This month Shaun Baxter ups the ante as he continues his series devoted to exploiting the symmetry of the guitar fretboard in string-pairs.
Shaun Baxter explores how to use six-note string-pair cells to enhance your lead playing.
This series is devoted to the practice of compressing the information of a musical entity (triad, arpeggio, Pentatonic scale etc) into a single string-pair, so that the same shape (cell) can be shifted up and down over three octaves via the other string-pairs.
If we confine our approach to the following string-pairs, the shapes remain the same in each octave, providing physical and visual convenience: sixth-fifth; fourth-third; second-first.
revision: For example, an Am triad (three-note entity) can be arranged on the lower string-pair (sixth and fifth strings) as follows: So, that’s four possible configurations that can each be shifted up in octaves onto the other string-pairs without having to change 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-Ce-A (A has been copied off the front and duplicated 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 of the other ones can be configured in the same four different ways on each string-pair (3-0, 2-1 etc).
so far we’ve looked at playing two, three, four and five-note cells. Today we are going to focus on six-note cells, which can be configured as follows within each string-pair: 6-0; 5-1; 4-2; 3-3*; 2-4; 1-5; and 0-6. (* the 3-3 note-configuration is convenient because it is based on a familiar approach to most guitarists. Furthermore, it is also suitable for sweep picking, because there are an odd number of notes on each string).
All six-note string-pair cells are good for hexatonic scales such as Whole-tone; and different ways of playing the same thing will provide us with different musical possibilities via new technical opportunities.
As usual, once you have worked through the examples in this lesson, try to establish some useful shapes of your own in each of the CAGeD patterns of the scales that you know.
establish the various possibilities in a systematic way, and try each one against a backing track so you can hear it in context, noting your favourites and working out ways of employing them musically. But remember:
You don’t have to play something from the root of the underlying chord or scale; you can apply ideas starting from any note. You are not obliged to play all three octaves each time, as this will limit your musical approach; you might want to use just two cells (or one): the important thing is that the musical idea might spring from the ‘concept’ of string-pair cells. Don’t forget to work out the inversions too (six-note entities have six inversions)
You may need to use tapping for some of the shapes lower down the neck; just be prepared to adapt your approach accordingly.
Finally, don’t only play fast ideas, or you’ll just sound the same all the time. Above all, be expressive, as the point of learning any new technique or theoretical concept, is to be able to make music with it; not sound like you are simply running up and down exercises.