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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Know Your Notes?

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

I recently watched a podcast where Steve Vai talks about his lessons as a beginner with Joe Satriani. Satriani has quite the track record as a teacher. Besides Steve Vai there is Larry LaLonde (Primus), Rick Hunolt (Exodus), Charlie Hunter, David Bryson (Counting Crows), Kevin Cadogen, Alex Skolnick (Testament), Kirk Hammett (Metallica), Geoff Tyson (Ugly Kidd Joe, White Zombie, Tora Tora, Asphalt Ballet, many more), and Phil Kettner (Laaz Rockit).

There was a particular lesson where Joe stopped the lesson and sent Vai home. He wrote in Steve's lesson book,

"If you don't know your notes you don't know sh--!"

Then Joe tells how his teacher, Lennie Tristano did the same thing to him. Check out the video below. It will start at the relevant section:

Incidentally, my teacher did the same thing to me,

John Elliott: "I can see you have no idea what it is you're supposed to be doing, so why don't you put your guitar back in the case and go home! Come back next week and maybe I'll give you the next thing!"

Me, putting my guitar in the case: "Yes sir."

So...maybe you feel like Vai did when Joe said,

"Memorize all the notes on the guitar."

Vai thinks to himself, "Nah, there's no way. I'll never memorize them because I just can't!"

Steve Vai is one of the most musically literate guitarists playing Rock music today. He personally scores out his music for symphony orchestras. When he was 18-19 years old he transcribed everything Frank Zappa had recorded at the time. Zappa was so impressed he hired him as a transcriber! And then as guitarist in his band!

But this how Vai started out; "...I'll never memorize them because I just can't!"

I'm with Satriani on this - If you don't know your notes you don't know sh--!

I'm not talking about reading music here; I'm talking about knowing the neck. If you don't know the neck, you'll never be able to read. Reading is valuable, but not necessary to play. There are plenty of world class guitar players in many genres who don't read. A personal jazz guitarist friend of mine who has played all over the world with some of the biggest names in jazz recently said to me,

"Reading is overrated."

To be honest, I was a little shocked because the guy is a very good reader.

Just because someone doesn't read doesn't mean they don't know the neck, or know music. Knowing the neck is absolutely essential to being a real player. If you don't know the neck you are playing by rote, by trial-and-error, with no understanding of what you're doing and will never get very far because once you hit a wall - and you will hit a wall if you haven't already - you have no tools to surmount it. I know...I've been there.

So...I'm going to give you a method, a way to find any and every note on the guitar neck. I call it, The 5-Lesson Foundational Series. Almost every lesson I teach presupposes it.

This series of lessons expounds an organizational mechanism (the Cycle of 4ths) by which you ensure that whatever you learn is drilled in every key in all possible positions.

It also gives you a method to find any note, anywhere, without memorizing note names on every string. That is a beautiful thing!

This method worked for me! I believe it is so key, so essential, yes, so FOUNDATIONAL to your growth as a guitarist that I'm giving it to you! I want all guitarists to know this stuff!

You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right now for free with no further obligation or commitment; just click on the image below:

As I said, no further obligation or commitment required. BUT...if going through these 5 lessons piques your interest &/or convinces you that I have what you need, check out:

You've got nothing to lose but a couple of minutes. There's a lot to gain; not the least of which is what Joe Satriani first required of his students - know the notes on the guitar.


Sign up as a Master Guitar School site member - it's free! - and get access to dozens of free site-based lessons, a monthly newsletter that contains a brand-new free lesson, and DEEP discounts on lesson series downloads - plus more!

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