Cre­ative rock

This month Shaun Bax­ter starts a new se­ries that re­veals an ap­proach that can se­ri­ously ex­tend your range on the fret­board.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Shaun Bax­ter shows how to move ‘cell shapes’ con­ve­niently up and down the finger­board.

pi­ano play­ers have it easy! no­ta­tion is tai­lor-made for their in­stru­ment (the white notes vis­ually rep­re­sent­ing all the ‘plain’ notes, and the black notes rep­re­sent­ing all the sharps and flats); fur­ther­more, what­ever they play can be shifted up, un­changed (same fin­ger­ing) over many oc­taves, pro­vid­ing both phys­i­cal and vis­ual con­ve­nience when they play. The good news is that the lat­ter ap­proach can be used on the gui­tar if we divide it into string-pairs: ie, sixth-fifth, fourth-third, sec­ond-first.

The tech­nique in­volves tak­ing any mu­si­cal en­tity (triad, arpeg­gio, Pen­ta­tonic scale, etc) and com­press­ing the in­for­ma­tion into a sin­gle string-pair, so that the same shape or ’cell’ can be shifted up and down in oc­taves via the other string-pairs. This pro­vides us with an easy means of tak­ing an idea over three oc­taves - not as im­pres­sive as a pi­ano player’s seven oc­taves, but very use­ful nonethe­less.

For ex­am­ple, a mi­nor pen­ta­tonic can be ar­ranged on the sixth and fifth strings like so: So, that’s six pos­si­ble con­fig­u­ra­tions that can each be shifted up in oc­taves onto the other string-pairs with­out hav­ing to change shape. it’s the sym­me­try that’s im­por­tant: be­cause it’s con­sis­tent, the shapes are easy to re­mem­ber - it’s a great way of or­gan­is­ing notes on the fret­board.

Fur­ther­more, each en­tity (in this case, a mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic) can be played in dif­fer­ent in­ver­sions depend­ing on the start­ing note. For ex­am­ple, it’s pos­si­ble to play five dif­fer­ent in­ver­sions of a mi­nor pen­ta­tonic by start­ing from a dif­fer­ent note each time: A-C-D-E-G; C-D-e-G-a (a has been moved from the front to the end); D-E-G-A-C (A and C have been moved from the front to the end); E-G-A-C-D (a, C and D have been moved from the front to the end); and G-A-C-D-E (A,C, D and E have been moved from the front, etc).

and, like the orig­i­nal in­ver­sion, all of the oth­ers can be con­fig­ured in the same six dif­fer­ent ways on each string-pair (5-0, 4-1 etc).

To­day we will look at play­ing two- and three-note en­ti­ties across three oc­taves. Two-note en­ti­ties (dou­ble-stops, in­ter­vals etc) can be con­fig­ured as fol­lows within each string-pair: 1-1, 0-2 and 2-0. Three-note en­ti­ties (tri­ads) can be con­fig­ured: 1-2, 2-1, 3-0, and 0-3. Dif­fer­ent ways of play­ing the same thing will pro­vide us with dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties.

once you’ve worked through the ex­am­ples in this les­son, strive to es­tab­lish some use­ful shapes in each of the CaGeD pat­terns of the var­i­ous scales that you know. es­tab­lish the pos­si­ble note-con­fig­u­ra­tions (cells) for each mu­si­cal en­tity (tri­ads, arpeg­gios etc) and au­di­tion each one against a back­ing track (for con­text), mak­ing a note of your favourites and ex­per­i­ment­ing with em­ploy­ing them in the most mu­si­cal ways. But re­mem­ber this:

you don’t have to play some­thing from the root of the un­der­ly­ing chord or scale that you are us­ing. you can ap­ply any for­mula from any mode of that scale (so, for a Mixoly­dian, you can use any mode of D Ma­jor).

you are not obliged to play all three oc­taves

It’s the sym­me­try that’s im­por­tant: be­cause it’s con­sis­tent, the re­sul­tant shapes are easy to see and re­mem­ber. It’s a great way of or­gan­is­ing notes on the fret­board.

each time, as this will se­verely limit your mu­si­cal ap­proach. in­stead, you might want to use just two ‘cells’ (or even one), but the idea might spring from the un­der­ly­ing ‘con­cept’ of three-oc­tave cells. Work out the in­ver­sions too (three-note en­ti­ties have three in­ver­sions, four-note en­ti­ties have four, etc)

you may need to use tap­ping for some shapes when they are played lower down the neck, whereas you may be able to pick ev­ery note when play­ing higher up the neck (where the stretches are eas­ier); so be pre­pared to adapt your ap­proach ac­cord­ingly.

Don’t just play fast ideas, or you’ll just sound the same all the time. The point of learn­ing any new de­vice is to use it ex­pres­sively! .

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