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I recently picked up a classical guitar and am considering buy fret markings for it. But I before I do so I would like to know what advantages are there to learning on a guitar with no fret markings. If they are significant I won't bother with the markings.

I am in the process of learning all the notes on the fret board.

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If you can learn to play without fret markers, you will have a tremendous advantage over those who have learned to rely on the fret markers.

When I first began learning to play guitar I relied on the fret markers to help me find my place on the fretboard. But when I started playing for audiences on dark stages, I recognized the limitations of not being able to just instinctively know where the frets are. So I found it prudent to start practicing playing without looking at the fret markers to learn to play without having to look down at the fretboard and find the fret markers.

I actually would practice in dark rooms so I couldn't cheat and glance at the fret markers. Eventually I got to a point where I rarely if ever look at the fret markers. This allows me to sing into the microphone without turning my head down to check my fret markers from time to time and also allows me to make maintain eye contact with (or at least look at) the audience.

Playing instinctively will also contribute to smoother playing since you will never have to momentarily hesitate to check the fret markers.

And even if you don't plan to sing into a microphone while playing or perform on a dark stage, it would be difficult to read music or tablature while playing, if you had to look away from the music to see where the frets are.

On the other hand, if it is easier for you to learn with the fret markers, you can always try to learn to play without them as you progress. But once you learn by relying on the fret markers, you might become psychologically dependant on them and it might be more difficult to learn to play without them.

And I have seen some very talented and experienced guitarist, who not only rely on the fret markers, but enlarge them on their guitars to help see them on dark stages.

So it's really up to you. But I would encourage you to try learning without fret markers and see how far you get. If it proves too difficult in the beginning, perhaps you can use round stick on labels and add one or two fret markers on the edge of the fretboard - maybe at the 7th fret.

Good luck - whichever way you choose to go.

  • Amazing answer will keep trying it! – Nikos Sep 2 '15 at 8:57
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With a classical guitar with no fret markings, the join of the shoulders with the neck will be precisely at the 12th fret. So you can identify the 5th fret as 1 hand-width past the nut and the 7th fret as 1 hand-with from the 12th-fret join.

Practice not even looking at the fret-board while you play. Instead, look at the music, the conductor, the other musicians, the needle on the metronome, whatever.

Your fingers will learn where everything is.

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I was just reading one of the 19th century Method books in which the author insisted that you hold the guitar vertically, and learn to place the left hand without looking. If you do that fret markers won't do you any good. Admittedly, many (most?) modern classical performers do watch their left hand fingerings closely.

A compromise is small fret markers at the 5 and 7 on the edge of the neck. They are visible to the player, but not to the audience. As a beginner I appreciate them on my Yamaha.

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I started playing the guitar by reversing the strings of a right-handed guitar to left-handed. There were no fret markings on the guitar and the white dots for 3rd, 5th and 7th frets in the side facing to the player were invisible to me.

It provides frustration for some time but after that you see the benefits of your muscles memorizing the fret positions instead of your eyes.

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For certain long, fast slides I still look down, but my visibility on stage is very limited (I wear a mask in my current band) so practicing knowing where you are by feel has been very helpful for me.

I'd recommend trying it without fret markers.

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