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A rational explanation of the fingerboard in terms of the major scale
on 31 May 2011
'Building the Better Guitar Scale' aims to teach the guitar student a clear, progressive method for constructing playable scale patterns for the diatonic major and minor scales and their modes. It does this by identifying simple repeating sub-patterns based on three-notes-per-string fingerings and adding a couple of simple rules for their combination. Once this material is mastered, the student is enabled to play the major scale beginning on any string and degree, and by extension the relative natural minor scale and the modes of the major scale.
This method is not new, but it does work, and it is very clearly and concisely explained here (the author does assume an adult command of language, but all the patterns are illustrated by diagrams). It is intuitive, covers the whole fingerboard without giving priority to any position, requires no reading of notation and involves a minimum of memorisation - although, as always, the real 'secret' lies in the student's willingness to commit the elements to memory and then to practice.
The value of this method is that it demystifies the fingerboard layout and the standard tuning system of the guitar, giving the student an absolutely secure reference pattern, which may then be used as a basis for further learning.
There are some necessary things that are not attempted here. The location of note names (rather than scale degrees) on the fingerboard must be learned in some other manner. Nor is the relationship between the different major scales covered: again, systematic practice of the scale patterns will be aided if the student already understands the cycle of fifths and can construct the major scales. Some hints for practise are given, and here the method seems to be aimed more at the improviser than the classical performer who might expect to be performing from sheet music.
The only real caution I would offer would be that one of the basic three-notes-per-string patterns involves a five-fret stretch that beginners may find difficult in the lower positions. The slight initial inconvenience of these stretches may be offset for finger-style players by the convenience of a consistent i-m-i, m-i-m picking pattern on each successive string pair. For pick players, three-notes-per-string also has clear advantages in facilitating more rapid and fluid movement when crossing strings. In any case, because the method is not constrained by the requirement to master the first position before any other, the player may begin in as high a position as is convenient for the fretting hand and work down as he or she becomes used to the stretches.
Excellent value for money and recommended for players who are looking for a rational, systematic and musical way of getting to grips with the fingerboard.