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Old 04-01-2013, 12:46 PM   #1
Augustinas
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Chasing roots vs disregarding them (Pentatonic scales)

Hey there,

I've been working on my improvisation recently, and the thing I am struggling with, like most people as I hear, is breaking out of the boxes (pentatonic boxes in my case) and effortlessly going around the fretboard horizontally while staying in the same key.

I stumbled upon one lesson on the internet, which criticized the "root chasing" while playing scales and recommended starting from whatever note to break out the box thinking: if you want to play the A major pentatonic for example, you can start on the B note instead of the root and use the pentatonic shape built from the second note, start on the C# - on the shape built from the third note, start on the E - on the shape built from fifth etc, and then you still play the same notes as in the A pentatonic, only disregarding the root. This way you can choose whatever region of the fretboard to play whatever scale without looking for roots.

Or is this system flawed and there is a reason why people emphasize scale roots?
In case somebody was not aware of this thing, here it is explained:
EDIT: the link was not allowed, so you can find it on youtube - visualizing pentatonic scales pt.1 and pt.2 from guitarlessons365

And, most importantly, which thing helped you to reach breakthrough and to solo horizontally in a wider region of the fretboard while staying in the key, instead of relying on one or two boxes?

Last edited by Augustinas : 04-01-2013 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:51 PM   #2
mdc
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Play G minor pentatonic on the top e string, ascending and descending. Can you do it straight off with no mistakes? If not, then work on interval recognition (ear training).

Playing scales laterally will immediately break you out of boxes.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:23 PM   #3
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I think the whole idea of "root chasing" is simply that the tonic is the easiest note to hear as having a distinct "personality" and if you start by being aware of the tonic, you'll start to think in terms of phrasing, rather than just playing randomly. (And, uh, be careful about taking too much advice from someone who doesn't uses the words root and tonic interchangably. They're not the same. From what you're saying, it sounds to me like he's talking about TONIC chasing.)

The notion that every lick should start or end on the tonic is absurd. But most people use the tonics, in some way, to orient themselves around the fretboard. That's the whole idea of the CAGED system, after all. But you should also (eventually) be able to play every scale you play everywhere on the fretboard - with the tonic on any string.

This is an important skill, but it has nothing to do with not playing in shapes.

The way you break out of shape-based playing is with your ear, being able to really understand the unique relationship each individual note has to the tonic note, and thus to get away from treating a scale as a collection of interchangeable notes. The fifth scale degree is NOT the seventh scale degree, and you need to be able to hear the difference. You need to be able to know, in advance, what the difference is.

And we emphasize tonics because it helps with that learning process.

The thing that made the big leap for me was the functional ear trainer, a free download from miles.be. YMMV.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:28 PM   #4
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I'm finding it takes a lot of work but you ultimately want to get to the point of thinking both ways. I know it's a mindf*ck. The way I am currently thinking about it is that the box patterns have a tendency to emphasize vertical playing, which is good for licks and sequences. Horizontally you can concentrate more on melodic lines and phrasing. Getting a feel for the intervals, as mdc is saying is what is helpful. I started to look at Gilmour's solos for this, but that's just one example, I like his style. The solo for Time has flowing melodic lines and it's played more horizontally. The solo for Have a Cigar is a bunch of blues licks and played vertically. Concentrate on one string at a time for horizontal. Combing both would be good for octave runs. If you know how modal playing works, you could probably even move onto horizontal playing over a modal vamp for even further interval recognition.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:00 PM   #5
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HotspurJr, for the benefit of the TS and others, would you mind sharing how you practically applied the knowledge you got from using the functional ear trainer and how you noticed it helped you grow as a guitarist? I'm just curious what to expect if it's working over the course of months/years using it.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:05 PM   #6
Augustinas
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HotspurJR, could you explain the difference between a root note and the tonic? I mean, I thought that the tonic centers of the scale coincides with the root notes found in it.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:40 PM   #7
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Tonic refers to the scale and key. Root is concerned with chords. Tonic and root are completely different but are commonly misunderstood.
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Old 04-01-2013, 08:49 PM   #8
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Well, honestly, the impact was subtle, almost subconscious. I just started to listen to song and realize that random notes were standing out to me, like "oh, that's a fifth."

Similarly with my playing, it was subtle. The gap between the sound I expected to hear from my guitar when I moved my fingers to new frets and what I actually heard got smaller and smaller. If I wanted a certain sound, my fingers just started to automatically know where to go.

I began to hear music more accurately - that fast riff started to have more melodic content. (Notice how someone with an untrained ear, when they sing a riff, they get the rhythm right but the pitches are all kind of vague?). My singing got much more accurate.

Without it really requiring much thought, I'd find myself automatically figuring out what a song I was listening to was doing. Finding the key of a song became simple. Following the chords took me almost no trial and error (particularly if the chord progression is simple). If a hear a melody in my head I'm much, much faster at finding it on the guitar.

I'm not perfect at any of this stuff, mind you. I'm just a thousand times better at it than I was before I started using it.

as for roots vs tonics, it's not that big a deal. People sometimes use the terms interchangeably and everybody will know what you mean most of the time (like here). But if somebody's making a larger pedagogical point about how you should think about scales, I'd think they should know the right word.
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Old 04-01-2013, 09:24 PM   #9
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I really appreciate hearing that and it gives me confidence - and I hope for others as well. Good to know it's a slow, but sure, gradual process that can definitely be learn just like anything else in life. Like playing guitar, before you know it, you can play more dexterous than you ever thought you once could. I am going to start trying to think in those terms and see what happens over some months or a year
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:45 AM   #10
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It's a really good idea to avoid always starting on the root. Although it's the natural way to start learning a scale, you should practice the scale from every note in every direction, up down, sequenced...

In improvisation you want to feel confident starting anywhere, going anywhere. This will obviously take a while but starting in places other than the root is a good step to take!
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:07 PM   #11
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Play musically, don't over-think it.
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Old 04-04-2013, 07:42 PM   #12
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How well do you know the fretboard?

If I pointed to the 14th fret on the B string, could you tell me what note that was?

So take an E min scale, try to think of it as those notes (E, F#,G,A,B,C,D)all over the fretboard.. instead of a box or pattern.
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Old 04-04-2013, 08:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peaceful Rocker
How well do you know the fretboard?

If I pointed to the 14th fret on the B string, could you tell me what note that was?

So take an E min scale, try to think of it as those notes (E, F#,G,A,B,C,D)all over the fretboard.. instead of a box or pattern.


and how would you do that without thinking about a pattern?
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:29 PM   #14
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It's more of a mental thing. Viewing it as a collection of notes instead of a box.

Obviously, the patterns are there.. just try not to think about them I guess is what i'm getting at.
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Old 04-05-2013, 12:35 AM   #15
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Chasing roots is what made me start playing guitar. Not sure why I'd stop now.
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Old 04-05-2013, 10:43 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peaceful Rocker
It's more of a mental thing. Viewing it as a collection of notes instead of a box.

Obviously, the patterns are there.. just try not to think about them I guess is what i'm getting at.

My point is that thinking of them as patterns actually makes the "collection of notes" idea more obvious. There is no need whatsoever to deny yourself such valuable information.
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Old 04-09-2013, 11:59 AM   #17
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Take all your boxes and pick two strings. Then instead of running scales just in a box, run them through only two strings. For example, if you're taking the 5 different pentatonic boxes, try to play the scales by only using your high E and B strings all the way up and down the different boxes. Learn to see how the boxes connect and the shared notes between them and you'll be able to navigate up and down in addition to left and right... or however you're looking at it.
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Old 04-09-2013, 12:10 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuitarMunky
My point is that thinking of them as patterns actually makes the "collection of notes" idea more obvious. There is no need whatsoever to deny yourself such valuable information.


I'm not opposed to learning shapes, but a student needs to know that learning shapes is jsut the first step towards learning to use a scale. Many guitarists seem to think it's the final step.

Because the problem with shape-based thinking is that it inherently treats all the notes in the shape the same. And they're not.

That is a problem that can be overcome, but it appears that many students never overcome it.
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Old 01-01-2014, 12:53 AM   #19
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The term "chasing roots" is meant as 'root' and not 'tonic'. It is a Dana Reach teaching point where he is critical of the practice of using the only pentatonic pattern many guitar players ever learn (the one most of us learned first where the "tonic" of the scale is on the 1st and 6th strings) to mirror chord changes to simply "chase the root" of the chord being used. An exams would be using Am pentatonic over A power chord and then "chasing the root" up to D minor pentatonic scale when the rhythm switches to a D power chord.

It creates a lack of cohesion within the melodic contour of the song. Wild fluctuations in the register the solo is occurring in due to switching positions often as many as 5-7 positions up as in the expample above. The solution is learning how to change melodic concepts while staying within 1or2 fret positions by switching shapes within the positions.

Example, if playing in A minor pentatonic at the 5th position using 5th box pattern and wanting to shift to D minor pentatonic without changing positions you would simply change to the 3rd pentatonic box pattern staying in the 5th position which would yield you the same notes as sliding all the way up to the 10th fret in the 5th box pattern. But, it would keep you in the same register which could help improve the dynamics and melodic contour of the solo.
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Old 01-01-2014, 02:01 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augustinas
And, most importantly, which thing helped you to reach breakthrough and to solo horizontally in a wider region of the fretboard while staying in the key, instead of relying on one or two boxes?

The more solos I learned by artists I liked, the more I was able to play in a wider range of the fretboard while staying in key.

Another thing too was the way in which the shapes in different parts of the fretboard share the same notes. I don't mean there's an A here and an A there I mean...I mean there's an A here and the same A is also over there. For example the 14th fret D string, the 9th fret G string, the 5th fret B string, and the open high E string are not just all an E note but they are the same E note.

Another thing that helped was making up little melodies that fit into single position on the fretboard. And also making up melodies on one or two strings that moved up and down the fretboard. Making up melodies that were based around chord shapes and arpeggios that moved up (or down) the fretboard. And then just experimenting on finding ways to tie these different ideas together.

The most useful thing though was learning a lot of solos that I really enjoyed, many of which moved up and down the fretboard.
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