A totally new way of thinking

Scroll down to see the scale pattern

Instant Fretboard Vision

In this series of articles, I'm going to give you, what I consider to be, the fastest and easiest way to "fretboard vision": The ability play over the entire fretboard like it was the easiest thing in the world. If you apply every element in my strategy and really go for it, you will not believe what will happen to your skills in this area. This subject is such an amazing example of how much progress you can make in very little time - if you take the time to analyze and think about what's really going on. To my amazement, I haven't been able to find any information resembling what I'm going to teach you - so I'm sure you will like what I'm about to share with you. When I realised these simple truths myself, I went from struggling to mastery in a couple of months and you will too.

"There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking"

Thomas A. Edison

The mother of scales

We're going to focus first on the Major/Minor scale since this is the basis of most other scales. When we have that in place and you can cover the entire fretboard effortlessly, I'll show you how to create the other scales from that foundation. And then you'll very quickly be able to play those over the entire fretboard as well - because they will only be slight alterations of, or parts of, the basic Major/Minor scale. (The Harmonic ┬┤Minor is a slight alteration of the Minor scale and the pentatonic scale consist of five notes from the Major scale) And we are going to stick to the C-Major / A-minor scale throughout the whole process.

Rules that you must follow

Before I dive into the specifics of the system, here are two very, very important rules to follow. It's not the most sexy part of this program but please read them and remember them. Failing to follow one of these rules can sabotage your efforts and send you right back to frustration again (assuming that you have been or are frustrated right now:-)

1. Stick to the C-major / A-minor scale throughout the entire process.

This is a way to limit the challenges you take on. If you attempt to play in other keys before you have this one down, you will interrupt the learning process in your brain. If you do stick to this rule however, I promise you, I will teach you how to instantly name all the notes on the fretboard in as little as a day.

2. Follow the step by step process

Don't move on from step 1 to step 2 before you master step 1 completely. Of course you can take a sneak peak into the future and play around with a few concepts before you're ready for them - as long as 90 % of your time is devoted to the step you are taking at this moment. Going too far, too soon will destroy your progress. I mean it. Taking on too much at a time is one of the main reasons why most of us don't master the fretboard already. Force yourself to stay focused on mastering the first step before you go on to the next. This will not only keep you from overwhelm, it will also ensure that you progress as fast as possible.

The three types of scale patterns

There are three types of scale patterns that you can learn. The first one would look something like this:

Patterns like these are comfortable for the fretting hand

This pattern is designed to make it easy for the fretting hand to play the notes. It consistently avoids this pattern, which many find a bit uncomfortable in the beginning:

When ever you have two whole steps in the scale, you shift to another string in order to avoid having to fret them. Another advantage of this pattern is that you only need five patterns to cover the entire fretboard, so there's less to learn. The downside is the uneven structure; some strings have three notes on them, and some have three. This makes it harder to pick fast and it gives you more string shifts to deal with.

The three note per string pattern

I picked up the second type of pattern from Paul Gilbert, and this is, of course, the three note per string patterns:

Patterns like these are comfortable for the picking hand

When you lay out the scale in this way, your fretting hand must get used to playing two whole steps on one string. But that's a really small price to pay for the advantage you get from being able to pick much faster and with greater ease. This pattern is created to make life easier for the picking hand. And picking fast seems to be a slightly bigger challenge than "fretting" fast. So these patterns are really nice for that sort of thing.

So we have patterns that are easy for the left hand and patterns that are easy for the right hand. but our focus right now isn't so much on fretting and picking, it's on developing instant fretboard vision. So how would we go about creating patterns that makes it easy for us to do this? Well here it is my friend, the four note per scale pattern:

I've painted the middle part of the pattern in a different color just to make the simplicity of this pattern more obvious

Now, how long will it take you to memorize that scale pattern? 5 minutes? 15 minutes? And how long does it take you to learn and memorize one of the previous scale patterns? You need seven of these babies to cover the entire fretboard, but they are all as symmetrical and logical as this one. And! they cover much more ground than the two first patterns. Right now you should be hearing the circuits in your brain go "Finally a scale pattern meant for us! Yeahhh" There are so many advantages to using patterns like these and I'll cover those tomorrow. For now, play around with this particular pattern and get a taste of the new options it gives you. Notice how it looks like you already master the fretboard when you play through it!

Scale patterns for improvising

"But there are two of the same notes on each string?" - Correct. When you play four notes on each string you invariably end and begin each string with the same note. But these patterns are not for playing the scale up and down, they are for improvising. Don't practice going up and down the scale in this pattern - practice improvising instead. Look at the pattern as two, three note per string patterns and play through them as such. I've included a video showing you how I play through this pattern with different licks and sequences. In my next article I will show you a way to nail these scale patterns quickly - and to connect them in the same process. This is so cool, I love doing this, see you tomorrow :-)