Unlocking the Fretboard - Part 1, The key vertical exercises

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Unlocking the Fretboard - Introduction Unlocking the Fretboard - Part 2,The key horizonta...

So how do we get from A to B? How do we go from strict ”box” thinking, to literary thinking “outside the box”?

Well as the great Miles Davis said “First learn the rules, the break them”.

What does this mean then? Well, first we need to learn the boxes you’ve seen in the introduction by heart, and what the notes of them are, just as a writer can’t begin writing his Nobel prize novel if he has not first learned the alphabet and built a vocabulary. Your alphabet is your scales, and your lines, ideas and licks are your vocabulary. Not only the pentatonics of course, my concepts can be applied to any scale but for the sake of simplicity and speed of learning I will use these to begin with. Same idea with your licks, the timing and note value alteration concepts you find in my other lessons is the key to truly varied improvisation, while these scale concepts are the key to transferring these ideas holistically across the neck.

So, to begin with we will not more far from the single box thinking. We will start out with an exercise that combines the 1st and 2nd box in the A minor pentatonic as you see the image below. I have used the same presentation as in the introduction, using the b5 as well, so even if you do not play them in these exercises, always be aware of them and where they are in relation to the root.

In this first exercise we use a 4 note ascending pattern spanning two strings, then doing the same thing in the 2nd box, then back to the 1st and so on. You can use any technical preference you might have, pick everything, use only hammer-ons or use a combination of the two like I do. Even though these ideas can be used in improvisation, they are primarily thought of as fretboard opening exercises, so do not memorize them like licks and patterns, but focus on seeing the pentatonic scale holistically.

In the second exercise we will use the same idea, but now spanning three strings at a time.

You should of course practice these exercises using all boxes, going between the 2nd and the 3rd, 3rd and 4th and so on. Even experiment by going between say 1st and 3rd, skipping a box in between. And, also, practice these exercises in ALL keys!

Got that down? Then let’s turn the page!