Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What is Fretography ?

The word Fretography was coined by Mark Newstetter as the name of a system of mapping the guitar fretboard. As a guitar teacher, Mark felt that there was something missing from the available guitar study materials and methods. While there are plenty of diagrams to be found showing numerous scales and chords, there just wasn't a system of connecting the standard Diatonic system of music with a set of diagrams that add up to provide the student with a complete and consistent map of the note patterns of each key as a whole.

In other words, rather than merely putting together a series of diagrams of chords and scales which are learned one by one, Fretography approaches the fretboard as a whole right from the start. This gives the student an iconic picture of the whole system of notes of every key which beginners and advanced players alike find extremely useful in finding their way around the fretboard.

Many guitar students struggle to understand how each scale and chord they learn are related to each other in a musical key. The very concept of keys is difficult enough for the beginner and is not made any easier by the usual piecemeal approach to fretboard patterns.

The fact is, there are important 'landmarks' on the fretboard which are completely overlooked in some methods and only given token significance in others. In Fretography, these landmarks given the attention they deserve; they are assigned names which correspond with their significance in standard music theory.

For instance; there are three places in the system where there is a note on each string at a particular fret. The open strings (EADGBE), the 5th fret (ADGCEA) and the 10th fret (DGCFAD). The 12th fret notes are the same as the open strings an octave higher, so it can be thought of as theoretically the same place.

Fretography gives each of these positions a name. EADGBE is the 'Phrygian Axis', ADGCEA is the 'Aeolian Axis' and DGCFAD is the 'Dorian Axis'. These names are based on the diatonic modes which stem from the top and bottom note of each position in the key of C: E = Phrygian mode (3rd step of the key), A=Aeolian mode (6th step), and D = Dorian mode (2nd step). These three Axis positions are found in all twelve keys and define the fret positions based on the 3rd, 6th and 2nd step of each key.

At first glance, the remaining notes of the key seem to be spread around in a random pattern. In fact there is a very precise symmetry in the pattern, but it is not immediately obvious. Fretography makes sense of the apparent disorder. After identifying the three axis positions, other landmarks are mapped and named.

Imagine trying to get from place to place in an unfamiliar city without a map that shows the overall boundaries of the city. Imagine having a map with no names for neighborhoods or streets. This is in fact how most methods approach the fretboard. Fretography assigns logical names to the various landmarks, patterns and zones of the fretboard which relate directly with conventional music theory so you have a dynamic way of learning how each scale and chord fits in with the whole of music theory. This ultimately makes it easier to learn music as well as improvise.

All contents of this blog are © Mark Newstetter

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