Last Updated on December 8, 2022 by IDS Team
To master the guitar fretboard, you need more than just rote memorisation. This common beginner mistake often leads to boredom. Learning interactively can turbocharge your playing. Whether through mini-games or by slowing down your favourite solos, the fretboard is yours for the taking. Read on for some great software to help with just this.
Master the Guitar Fretboard: FA Chords
The developer of this software is actually a guitar tutor, so you know this app has real thought behind it. FA chords includes games which give you the same note from multiple angles. Whether as part of an interval, scale, or by itself, contextual learning means unexpected notes don’t surprise you or slow you down.
FA chords also introduces the circle of fifths. This bit of music theory shows how parts of the scale fit together. As a result, it’s an ultra-fast shortcut to playing your own solos. By building in theory to memorisation games, FA chords makes this topic accessible. Even if you just set out to master some basic scales, you’ll come out a lot more skilled.
Specs/availability: All parts of the software are available for separate download on the website’s software page. They are available for all operating systems including Windows, Linux, iOS, or Android.
Price: Free, on their website (click here to access it).
Master the Guitar Fretboard With guitarLayers
Guitar layers are really one of the slickest options on this list. Its sleek black interface and colour-coded notes and chords make learning the fretboard a breeze. In addition, its unique learning pattern uses colour coding to let you neatly sort notes, e.g. by octave.
Guitar Layers gets its name from its layered system of learning. This makes abstract concepts visual, like harmonising. As a result, you’re able to see how scales and notes relate to each other and where they are in context. This goes a bit deeper than the theory of FA Chords, too. Guitar Layers actually shows you notes relatively. It also lets you make custom scales, and change the notes of any pre-existing scale. It’s on the expensive side, but it’s worth it due to how comprehensive and high quality is it.
Specs/availability: Available for macOS from the app store. Not available as an app, although it’s aimed at education where most will have desktop access.
Price: 9.99 GBP or 12 USD (click here to access it)
Fretboard Warrior: Simple But Effective
Whilst the previous two options are complete packages, Fretboard Warrior does one thing but does it well. In a similar vein to some of the games included with other apps here, it tests your knowledge of the notes on the fretboard by asking you to tap the correct place. However, what sets it apart is that it’s very quick and convenient for focussing on just one thing. It’s speedy and without distractions, so it keeps your thinking flexible and fast. This is a really great transferrable skill for playing guitar solos, where it’s necessary to think on your feet.
Specs/availability: Can be downloaded online from the developer
Price: Free (click here to access it)
Master the Guitar Freboard with Fretonomy: 18 Mini Games
Fretonomy is big both on the aesthetics, and on the games. If you learn best by playing games, this is by far the best app on the list. It has up to 18 different mini-games. The interface is smart and eye-catching with both an overview of a fretboard plus chord names and a musical stave so you can see music in different forms. Bonus points to this app for including this last part – many guitarists rely on tab – but it never hurts to learn to read music.
Like most of the software on this list, Fretonomy also teaches chords, scales, and intervals. However, it also offers a nice selection of chord progressions for help with songwriting.
Specs/availability: Available on both the app store and for Android
Price: Free, but offers in-app purchases (click here to access it)
Bonus: The Amazing Slow Downer
To really master the guitar fretboard, learning solos is a must. This app is expensive, but worth it to adjust the audio of any piece of music. In this way, you can slow things down to your ideal tempo. This lets you break down a solo so it’s easier to learn. This is arguably the most appealing feature of the app.
Although it’s not strictly educational, this app deserves inclusion. By slowing down songs you can break guitar solos into their constituent parts and patterns, getting to grips with the real building blocks of constructing your own. As a result, working your way from the first fret to the twelfth has never been easier.
Specs/availability: Available on the app store. Also available for Microsoft Windows – but it’s considerably more expensive at 39.99 USD.
Price: 14.99 USD (click here to access the Mac version)
Honourable Mention: FretPro App
Fretpro is a really neat little app. It’s basic, but it’s not pretending to be anything more. It’s purpose is just to help you learn the notes of the fretboard. However, its learning style is high tech and it uses something called spaced repetition, where the same questions come at irregular intervals. Science has proven that this keeps your thinking sharp and flexible – a must for independently moving up and down the fretboard. Plus, keeping you approaching guitar this way means it’s easier to handle novelty. This is one thing several apps on this list have in common. It’s a vital skill. – for example when you’re sight reading or at a jam session. This method also helps learn large amounts of information by keeping all parts interconnected.
FretPro is made by a single guy in California on a mission to help guitarists. It has a smart interface and bonus points for this high-tech method of learning, and so it wraps up the list.
Specs/availability: Available for iPhone on the App Store
So there you have it. Whilst some of these apps have similar games, each guitarist is different and there are ways which work for some which don’t work for others. It’s all about finding your learning style and how best to unlock it for total fretboard mastery. Plus, a deeper knowledge and understanding of how the notes and patterns connect to each other means you too can begin to construct soon from the ground up.
Want to improve your guitar playing? Check out both our software section for more helpful programmes, plus our archive of tutorials.