Bridging the blues scale shapes

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From vertical to horizontal

At some point in your development you feel the urge to learn to play using the entire fretboard instead of being locked into one or two positions. The first step to doing this is mastering all 5 of the blues scale shapes. But if this is the only thing you do, you won’t really develop the freedom you want, you’ll still be locked into positions only now there are five and not two of them. To truly go from being vertically oriented to horizontally oriented you must practice this specifically – and the 3-notes-per-string patterns are perfect for this.

In the previous article I showed you how you could expand your five “vertical”shapes and turn each two string pattern into a 2-string 3-notes-per-string pattern. But let’s take the next step from there. Let's use the 3 notes per string shapes to connect our regular blues scale shapes.

Here's the first example in E-blues. Let's say you wanted to connect shape number 4:

With shape number 1:

Then you could use a 3 notes per string shape (Blue dots) to bridge from one shape to another:

Now try to play a phrase or two in the first shape. Then move into the 3 notes per string shape and let that take you into the second shape. Then play a couple of slow phrases in the shape and move back into the 3 notes per string shape. Repeat the process until it feels effortless and natural to you. This is what I do in the first part of today's video.

Another example

Now if you're like me, you'll instantly feel the urge to practice all of the three note per string patterns while using them as bridges for the regular blues scale shapes. But please resist this urge. Force yourself to take one smaller idea like the one I've just described to you. Then spend two, three or four hours fooling around with that before you move on to the next. Don’t try to learn them all at once, instead, create and practice two or three “Bridges” of 3-notes-per-string patterns that go from one vertical shape to another. Here’s another example. We're still in the key of E. Here's you number one shape:

We're going to bridge that with the shape right underneath that:

And the shape right above that:

These three shapes are already connected as you've noticed. But we're going to create a horizontal path between them using a 3 notes per string shape (Blue dots)

This is what I use in the second part of today's video. Now spend some time playing around with these shapes. Improvise and have some fun. And every time you don't know what to play next, because you lost track of the scale shape you're in, stop and reorient yourself and continue. Keep doing this! Don't spend hours going up and down each scale shape, that type of exercise is great for learning the individual shape but it's very ineffective if you want to integrate them.

What can you learn now that you can use tomorrow?

It’s important that you focus on mastering one bridge completely before you create a new one. Think like this: What can I learn in two hours that I can use tomorrow at rehearsal? There’s nothing like learning a new tool that you can use instantly. Your brain loves this because it’s getting it’s reward now instead of months from now. Create one cool way of getting from one regular shape to another and learn it to perfection, which shouldn’t take you very long – and then create another one, and another. This will make your progress soar and you’ll have so much fun in the process. So what “bridge” will you make part of your playing today?

Spend 30 minutes each day “bridging” your blues scale shapes with 3-notes-per-string patterns and you wont believe the freedom you’ll develop very fast. Don’t worry about the stretches and weird fingerings, just do it and it’ll seem natural to you before you know it.

"Gather in your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery of at least one field of endeavor"

John Haggai