Improvising Smoothly Across the Neck...

Have you ever felt amazed when watching a guitar player blast their fingers  smoothly up and down the entire guitar fingerboard while improvising? 

This lesson will shed some light on how they seem to command such incredible control over the guitar neck...

Great guitar players make it seem like their fingers just always go to the right place at the right time without the guitar player really having to think about it. It’s like those fingers had a mind of their own.

For a lot of guitarists the pentatonic and the blues scale are generally fairly decent scales on the neck. Having a good sense for them will allow a player to play some licks and runs in most blues and rock environments.

However, playing in a flowing manner in all kinds of styles and being able to play many different types of scales, (major scale, natural minor scale and modes), can seem like a whole other ball game.

The diatonic major scale and it’s related modes in different shapes, keys and various exercises must be attended to if you ever want to have great control over the guitar. At first, these scales won’t come off as sounding natural. It will take a very long time before they feel comfortable on the neck.

However, with your practice time spent on connecting the scales, sliding them freely along the neck laterally and with time spent on creating music using them - you will have better success with your soloing.

Moving a melody across the fret-board without having to think about it is the ultimate goal. Once the patterns for scales can be taking along several fretting positions this goal can begin to materialize. But, the key is taking the patterns along the neck laterally. Playing the shapes too long in one position only won't bring you the results.

It took a while before most guitar players figure this one out. So, bear in mind that the faster a guitarist gets started playing complete scales (7-tone scales of major and minor) the more melodic and the more versatile your pattern control will become. And, the better a guitarist you will be from doing it.

A melodic pattern is an intervallic and repetitive pattern of scale tones that will make your scales sound less like scales and more like musical phrases. The interval pattern is recurring and provokes melody. There are many variations, from easy ones to more challenging patterns.Try playing through the pattern shown in example one.

EXAMPLE #1). Major Scale Lateral Melodic Pattern
Click on the image below to show as full-screen

Practicing lateral melodic patterns will increase your dexterity and they will make your technique become more fluid. With regular practice you will start noticing that your fingers will be going to the right places at the right time (more often). They will also develop, to some extent, a life of their own as time goes on. In studying them, your fingers are being trained to master the guitar fingerboard.Try the Minor lateral pattern below in example two.

EXAMPLE #2). Minor Scale Lateral Melodic Pattern
 Click on the image below to show as full-screen

The lateral melodic pattern practice will (in time) allow you to translate melodies from how they exist in your head onto the guitar. The practice will more quickly help to translate your ideas onto the fingerboard because both your ears and your fingers are chasing a "melodic sequence pattern" and in turn you are being trained to know precisely where to go to reach the notes that you want to hit.

It is a different strategy than running a scale straight up or straight down the neck. The lateral work will more naturally make you think more about playing along the fingerboard. And, the new shapes that you'll discover along the way will allow you far more freedom during times of improvising.

While you want to be careful that you don’t end up playing interval patterns all the time (you don’t want to sound like a machine), this work does get you to the next level of playing by increasing the way your melodic scale knowledge operates along and across the neck. Try playing the melody shown in the example three TAB given below.

EXAMPLE #3). Minor Scale Melody Using "Lateral Melodic Patterns"
 Click on the image below to show as full-screen

If you combine this with all the other tools like arpeggio, triads, licks, double-stops, wide harmonic intervals, and learn to mix it into several style like blues, jazz, rock, pop and country you'll learn to really control the sound of scales to a whole new level.

Creating real melody with the diatonic scales, and forming your own unique way of playing them, will help you become a player who is not just more melodic, but also limitless sounding and beautifully interesting to listen to.

– Practice the melodic patterns in this post.

– Apply the melodic patterns from the post above to all 5 major and minor scale shapes. 

Watch the video for this post on my YouTube channel:
Improvising Smoothly Across the Neck



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