Friday, December 10, 2010

Fretboard Organizational Systems part I: Positions

    In this series of articles, I will detail several organizational systems for the fretboard of a guitar in standard tuning.  These organizational systems simply provide one with various ways to visualize the fretboard in order to make navigation across the neck easier within various musical situations.

    One organizational system, known to many as the CAGED system, has already been covered on this blog in this series of articles.

    I will begin this series with a system first introduced by William Leavitt, which involves dividing the fretboard into positions.  According to Leavitt's book, A Modern Method for the Guitar Vol. 1, "Position is determined by the fret on which the first finger plays and this is indicated by a roman numeral.  A position on the fingerboard (strictly speaking) occupies four adjacent frets."

    Many scale patterns and musical passages will occupy an area greater than four frets which, according to Leavitt, necessitates the use of a first or fourth finger stretch to an adjacent fret outside of the four fret area defined by the position.

    Notice how this particular fingering for the F Major scale has notes that fall on the first fret, which is outside the second position as defined in the previous example.  These notes are to be played by stretching the first finger outside the position while the rest of the hand remains within the area of the second position.  This is not concurrent with the previous definition of a position, however most of the notes in the example are within position II, so that is what we call it.

    There are many ways to divide the fretboard into four-fret positions.  The example dislayed below is just one possibility, which divides the fretboard into five positions.

    Using these positions, I can organize everything I know how to play by relating it to one of five areas of the fretboard.  This makes it easier to recall melodies I've learned in a specific key, and also provides a structure from which to practice exercises in different areas of the fretboard.

    This concludes the first installment of the series.  Please remember that this is just my own interpretation of one way to organize the fretboard in your mind, of which there are many.  Take it or leave it.  I plan on keeping this an ongoing series as I think about and discover other ways of thought about the fretboard.  Submit some of your own ideas in the comments, and I'll try to showcase them in future posts in the series.



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