How To Rip Up And Down The Neck Effortlessly

It'll help you understand and navigate the guitar fret board in a more efficient way so that you will be able to play anywhere on the neck and improvise in any key.

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Guitar Fretboard Secrets - How to rip up and down the neck effortlessly (using a diagonal and linear approach)

In this lesson I will do my very best to help you understand and navigate the guitar fret board in a more efficient way so that you will be able to play anywhere on the neck and improvise in any key. With this approach you will gain the freedom of expression and ability to create those original solos that you've been dying to come up with.

It can be really frustrating when you get stuck in one position on the neck of the guitar; this usually leads you to come up with a small amount of ideas with your playing. I know exactly how you feel as I used to be in this exact situation for a long time. I found the way to overcome this problem was through learning all seven major modal positions on the fret board based on 3 note per string patterns. After getting these modal positions and shapes down I set out to find as many ways of linking them together as I possibly could!

I use this strategy all the time in my own playing and have a large number of students that can confirm that this strategy works well. So if you're the kind of person that wants to play the guitar using theory to make music instead of studying the subject in books, read on!

So have a look at how the approach works:

Step one: Learn all of the modal shapes

If you know all seven modes using the 3 note per strings patterns, you can skip this step.

If you are not familiar with these shapes invest your time into memorising all of the shapes I promise to you that this is not so difficult and worth every minute of the practice time you dedicate into learning them. Many guitar players struggle to appreciate the power of modes due to lack of strategy to integrate them together into one logical shape. While improvising these people tend to stay within one particular mode position and if they attempt to change to another mode it usually happens by starting from the root note of the new mode position. This makes the transition from one mode to another very unnatural. The strategies given in this lesson are very straightforward and I promise that you can apply them right away.

Step two: Learning the Diagonal approach

For this approach you will need to learn how to find octaves on the guitar. Refer to the diagram below to see the shapes for finding octaves. Let's say you are on the 5th fret of the E6 string (the note 'A'), if you look diagonally to the 7th fret of the D4 String you will find your 'A 'note one octave higher. Now look diagonally at the 10th fret of the B2 String that is your 'A' note an octave higher from the previous 'A' on the 7th fret of the D4 string.

Step three: Sequencing the modes

Look at the diagram below. What this shows is six notes on two adjacent strings repeated in three different octaves. Each octave for the sake of navigation belongs to a different mode position. To explain further the first six notes start in the Aeolian mode position, then the same 6 notes but an octave higher belong to the Locrian mode position and finally the last six notes belong to the Ionian mode position.

(The numbers inside the red dots refer to the fingers used to fret the notes).

Now let's take look at the tab below and explore how to play these patterns:

I have included below some easy but very powerful scale sequences to make things more interesting to play and listen to. I am sure that you will have a lot of fun playing them once you speed them up a bit! For the first sequence repeat the pattern on each string twice.

This sequence sounds very in keeping with neoclassical music and fun to play if you appreciate players like Yngwie Malmsteen or Paul Gilbert.

With this next sequence play the initial six notes of the first mode, then play the last three notes of the first mode together with the first two notes of the new one. To explain further I constantly repeat the same six notes in different variations in 3 different octaves. Keep in mind that I'm using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that I'm using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board. Each mode linked like this all belong to the same scale using this approach and is much more memorable than simply naming them position 1 7'. Here's the sequence:

Step four: Linear playing

Another way of navigating the fret board is to link the modes in a linear fashion (along the fret board). To do this we will be moving from one shape to another in a linear pattern as opposed to the more well known and far more commonly used vertical technique (across the fret board where we play through strings 1 to 6 within a few frets).

This linear way of playing means that we are moving through the mode positions along the fret board instead of going across it. Thanks to this approach we can come up with some really interesting licks or phrases that will sound a little bit different to your usual scale sequences. This approach was used extensively by Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert in mid 80's. Soloing in this linear way can grab the attention and more interestingly keep your audience interested for much longer. This is because you don't stay in one position of the neck keeping repetition to a minimum and it also physically looks more impressive. Also you don't start playing from the 6th string root note of each mode, which makes your runs more seamless, interesting and less predictable.

This is also great tool to build some tension in your music. The most basic form of soloing using the linear approach is simply playing the modes on one string. However we will focus here on playing the modes using pairs of strings for the simple reason of creating more interesting lines.

Using the diagram below look at how our modal positions link up on the fret board using the first 2 string on the guitar. I have taken all seven of the Major modes positions and highlighted each of them with a different colour. Keep in mind they are part of the same mode we are playing in but the interlocking shapes are just an extension of this initial mode through all of the various mode positions. I have pointed out the root note of the initial mode within each shape but keep in mind this is not the root note of each of mode but the root note of the initial mode. This is very important!

Here's a more understandable diagram of how the modal positions look like on the fret board. All seven modes are shown in order starting from G Mixolydian for simplicity. As I mentioned before we don't start these sequences from the root note of the mode but from the first note of the mode pattern.

Here are some sequence ideas that can be applied to this way of thinking about the fretboard using a linear approach using pairs of strings:

Now we have looked at these patterns let's make things a bit more complicated for fun! Find below that each first note is accented. This will help train your timing as well as your fret board visualisation.

I sincerely hope that you will find the content of this article useful and can integrate everything that you have found here into your playing. Have fun with exploring the possibilities of navigating the fret board with these new approaches and rip up that fret board!

If you liked my article please watch the bonus video lesson on my guitar teaching website.

Greg X is a professional 80's rock/metal guitarist and guitar trainer based in London, UK. Visit his teaching website: www.guitarlessonsinwimbledon.co.uk

52 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Dream Floyd
    Modes are like the icing on a Cake. The Cake is the overall piece. Modes only apply if you have a Cake. You can't have only Icing. You need a Cake that reflects the Icing.
    TheJHubs
    Chris_Basener wrote: great article for the intermediate player who wants to go to the next level.
    As an intermediate player wanting to go to the next level I'd have to agree with you, I didn't pay as much attention to the theory part of what you were saying as practicing the exercises you put out for us.
    Xeus
    Dream Floyd wrote: Modes are like the icing on a Cake. The Cake is the overall piece. Modes only apply if you have a Cake. You can't have only Icing. You need a Cake that reflects the Icing.
    thats a great analogy :p
    illyria
    my brain just melted. by all the blades in walhalla. this mode stuff in indecipherable
    Mike Breen
    +1
    dez_cole wrote: This annoying criticism is really annoying especially since he specified that he was only using the name of the modes to specify the shapes you'd be referencing. since i sat there and learned scales from the guitar grimoire i know what mode is what shape and the way he stated it made it a lot easier for me to understand... I just want to bring up the point that being overly critical about a good lesson over a thing that may be incorrect termonology is just nitpicking when it's specified that he is only using this termonology to make it easier. "Keep in mind that Im using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that Im using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board. Each mode linked like this all belong to the same scale using this approach and is much more memorable than simply naming them position 1 7."
    tommaso.zillio
    +10 I mean, what should he have used as names for the patterns? Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Grumpy? Yeah sure, patterns are not modes, we can all agree with that. He said it in the article too.
    dez_cole wrote: This annoying criticism is really annoying especially since he specified that he was only using the name of the modes to specify the shapes you'd be referencing. since i sat there and learned scales from the guitar grimoire i know what mode is what shape and the way he stated it made it a lot easier for me to understand... I just want to bring up the point that being overly critical about a good lesson over a thing that may be incorrect termonology is just nitpicking when it's specified that he is only using this termonology to make it easier. "Keep in mind that Im using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that Im using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board. Each mode linked like this all belong to the same scale using this approach and is much more memorable than simply naming them position 1 7."
    Karel Juwet
    Dream Floyd wrote: Modes are like the icing on a Cake. The Cake is the overall piece. Modes only apply if you have a Cake. You can't have only Icing. You need a Cake that reflects the Icing.
    Mmmmmm...Cake... *dreams of cake
    Duke von Rock
    tommaso.zillio wrote: +10 I mean, what should he have used as names for the patterns? Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Grumpy? Yeah sure, patterns are not modes, we can all agree with that. He said it in the article too. dez_cole wrote: This annoying criticism is really annoying especially since he specified that he was only using the name of the modes to specify the shapes you'd be referencing. since i sat there and learned scales from the guitar grimoire i know what mode is what shape and the way he stated it made it a lot easier for me to understand... I just want to bring up the point that being overly critical about a good lesson over a thing that may be incorrect termonology is just nitpicking when it's specified that he is only using this termonology to make it easier. "Keep in mind that Im using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that Im using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board. Each mode linked like this all belong to the same scale using this approach and is much more memorable than simply naming them position 1 7."
    i dunno... i like the idea...
    ChadCrawford
    Great article Greg. There is nothing wrong with your terminology. The problem is with certain folks not understanding that in the trade lingo of music, we commonly use mode names to refer to the extension patterns of the mode we are playing in. Your ideas are excellent.
    TheHammer
    I think this will be good, especially since whenever I try to come up with a solo, they always end up being in the E blues scale
    jjram33
    Great Lesson. Where can you find a good site to learn the modal patters from step 1?
    HearshotKd33
    so i just read the first little bit and played the FIRST tab....it quickly made sense when i made the blues scale connection with that(just leave out the b and the e notes). i dont care about if its worded right or wrong. the concept is there if you'd bother to experiment..
    jjram33
    Shapes not patters. oops
    jjram33 wrote: Great Lesson. Where can you find a good site to learn the modal patters from step 1?
    dez_cole
    This annoying criticism is really annoying especially since he specified that he was only using the name of the modes to specify the shapes you'd be referencing. since i sat there and learned scales from the guitar grimoire i know what mode is what shape and the way he stated it made it a lot easier for me to understand... I just want to bring up the point that being overly critical about a good lesson over a thing that may be incorrect termonology is just nitpicking when it's specified that he is only using this termonology to make it easier. "Keep in mind that Im using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that Im using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board. Each mode linked like this all belong to the same scale using this approach and is much more memorable than simply naming them position 1 7."
    Thomas Vela
    great job, it took me two years of playing to find this out. i wish i would have read this before. right now im learning sweep picking, and trying to get used to sweeping wile keeping a scale, when i clicked on this i thought it would be about how to get a good thumb positioning or something but anyways. THANKS now i know that im doing something right with my guitar. you should be a guitar teacher.
    Cacophonic
    Music Theory is not something one person should rely on to make music. Not in the least bit. Music Theory should be used as a guideline, not a set of rules.
    mickmarz
    yeah- uhhhm. what? A for effort,but this article is veryconfusing. i understand what you are trying to explain- i understand the modes,how they relate to each other, all that. and this article is confusing to me. i think if i sit down with this while im holding my guitar i could probably make sense of it after a while if i go slow. but to someone else who doesnt understand the subject as well as i do, they would be ****ed. the problem is that your explanations are very spotty ,vague,and in most cases not even given at all! i would try to get more organized,dumb it down so it is easier to understand and i think people will get more out of it. just my two cents.
    ElBarto2811
    Oh God I'm so sick of these idiots waiting for every article or post that contains the word 'mode' in it and then go "Nooooo that's not what modes are you unbelievable idiot!!! Cause I'm the only one who can grasp this complex matter and you are ever so dumb!!!" Ok maybe this guy's terminology is not 100% correct, but this is a very valid method of learning which notes go with key. Quit your bitchin'!
    Leather Sleeves
    My only real problem with article is the way that the diagonal playing only used six notes. It keeps things simple, but it seems strange to me to consistantly omit the 7th modal interval.
    JP Oliver
    WarriorArtist94 wrote: Step 3, example 1: those notes are in the dorian mode.
    I'm pretty sure it's right. It's Aeolian. Dorian doesn't have a half step between notes 5 and 6. It's a full step for Dorian.
    Kwote
    Great stuff Greg. Very useful. I was jammin out with your ideas last night!
    aCloudConnected
    This lesson will certainly help you learn to traverse the fretboard efficiently, but like everyone else has said, these are not modes. You can't have modes out of context, they need to be in context. Meaning that they need to have chords or a bassline under them, something to suggest a different tonality rather than major. Without that, these licks are just going to be major. It's things like these that have people spamming the Musician Talk thread with topics like "am i using tihs model patturn rite?"
    Paul Tauterouff
    I agree with Colohue - modes are about sounds/ notes over a particular chord, but I sometimes use modal names to identify shapes on the fretboard, so I understood what the author meant. I do think there is some value to this article as an exercise to practice the sequences and shifting. There is a mistake on the second fretboard diagram - the middle pair of strings (D and G) show markings at the 7th, 10th, and 11th frets. These should be 7th, 9th and 10th frets and are correct in the tablature below it.
    Myshadow46_2
    Yes it is helpful if you want to rip up and down the fretboard though. However I was taught like this and spent most of my time thinking I was changing the mode I was playing in. I know you have touched on this and just said you are using the modes to name a position, but I feel the article is generally confusing, especially if you are a beginner.
    crazysam23_Atax
    Dream Floyd wrote: NOOOOO! MODES AREN'T POSITIONAL! GAAAAAH!
    +1 Plus, why are you so hung up on sequential use of the modes. I know guys like Malmsteen are masters of this technique, playing sequentially at very, very high amounts of bpm. BUT most of us don't want to play 64th notes at 250bpm. You need to focus less on a sequential approach, imho, and more on a true linear approach. (Think a la Steve Vai or Satch's material before Chickenfoot.) Really, I think using the modes in a sequential manner limits one to specific techniques.
    tommaso.zillio
    Skuzzmo wrote: So what is it then????? right or wrong ?????
    The article is right. The only problem is that instead of talking of "modes" it would have been more correct to talk of "modal patterns". But then again, some people would have found this even more confusing. Modes aren't a simple topic to write on. I'd say if you are confused by this article, play all the exercises over a backing track in A minor and listen to how they sound. Then the article will make more sense to you.
    Colohue
    tommaso.zillio wrote: Skuzzmo wrote: So what is it then????? right or wrong ????? The article is right. The only problem is that instead of talking of "modes" it would have been more correct to talk of "modal patterns". But then again, some people would have found this even more confusing. Modes aren't a simple topic to write on. I'd say if you are confused by this article, play all the exercises over a backing track in A minor and listen to how they sound. Then the article will make more sense to you.
    The article is wrong. Modes require context, and patterns lack context completely, so there's no such thing as a modal pattern.
    Crimsonrice
    this lesson is the reason i wish i could look up and save lessons on the UG iphone app. great job. very helpful. im really stuck in the box patterns myself and all the licks im playing sound simple and cliche
    CrossBack7
    Yeahhh, what those fellas said ^. Incorrect article is incorrect, though I guess the excercises are useful.
    g0dd4rd
    Hmm, am not good on theory nor am a good guitar player, but I have different approach. First, I learn some scale and play it in "the box". Then I try to play it along the fretboard. When I know more "boxes" or "figures" of scales, I "lay" the "figures" over each other in one "box". It helps me with an improvization and I can shift both vertically and horizontally on the fretboard. I think am using modes rarely only when it cames "natural".
    rockgodman
    true what this article said is technically the wrong use of "modes" but the first step is IMO the best first step in learning your fretboard. Breaking down the whole fretboard in 7 shapes based on each degree of the scale allows a player to learn the whole fretboard in any key. And by calling them modes, (which they could be used as modes so a beginner might as well just call them that) it allows an easy way to memorize the patterns and understand the interval relationship to each starting note. All that basically means that learning the shapes and calling them modes is the best way to start learning what modes are and learning your fretboard at the same time. It helped me learn them quick and you could argue that his use of the word is wrong but he is definitely correct in his initial approach to learning the fretboard.
    GREG X
    Hi Guys thanks for reading the article and all your comments- Here's the sentence from my article :' Keep in mind that Im using the names of modes purely for the purpose of navigation, so whenever I name each mode please be aware that Im using the names of each mode to simplify the position changes on the fret board' This article is not about the character of each mode. Its about moving between shapes that will give beginner and intermediate players the chance to sound more interesting. There was a mistake in the diagram that has been now sorted. Also - I agree with this statement: Modes are like the icing on a Cake. The Cake is the overall piece. Modes only apply if you have a Cake. You can't have only Icing. You need a Cake that reflects the Icing. but this was not the topic of this article take care guys!!! Greg
    Pete Hartley
    You can use modes unaccompanied,so without the cake, and in your unaccompanied improvisation you can create a virtual cake....
    madmarx
    Pete Hartley wrote: You can use modes unaccompanied,so without the cake, and in your unaccompanied improvisation you can create a virtual cake....
    Totally. You can "aim" at the modes.
    Dream Floyd
    Pete Hartley wrote: You can use modes unaccompanied,so without the cake, and in your unaccompanied improvisation you can create a virtual cake....
    But while making the Cake, you still need a modal setting for the Icing to be relevant.
    bluntzilla2010
    Dream Floyd wrote: Modes are like the icing on a Cake. The Cake is the overall piece. Modes only apply if you have a Cake. You can't have only Icing. You need a Cake that reflects the Icing.
    +1 I liked the exercises at least.