Shaun Baxter continues his series on mapping out the fretboard using two-string clusters of notes called ‘cells’. This month: five-note cells.
Shaun Baxter continues on his quest to give you total knowledge of the fingerboard.
string-pairs, the fingering will remain the same in every octave (perfectly symmetrical), providing both physical and visual convenience: e& A; D & G; and B & e.
For example, an Am triad (threenote entity) can be arranged on the lower string-pair (sixth and fifth strings) as follows: (3-0) A-C-E (2-1) A-C E (1-2) A C-E (0-3) - A-C-E So, that’s four possible configurations that can each be shifted up in octaves onto the other string-pairs (fourth and third strings, and second and first strings) without changing shape.
Furthermore, each entity (here, Am) can be played in different inversions depending on the starting note. For example, in this case, it is possible to play three different inversions of Am by starting from a different note each time: A-C-e; C-e-A (A has been taken off the front and placed on the end); and e-A-C (A and C have been taken off the front and placed on the end). And, like the original inversion, all the others can be configured in the same four different ways on each string-pair (3-0, 2-1 etc). In the first few lessons of this series, we looked at playing two, three and four-note cells across three octaves via various string-pairs. Today we will focus on five-note cells.
These can be configured as follows within each string-pair: 5-0; 4-1; 3-2; 2-3; 1-4; and 0-5. note that different ways of playing the same thing will provide us with different musical possibilities. Also note that five-note cells are particularly applicable to pentatonic scales (all of which have five notes per octave).
As usual, once you have worked through the various practical examples in this lesson, you should establish some useful shapes of your own in each of the CAGeD patterns of the various scales that you know.
establish the various possible noteconfigurations (cells) in a systematic way, and audition each one against a backing track so that you can hear it in context, making a note of your favourites, and experimenting with various ways of employing them in the most musical ways. But remember the following:
You don’t have to play something from the root of the underlying chord or scale that you are using. You can apply ideas starting from any note of that scale. You are not obliged to play all three octaves each time, as this will severely limit your musical approach. instead, you might want to use two ‘cells’, or even just one: the important thing is that the musical
Note that different ways of playing the same thing will provide us with different musical possibilities via new technical opportunities.
idea might spring from the underlying ‘concept’ of string-pair cells.
Don’t forget to work out the inversions too (five-note entities have five inversions). 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; be prepared to adapt your technique according to the situation. Also, don’t just play fast ideas, or you’ll sound boring and repetitive - the point of learning any new technique is to use it expressively.
The following examples are all based around five-note string-pair ‘cells’ that exist within A Aeolian (A-B-C-D-e-F and G). The intention is to help you to start building up a useful repertoire of shapes and lines for you to be able to draw upon when improvising.