Last edited by Dirty Bob; 05-14-2015 at 11:18 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
From the top, but the damn strings are in the way ...
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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".
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
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.