I spent a bunch of time working on fretboard visualization today. The goal is to instantly know where to find the notes I want anywhere on the neck in any key. Making that second nature will help me play without thinking about the notes. Just hearing (or reading) and playing, no thinking. Eliminate the middle man.
It seems the easiest and most common way to conquer the fretboard is to break it into positions. I've based my learning around positions for a few years, but always with a desire to ultimately stray from them. Learning positions separately makes it easy to master small chunks one at a time, but again, I don't want to be distracted by too much thinking while I'm playing. Using positions, I'm always thinking about which one I'm in, and playing a wide range over quick chord changes requires a lot of position changes, shifting between different modes of playing. This approach tends to lack fluidity. The guitar is just one big collection of notes, and that's how I want to view it.
So how do I break away from positions? I've been thinking about this for a while, and I don't want to abandon what I've already learned. That should be no problem, I'll just use all the fingerings I've memorized as familiar territory that I can pass through freely rather than distinct regions with borders that require extra thought to cross.
My plan is to use the roots as anchors. Whatever chord I'm playing over, I'll know every instance of that chord's root on the fretboard. I already define different positions in my head by where the roots fall, so this seems like an easy transition. The idea is to use all the roots as landmarks and know the locations of all the intervals (b3, 5, 7, etc.) I need at a given time relative to those roots.
Today I used a new tool I have in development that lets me use anything I want as flash cards. Its most basic use is to display random notes one at a time. I used this to work on memorizing a small portion of the fretboard. I started with m7 arpeggios and played them every way I could between frets five and twelve for each new root note that came up on my screen.
I used a number of similar methods throughout the day. I'd stick with a certain position of a certain arpeggio for a while and find it as quickly as possible with each new note. I worked on ii-V transitions in the same manner. I focused on arpeggios because I like to use them as the framework for everything else I play.