View Full Version : So how do you approach the fretboard and why?

Dirty Bob
12-03-2012, 11:40 PM
Everyone has a different way of visualizing the fretboard....what makes everyone unique in their playing style...how they approach a song....how they approach improvisation....some people think in terms of progressions and the circle of fifths...others think in blocks....some view the fretboard and approach it vertically...others horizontally. Some think about particular lines that have been drilled into their heads when they are vamping. some try to emulate other guitarists that have gone before them, a harmonica player, horn player, singer or a pianist...

Me personally....I had scales and modes driven into my brain when I was younger and would practice them over and over...constantly trying different things over a variety of progressions...the guitar grimoire series of books and my guitar teacher were major influences. also more recently the "Sheets of Sound" books by Jack Zucker have been wonderful in giving me new exercises and ideas.

Everyone has different levels of Music Theory that they have assimilated over the years...and while many would disagree with me...I believe all of it in the name of making music is all ok...especially when you break those rules creatively. I know some theory...I Learn it....forget it...learn it forget it...over and over again...very frustrating.

there are definitely things that I personally need to work on. While scales now seem to come easily to me making vamping and improvisational line creation relatively easy....comping and different voicings and inversions make me a bit looney...something I need to work on much further. I also know that by attacking this weakness it will greatly improve my lead playing...and help me to unlock the potential of all of those silly scales and their different modes I have stored away in my brain.

Partially I think some of my personal imbalance (playing guitar mind you as opposed to psychological!) came from being a lefty and learning to play righty...my left hand was always stronger than my right...causing me to gravitate more toward leads and shying away from straight rhythm, chording, and unfortunately with this a void in the knowledge and experience of what a truly great all around guitarist who can do it all....(Joe Pass, George Benson, Pat Martino...etc)...has in his bag of tricks. plus lead playing always seemed cooler...or so I thought at the time.

So in the spirit of Hans wanting us to put together thought provoking threads...anyone want to open up and share their personal weaknesses and strengths on the actual instruments we spend so much time talking about yet oddly enough never seem to mention what we actually do with them?

12-04-2012, 01:51 AM
I think scales are a good thing to learn up to a point. Certainly the major and minor pentatonics and the major (Ionian mode) and minor (Aeolian mode) scales. It's also worth learning the basics of how a chord is constructed and the caged system.

I found the problem with scales is that they can become a trap. You make leaps when you first learn them but you can soon find yourself running up and down them for no other reason than you know them.

Imagination (IMHO) is the key. You can know all the scales and chords in the world but you need imagination to do something interesting with that knowledge. So, during practice I may try and find a new way to play a lick... "What if I use slides instead of bends?","What if I just play on one string for a bit", etc, etc... Anything I can do to get out of the monotony of running up and down a scale or the same ol, same old licks.

With chords i've tried to build up as much knowledge as I can so i'm not relying on the same old open position chords or barre chords. That's not to say I don't use them, I do a lot! But I also try and find alternatives that have a slightly different timbre. Maybe mix up arpeggiating them with strumming, etc...

And that's my weakness I suppose... I do still fall back on the same old licks from time to time. Sometimes i'm so conscious of trying to play something new and interesting I balls it up... So knowing when it's not quite working and going to the failsafe methods is a good plan! :)

Oh, and don't be afraid to dip your toes into styles of music you normally avoid. I've been learning a few classical pieces lately. Im not brilliant at classical but I am learning some interesting things that I may be able to incorporate into my usual style.

12-04-2012, 01:53 AM
So in the spirit of Hans wanting us to put together thought provoking threads...anyone want to open up and share their personal weaknesses and strengths on the actual instruments we spend so much time talking about yet oddly enough never seem to mention what we actually do with them?

You've just given me an idea of sorts...

12-04-2012, 04:17 AM
I visualise the fretboard in blocks, based around the minor pentatonic. I've learnt over the years how to throw in extra notes that work, which I guess are from the modes. I'm not a theory man :(

My personal 'weakness' is my soloing - finding creative licks, new stuff. I can get by. To be honest though, I'm not too bothered by it as I'm much more of a rhythm player - that's my strength - so I prefer to concentrate on that as it's 99% of playing in a one guitar band like I do.

Give me a big powerful chord over a wimpy single note any day! :D

12-04-2012, 06:40 AM
I kind of view the fingerboard as puzzle pieces. I started out as a double bass player, so it was natural to look at flow down the neck. Trying to teach myself to play rythm guitar made my look across the neck to see how things fit together that way - and I hate just playing a chord so I had to find which decorators fit with the chord, which is also an across the board view.

For a couple of years I've been poking at what I can learn from Ted Greene's notions of chromatics and this has had me look at linking the across the board chords in a vertical progression. This has been very interesting and might be the last bit in really understanding the instrument.

12-04-2012, 08:48 AM
I've always learned scales and modes in the horizontal boxes. Over the past several years, I've worked more on moving vertically across the board. I've still always had blind spots on the board, so most recently I've been practicing the horizontal boxes all over the neck to shore up my fretboard knowledge.

A couple of fun exercises I do: improvise a solo using only one string; and improvise a solo where each following note is played on a different string (no two notes in a row on the same string). They're good challenges which come up with interesting phrases by forcing me out of The Box.

My ultimate enemy is still always my mind. I get my thinking brain involved too much, which screws me up.

Serious Poo
12-04-2012, 10:04 AM
I started with CAGED box patterns but got to know a student of Randy Rhoads' after I had been playing for about a year or so.. He corrupted me into thinking of scales and arpeggios as being on a single string, very linear. Playing scales 4 notes to a string, shifting positions like a violin player.. I spent years getting that under my fingers but it's been a huge thing for me. I now see each string much like a piano keyboard, with naturals, sharps and flats.

12-04-2012, 03:46 PM
From the top, but the damn strings are in the way ...

12-04-2012, 05:42 PM
Natural minor seems like my compass point mentally, after I figure out where that is on the fretboard, muscle memory takes over. When it comes to wanky lead stuff I feel pretty confident but know I still have to learn to play less, chordal playing is the area I need to focus on the most so I try to visualize all of the chords within the scale/mode "boxes".

Dirty Bob
12-04-2012, 06:38 PM
From the top, but the damn strings are in the way ...

12-04-2012, 06:57 PM
I take it out of the case and say, ok, we're either going to make odd noises that sound like pots and pans or a song :p

12-04-2012, 08:42 PM
Thinking in intervals for one thing. To know where every possible inversion of a given chord is, whether on consecutive strings or not.
To know what member of the chord (R, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th etc.) you are holding on each string.
Scales and alterations easily reveal themselves because you are aware of the intervals and chord members you are playing.

Using Charlie Parkers thought of there are no wrong notes as long as you phrase things musically and play with rhythm.
As far as comping, using incomplete chords is big because they can suggest many chords from one fingering.
( a typical Freddie Green fat chord A, F#,C can imply D7 or G#7b9 or F#dim or Am6. It depends on the surrounding harmony what "role" the chord will take.)

When I read music, whether classical or modern, just know where the notes are on the guitar .
Just as important, recognize the intervals on the music so I know if I have to play Major or minor 3rds, jump a 10th etc.