How to Lock Down Basic 12 Bar Blues Progressions

In the context of the guitar, 12 bar blues often refers simply to bluesy-sounding progressions comprised of three chords. Formally, the three chords are the first, fourth and fifth in a given key, written in roman numerals. So in the key of E for example, a 12-bar blues progression would be the following:

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Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Learning the fretboard notes will make your life as a guitar player far easier.

It's foundational knowledge that you desperately need.

Because if you don't know the fretboard notes, you'll be at a significant disadvantage when compared to the musicians who do and you'll have a developmental handicap when moving onto more difficult and dynamic guitar playing.

So yeah, it's boring. But if you don't learn it now, you're going to have a harder time learning the more interesting and difficult things moving forward.

Put in the "boring practice time" early and get it out of the way.

To help you do that, we've setup some infographics and cheat sheets to make the process as painless as possible.

Start With the Two Thickest Strings

We'll begin with only the sixth and fifth strings, which are the two thickest strings on your guitar.


Because those two strings are often going to be where your root note will fall, which is how you'll tell what chord, scale and key you're playing in. That's not to say that they can't fall on other strings, but a grasp of fretboard notes starts with an understanding of the ones on the sixth and fifth strings.

So start with those two strings and go from there.

If you've learned the sixth and fifth string, you're halfway there.

Keep in mind that the sixth string and the first string are both tuned to E. Therefore, the notes on those two strings will be the same. So if you've learned the sixth and fifth string, you're halfway there.

You can then use octaves to identify notes on the fourth and third strings. But we'll delve into that more later.

For now, let's focus on the sixth and fifth string notes.

Standard tuning is assumed.

Notes on the Sixth String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The highlighted blue string is the one we're identifying notes for.

As far as memorizing it, I started from the F at the bottom and worked my way up to the E at the 12th fret. It can also help to only memorize the letter notes by themselves and then work on the flats and sharps.

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
At the 12th fret, the notes simply start over again.

These notes are the most important to be able to readily recognize, as you can find your sharps and flats based on their location.

Notes on the Fifth String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
In this case, the open note is an A since we're in standard tuning. You can see that it follows the exact same pattern as before, starting at A instead of E.

Let's look at some octaves so we can identify the notes on the fourth and third string as well.

Using Octaves

Short of just memorizing the notes for the fourth and third strings, you can use octaves to quickly determine those notes provided you've already taken the time to memorize the notes on the fifth and sixth strings.

Justine Sandercoe provides a solid explanation in this video:

Here's a link to the full lesson if you're interested.

If you skip to the 1:30 point in the video he covers a basic octave shape, which is essentially the following tab:


These two notes are both the same since the interval between them is 12 steps. That means they are exactly one octave apart. Thus the note on the third fret, a G, corresponds to the note on the fifth fret which is also a G.

Now let's move the shape.


Again, the same principle can be applied. Since the note at the eighth fret is an F, you can tell that the note at the tenth fret, on the fourth string, is also an F.

As Justin goes on to explain, the same thing is true of the root notes on the fifth string, where the octave equivalent can be found on the third string.


In the above example, each note is a C.

The Rest of the Strings

I've created graphics for the fourth, third and second strings, if you prefer to memorize them that way. Just bear in mind that the sequence of notes will be the same, and different strings will only dictate that you're starting with a different open note.

The 4th String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The 3rd String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets
The 2nd String

Fretboard Notes Infographics and Cheat Sheets

Memorization Techniques

Most people combine the octave method with some raw memorization. If you decide to go this route, wait until you're really comfortable with the sixth and fifth strings before you move on.

Once you're ready, you can start on the fourth string by counting from the first fret up to the 12th and naming each note as you go. If you get stuck, use the octave method to get yourself going again and go through each string several times.

Remember that the sixth and first strings are both going to be the same since they're both an open E.

Other Helpful Resources

Klaus Crow of Guitarhabits outlines a 16-day method for learning the entire fretboard, while Joe Walker of DeftDigits takes you through it in nine days.

Both articles are worth checking out, as they can each be done in less time if you want to move quicker.

I'd also recommend this memorization guide by Erik Buljan. In addition to memorization techniques, Buljan outlines a number of different exercises that will help you retain the information.

Your Thoughts

Do you have ideas, memorization techniques or exercises to share about this topic?

Get in touch with us over at Twitter and Google Plus.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of thraxil

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.


Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Review and Buying Guide

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Review and Buying Guide

To follow up with our first ever product review of the Boss DS-1 distortion pedal, I'm rolling out my take on the Boss ML-2 Metal Core, which is a heavier and more modern distortion than the DS-1.

So if you're looking for classic rock, head over to the DS-1 review and read up.

If you want a more modern distortion pedal, the ML-2 should fit the bill almost perfectly. Its sound, controls and marketing niche are all geared towards the modern metal and hard rock guitar player.

What about it's value?

It's more expensive than the DS-1, so will the starving metal guitarist be happy with their purchase, even at a higher price tag?

Let's dive in.

Sound Quality

A deep low-end punch is what really characterizes the sound you get from the ML-2.

On Boss's own gear page for the ML-2, they describe it this way:

"The most potent and heavy distortion pedal ever created by Boss."

It seems that even with the low control (see Controls) turned down, you still get a fair amount of low-end in your tone. This is what really tends to separate a modern distortion from the more classical variations; a deep rumbling bass component.

So the ML-2 scores points in that regard.

"You can tune your guitar down pretty much as low as you want without losing note definition." -  Rob Marcello

At the same time, it does have some "bite" to it, even to the point of being a little too sharp for my taste. However, that's going to be more so a matter of preference than an issue of sound quality.

The sound you get is actually suited pretty well for both lead and rhythm guitar work.

Solos sound high and searing, while chord progressions are punchy and deep.

You can hear from this demo that the sustain provided by this pedal carries for a long time, which is another thing I look for in a good modern distortion.

If you want something that's a little less "aggressive," the July 2007 issue of Guitar Player offers this commentary on the subject:

As far as distortion goes, the ML-2 starts heavy, but with the Dist knob at Min (and the High knob at around a 10 o'clock "cut"), you can craft a reasonable blues-rock impersonation of a live Paul Kossoff-through-howling-Marshall tone.

The article goes on to highlight the diverse capabilities of the ML-2 in that it can handle a variety of hard-rock sub-genres and sounds.


The ML-2 has a straightforward control scheme that is easy to learn but also gives you plenty of creative power over your sound.

Here are a couple sample settings from the ML-2 manual.

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Review and Buying Guide
Level simply refers to volume, while low and high control bass and treble respectively. The distortion knob controls the saturation and amount of gain.

  • Level (volume)

  • Low (bass)

  • High (treble)

  • Dist (gain)

I personally wasn't crazy about the "12 o'clock setting" for all four knobs. Instead I found that settings closer to the downtuning configuration you see in the above graphic sounded better, with slightly less saturation and more of a thick bass.

So for kicks, here are the controls for the setting I thought was the most optimal and appealing.

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Review and Buying Guide

Retail, Pricing and Value

Retail cost for this pedal is $87 on Amazon.

Used options boost the value of this pedal tremendously, dropping around the $40 mark in many cases. The retail cost is pretty typical for a distortion pedal that would be considered mid-range in quality.

So $80 retail is by no means "high" for a good distortion and you get the following with your purchase:

  • Quality modern distortion tone.

  • Four-part control scheme.

  • Boss Chasis

  • Boss Warranty

If you're thrifty enough to get this pedal under $50, perhaps from the used section we linked to in Amazon, eBay or even Craigslist, you're getting an incredible value.

Because, unlike the DS-1, I'd give the tone and sound quality of this pedal pretty high marks.

But again, your own preferences and context do matter. Because if you're looking for a thinner, more classic rock sound, the ML-2 will likely be a disappointment, or at least not the most optimal solution for you.

Final Grades

The only area where I dock significant points for the ML-2 is in regards to its reputation.

It's not widely used by professionals and customer reviews are more rare than what you'll see with the DS-1 and other more popular distortion. You'd feel better about buying it if the pedal could be backed up with more communal use and popularity.

But otherwise, it gets high remarks for value, brand and sound quality.

Pros: Simple controls, well-built, great low-end tone, versatile within the rock genre, price.

Cons: Not popular among the pros, less customer reviews and feedback available.

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Review and Buying Guide

Your Experience

I'd like to hear what you have to say about this pedal, especially if you own or have used it. Fill us in on your experience over at Twitter and Google Plus.

We do Facebook too.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Nitevision

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.