Stellar New Book Guides You to Fretboard Freedom

Posted by Michael Mueller on February 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM

A complete and confident grasp of the guitar's fretboard—the interconnectedness of scales, chords, and arpeggios—is an elusive goal. But Troy Nelson, a former editor-in-chief of Guitar One magazine, looks to have captured lightning in a bottle with new book, Fretboard Freedom. This 240-page volume (with CD) presents a surprisingly simple and intuitive approach for visualizing and navigating the fretboard via the same 52-week, one-lick-per-day method that propelled his last book, Guitar Aerobics, to the #1 selling guitar book at

Fretboard FreedomIn the course of helping students to master the fretboard, guitar educators have written countless books and instructional lessons on learning chord inversions, major and minor scales in all 12 keys, the major modes, and more. But while writing Guitar Aerobics, Nelson—a guitarist of over 20 years—began to envision the fretboard "as simple chord shapes that are interconnected via two-string arpeggios and extended major and minor pentatonic scales." Combining that epiphany with his take on the well-established (and effective) CAGED system, Nelson applied his new discovery within the "workout" framework of Guitar Aerobics, to create year-long course in fretboard mastery.

Each "Week" is a four-page chapter highlighting a particular key or chord progression (e.g., C major, minor, dominant, whole-tone, half-diminished, etc.). First, Nelson presents the five CAGED (or as he orders it, EDCAG) chord voicings for the particular key along with an accompanying fretboard diagram containing all the chord and scale tones for that key center. Next is a fretboard diagram and notation/TAB staff depicting the two-notes-per-string arpeggio shapes for that key center, and then a fretboard diagram and notation/TAB staff showing the extended pentatonic scale associated with the key center. Following these foundational items, Nelson presents one lick for each day of the week, citing the resources (chord voicing, scale, or arpeggio shape) used in the lick and offering a performance note for it. For Monday through Friday, you get a single lick in a given style such as blues, country, or jazz, presented in each of the five voicings. (The concept of learning a lick in several locations on the neck is a well-established and effective practice tool for learning the fretboard.) For Saturday's and Sunday's licks, Nelson offers two fresh licks in different styles, using that week's two-notes-per-string arpeggio pattern and its extended pentatonic scale, respectively.

Though I wouldn't recommend this book for absolute beginners, anyone from advanced beginner/early intermediate and above should pick it up immediately. As a guitarist of nearly 30 years, I discovered a few new ideas and approaches to try just while skipping through pages and playing examples at random, to write this review. Surely a dedicated study will yield even greater insights—and results—on the road to your own fretboard freedom.

To purchase Fretboard Freedom, click here or on the cover image above.


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