Are there any secrets behind learning to play chords on full fingerboard without looking at fretting hand (except that practice is the key)? Maybe some exercises?

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    Just as aside: this is referred to as proprioception - may help you in your search! I'm not a guitarist, so I can't say specifically what might be the best approach, excepting starting small (i.e. dead simple single fret jump) and slowing working up (two frets, three frets, etc). – Hannele May 8 '13 at 14:04
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    Many of the answers are interesting, but the reality is that expert ability is fluid and unconscious. The hard truth is that it takes time, repetition, and practice; and if you stop doing what it is you are training for, you begin to lose what you had. Note that there is some evidence that suggests that moving too quickly to automaticity can be harmful to acquiring deeper skills, so practice your scales. Note also that automaticity can be broken by focusing attention, so the more you focus the less flow you have. None of this is exclusive to music. – horatio May 8 '13 at 14:44
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    The two answers as of now have very much focused on position changes, but actually it seems your question is rather about voicing chords while already at the right hand position? – leftaroundabout May 9 '13 at 12:42

A really good example might be Steve Vai - he is a master of the long, fast move or slide to a specific fret.

With my current band, I wear a very restrictive mask with laser diodes shining out the eye holes, so my vision is extremely curtailed.

To manage moves up and down my fretboard I use three techniques:

  • a rapid slide (muted or unmuted) lets you feel how many frets you have moved.
  • a move to the correct fret using the side of the first finger or thumb on the edge of the fret - this is my most useful technique, as it makes no noise.
  • experience of how far the 12th fret is on my guitars. As all my guitars have the same scale length this works for me, but I would imagine it would cause problems if I get around to buying the Gibson I want.

Practice your guitar in bed at night, with the lights off, and try to find the same note over and over consistently. This will help map your physical muscle memory to your guitar.

Secondly, take the chord you know the best, like an Am or EMaj or CMaj usually. Finger this chord to the best of your abilities without looking, only by feel. Strum it a few times. Now, move from a CMaj to an Amin. This only involves two fingers moving. It's hard at first but it gets much easier.

This type of exercise allows you to build relative memory of where chords go.

Combined with the exercise of finding notes on the fretboard, you'll eventually be able to play most chords (especially barre chords) with pretty good accuracy anywhere on the fretboard.


If you look at blind guitarist Raul Midon, you can tell is counting fret with his finger very rapidly when he has to do big jumps. For smaller jumps, just feel where you have to go in relation to the previous chord.

I've also heard that French songwriter and guitarist George Brassens use to...saw marks into the back of the neck to have tactile points of reference.


A bit of an odd answer, but if you get a chance to play the Rocksmith game, there's an awesome mini-game "Dawn of the Chordead" where you have to play the right chord to mow down the advancing zombies. (


You need to be very quick in the later stages and so playing chords by feel is necessary.

Lots of other mini-games that develop tremolo picking, slides, scales etc, a fun way to improve technique

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