As I mention above, all this theory is best when worked out. We can talk all day, but until we contextualize these concepts in a song on a real fretboard, it won’t take on any meaning. In this example, we’ll try to play the song “Twinkle, Twinkle” in a random key (F Major this time). Before we do that, we must process the raw soundinto scale degrees. This is a subject I will delve more deeply into in the near future. But for now, I’ll give you the answer.
The song starts on 1, or “Do.” And the first two lines go like this:
1 1 5 5 6 6 5
4 4 3 3 2 2 1
Or for you who come from a standard notation reading background,
F F C C D D C
Bb Bb A A G G F
For the record, relative pitch is better than absolute, a.k.a. “perfect” pitch. You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen.
Now you can take this simple theory representation of the melody, and work out how to play it across one string. Start with the 3rd fret 4D String for your 1 or “F.”
Where is your second note, or “C?”
If you referred to your prior knowledge of where a “C” can be found, or if you sneaked a peek back at the fretboard note-name matrix in the beginning of this post, you have failed to apply theory to the fretboard. You have only referred to something other than your own working theory knowledge.
Here’s how it’s done:
The 1 (scale degree) ascending to the 5, or “F” ascending to “C” is an interval of 7 HS. From the 3rd fret, 4D string, there are a few ways to do this. The most obvious one (though in nature more mathematical than physically efficient) is to take your third fret, add 7 half steps, and end up on the 10th fret of your 4D string. You will find that you will have moved the right amount up the string and fretboard to play the first and second twinkle. Sing along if you can. It will reinforce it!
But nobody plays the entire “Twinkle, Twinkle” on one string. It’s just inefficient if you know how the guitar works.
So try ascending 7HS by using two strings: the 4D string and the 3G string. Where do you place your finger on the 3G string?
If you said “the 5th fret,” you’d be correct! How did we do this? Simple.
The musical relationship between the 4D string and the 3G string, as I’ve mentioned several times now, is an interval of 5 HS. So when you move from the 3rd fret, 4D string to the 3rd fret, 3G string, you have ascended 5 HS. But wait, we wanted an ascent of 7 HS, didn’t we? Yes! So we move across from the 3rd fret, 3G string to the 5th fret, 3G string to complete the 7 HS the melody requires. 5 HS + 2 HS = 7 HS. The 5 is from moving from string-to-string, and the 2 is from moving across the string to the note we were looking for.
Now try to skip over a string! Instead of the 5th fret, 3G string, where else might we find the note “C,” the 5 in our key of F Major? Try the 2B string and see what you get.
If you said 1st fret, 2B string, then you win a prize. The prize is…
FRETBOARD CERTAINTY. Sorry, I don’t have any monetary prizes.
Here is the first line of “Twinkle, Twinkle” in all its whiteboard glory in TAB form (note the straight lines to denote the note doubles):