Guitar Technique

Repetitive applications of exercises and drills to develop speed and dexterity.

     Guiding paths to break the limiting pattern of using only one guitar scale fingering type

I am first going to share with you an old Chinese Proverb: The shortest way to a travel destination is the way you know.  This can be the starting point to locking into a bad habit. Hence to break this pattern is to start exploring new paths to the same destination. Thus the metaphor to help guitarists practice getting around a guitar fret board through the different guiding paths by guitar scales.

There are 3 (2 Octave Guitar Fingering paths) that share the same unison notes. This is good practice to break some bad habits of getting around the Fret Board. Most guitar players use the scale fingering starting with the 1st – Index Finger.

You can achieve the same result with less hand re-positioning and mechanical movement. The result is better fret hand dexterity to develop speed and melodic control. Through repetitive practice your fingers will develop the ability to follow the inner guidance of the minds ear. As to the metaphor in transcendental meditation of the third eye can also relate to the musical ear.

I picked a commonly used scale in the key of D Major that displays the IV Degree. This is the tonal center G Lydian Scale Mode with the Major Pentatonic Secondary Guitar Scale inside it.  The first guitar scale fingering diagram has a open fret fingering position for the challenge.

Guitar Analyzer Software can display and even create guitar scale fingering diagrams images like the ones below. A new feature for the publishing guitarists and guitar teachers (software version 1.0.7.12). Please try out and practice these 2 0ctave guitar fingerings for the G Lydian / Major Pentatonic Scale.

                                                                                       G Lydian / Maj Pent 3 Diagram

G Lydian / Major Pentatonic

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The 3 Note / String 6 Note Shape is a great way to learn the Major Scale. This is a technique of breaking something down to smaller chunks to make it easier to learn. The examples below are analyzing the G Major Scale on the two lowest strings E (6th) & A (5th). A lot of people have to find a way visualize something before they can put it into their total recall memory. To also help people remember something is they have to physically apply and do something. The numbers in the notes are the finger placement (Refer to Fret Finger Placement Post) so you can try it.. This scale is made up of half steps (no frets between 2 notes) and whole steps (1 fret between 2 notes).

We now have seven – six note groups, notice that two shapes are the same (Fret 3 & Fret 10- whole step-whole step, whole step-whole step). The five unique shapes is (Fret 5 – whole step-half step, whole step-whole step). (Fret 7- half step-whole step, whole step-half step), (Fret 8 – whole step-whole step, half step-whole step). (Fret 12 – whole step-half step, whole step-half step), (Fret 14 – half step-whole step, half step-whole step).

When you try playing these shapes (Fret 3) you are going to play them on two strings only up the neck in a straight sequence (1-2-3-4-5-6) Tablature – ( 6th E -3–5–7-) (5th A – 3 –5–7-). The top 5% best players practice scales this way up and down the neck on all the pairs of strings.(Paul Gilbert, Gregg Howe, Vinnie Moore).

One warning the shapes are going to be different between the (3rd G string & 2nd B string). The notes on the 2nd B String have to shift up a half step making the shapes offset.

When you start getting the hang of practicing scales like this you can also apply sequences to these six note groups. Sequences are a repetitive order of a group of notes. Here is an example (instead of 1-2-3-4-5-6 try 1-2-3-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6) this is a sequence that Paul Gilbert teaches a lot. Practicing scales like this can build great dexterity in your fingers, building your chops and speed. It especially helps if you use a metronome set to straight clicks, triplets and quadruplet, building from slow to fast.

Here is a final note, playing scales up and down and practicing sequences is only one part of the practice equation to becoming a great player. There is speed and chops, but there also is melodic control. Melodic phrasing is a small group of notes played in an unique expressive order crafted from the rhythm and harmony that can hook the listener.. The best solos have a hook melody interwoven in them (usually at he start and end and somewhere in the middles in different octaves) along with the fast ripping runs of notes. Learning licks from all kinds of sources (Books, Software, Magazines, Tablature web sites and By Ear off CD’s and MP 3’s). This article builds on my Major Scale 3 Note / String Fingerings Post.

Guitar Analyzer Software has a 3 shape fingering selection category to explore this area in more depth for each scale.

1) Fret 3 & Fret 10 (whole step-whole step, whole step-whole step)

2) Fret 5 (whole step-half step, whole step-whole step)

3) Fret 7 (half step-whole step, whole step-half step)

4) Fret 8 (whole step-whole step, half step-whole step)

5) Fret 12 (whole step-half step, whole step-half step)

6) Fret 14 (half step-whole step, half step-whole step)


G Major 3 Note / String on String 5 & 6

 

 

                                            3 ( N/S) Shape Fret 3 Phrygian 3 Note/String Shape G Major 3 Note/String Fret 10 G Major 3 Note/String Fret 14

                                                              Dorian 3 Note/String Shape G Major 3 Note/String Fret 8 G Major 3 Note/String Fret !2

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A big confusion plaguing so many beginning guitar players in leaning scales is:

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

What fingers do I use when playing scales? How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t? Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky? How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all? How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

  • What fingers do I use when playing scales?
  • How come I see some great guitar players use their pinky and some who don’t?
  • Is it a hard wired rule that I must use my pinky?
  • How come I see a lot great guitar player not using their pinky at all?
  • How do I when to use the 2nd or 3rd Finger of the middle note of a 3 note per string fingering?

First lets get to know the four fingers of the left hand (opposite if your a left hand player) palm up left to right (1st – Index Finger, 2nd – Middle Finger, 3rd – Ring Finger, 4th – Pinky). The pinky-4 of the four fingers is the weakest finger of the hand and it seems to always want to mimic every movement of the (ring – 3 finger), caused by a shared ligament. Because of this it’s kind of natural to have a resistance to not use the pinky. In the schools of thought in guitar teaching mostly in the styles of Classical and Jazz. There are hard set rules that the fingers must set (90 degree vertical) to the frets and the pinky must be used and developed. This is known as the Finger Per Fret Rule and it has a sound mechanical logic when you analyze wasted motion to the leased amount of movement.

This works great and it is something to strive for but not all hands are the same, especially if you have to span you hand wider than a one or more frets. There are a lot of fingerings in the Major, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor – Scales that require fingerings wider than one fret, some two and three frets wide between two finger digits. If you analyze the guitar fret board the lower frets are wider than the higher frets. Due to the garden variety of the human hand big – small hand, long – short fingers, wide – skinny fingers. short – wide span between digits, limber – stiff, sensitive – callous, working hands, boxing hands ect. All of these factors come into play and we have to except them it’s the way god made us and there has to be work around’s. Not all fingerings can be achieved but they sometimes can through dedicated practice of dexterity exercise development and stretching. The nice thing is there’s always another way to do them on the guitar fret board.

For those guitar player who just don’t use their pinky while playing scales whatever you call it – (Omit Pinky Rule, Hi-3rd Rule, Mod3 Rule, Bending Finger Rule). There is a logic to the madness even through some schooled guitar players and teachers say they are bad habits that must be broken and make it purest rule to be set in stone. All rules can be broken with a meaningful logic and explanation to that rule.

When we look into the blues and rock styles of guitar (using the pentatonic and blues scales) there are some dynamics that come into play which is vibrato and bending. Vibrato is a subtle vibration of the fretting hand that gives a note a fluttering vocal quality, watch BB King he is the master of the blues vibrato style. Bending of a string increases pitch bleeding a lower note to a higher note. The more tension the higher the pitch usually bending upward on the string and sometime down increasing the pitch up to (1/2 Step), (1 whole step), (1 1/2 steps) the string braking point. Both vibrato and bending can happen at the same time and a lot of players do both (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower, BB King, Eric Clapton). If we try to do this with our pinky it’s almost physically impossible so we have to use (3rd Ring Finger) to accomplish the task.

As an exception to this there are some great blues-jazz guitar players that can do this using their pinky, one I know of is Robin Ford. Below I’m going to give some fingering examples for scale fingerings for both with and without the pinky. As a final note, not all of these fingering hold up in a real time playing situation depending on what you are trying to accomplish and where you are going on the guitar fret board during a solo. It also never hurts to practice both types of fingerings to develop dexterity and chops. Guitar Analyzer Software shows guitar fret finger placement for every fingering as to the examples below.

 

                          A Minor Pentatonic - Finger/Fret C MajorPentatonic Finger/Fret A Blues Finger / Fret A Dorian Finger/Fret

                          A Minor Pentatonic Modified Fingering C Major Pentatonic Modified Fingering A Blues Modified Fingering A Dorian Modified Fingering

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The guitar scales fret-board diagrams below are the (3 Note / String Fingerings) for the G Major Scale. The numbers in the guitar scales fret-board diagrams represent the fretting finger placement. This article builds off of my last post (Major Scale – 3 Note / String – 6 Note Shapes). This fingering is very popular for guitar players who have goals to play very fast major scale runs.These fingering are used by Classical, Jazz and Neo-Classical Metal Guitar Players or Shredding. If you want to cover a lot of notes and a lot of range these fingerings give your hand positioning and fingers easy mobility. When your first index finger is traveling to the next string it does not have to be repositioned a fret backward. It either moves to the next inline fret or forward up a half or whole step, saving re-position time on your index finger.

This is great for legato (smooth rapid succession of notes or slurs) hammer ons or pull offs. The timing is (Pick-Hammer-Hammer) foreward or (Pick-Pull-Pull) backward and it is a very easy way to play fast sounding runs. This is also great for staccato picking all the notes. You can develop your alternate picking speed because of three picking directions per string. (down-up-down) (up-down -up). Your guitar fretting fingers start getting a spidery feeling traversing the strings.

The guitar players that use these 3 note / string fingerings a lot are Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore and Tony McAlpine. Depending of the size of your hand. The whole-step whole-step patterns per string are played more commonly with the (1st index finger), (2nd Middle), (4th Pinky). Players with larger hands are more comfortable with using their ring finger (1st index finger), (3nd Ring), (4th Pinky) as the guitar scales fret-board diagrams below. All the guitar fret-board diagrams below can be created with Guitar Analyzer Software for all the scale roots.

                          G Ionian (Major) (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering A Dorian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering B Phyrgian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering C Lydian (3 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering

                          G MixoLydian (2 Octave +3) 3 Note/String Fingering E Aeolian (Nat. Minor) (2 Ocatave +2) 3 Note/String Fingering F# Locrian (2 Octave +2) 3 Note/String Fingering

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