficial  

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