Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fretboard Organizational Systems part II: String by String


    In the previous article on fretboard organizational systems, we discussed ways to divide the fretboard up into four-fret positions and use them as reference points.  This installment of the series will be a bit different in that I will introduce a method of learning how the fretboard functions by analyzing each string, rather than organizing the fretboard into specific reference points.

    This method is based on a way to learn the fretboard, which is endorsed by Mick Goodrick, Jim Hall and John Abercrombie, to name a few.  It involves practicing things on one string, gradually adding strings as you progress.  I believe Goodrick calls this method "the science of the unitar" in his book entitled The Advancing Guitarist.

    The knowledge attained through practicing everything on one string goes hand-in-hand with practicing position playing because it's what you need to know to move freely between positions.  This is a practice used more extensively in the eastern music tradition, which is based more on melodic than harmonic structure.

    There are many benefits to limiting yourself to one string at a time.  One of the most important benefits is that it allows you to see the the direct relation of the distance between intervals and movement in space, which makes it easy to see the fundamental elements of music theory, such as scale and chord structure.  It's kind of like looking at a piano keyboard, where all the notes are arranged in order of the chromatic scale.  Another benefit is that it enforces the learning of specific note locations because you can't rely on fretboard patterns.

    You can practice anything on one string.  Go through all the major and melodic minor scales on each string.  For example, play the C Major scale on the first string (high E string), then the second string, and so on until you have covered all six strings.  Then do the same with the eleven other major scales going through the circle of fifths, followed by all twelve melodic minor scales.  It's extremely tedious, I know, but it will do wonders for your knowledge of the fretboard.

    The next step would be to do the same on two adjacent strings at a time.  Also practice arpeggios this way.  Once all major and melodic minor scales and arpeggios are mastered within this system, the next logical step would be to attempt to improvise over a chord progression in this way, making sure to limit yourself to one or two adjacent strings at a time.

    Once this has all been accomplished, try coming up with your own scale and arpeggio patterns which take up two to three octaves, such as the Segovia scales.  Inventing your own exercises like this is what it takes to truly master the guitar.

    If you are like most guitarists, you learned the fretboard by means of position playing.  Applying the knowledge gained from this concept will give you the ability to play across positions, which is where the real mastery happens.  This concept will greatly enhance your understanding of the fretboard, which is a vast matrix of notes.

    That's it for this installment in the series.  Like I mentioned in the previous post, this is just my own interpretation of a concept for learning and organizing the fretboard, so take from it what you want, and if you don't feel it resonates with what you understand or feel to be the "right" way, just ignore it.


    p.s.  Submit your own ideas on fretboard organization in the comments and I will do my best to try and showcase it in future posts in the series.  The idea is to present as many ways as possible to look at the fretboard so that everyone can gain something from it.


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Feel free to ask any questions you may have if you don't understand something, or challenge my ideas if you don't agree with something. I want to hear from you whether or not you liked it. I would love to debate topics and ideas with you, or just let me know what's up. Either way, I want to hear from you!