Conquering the Fretboard - Part 2

You can use a small handful of (interval) shapes to map out the fretboard, in conjunction with knowledge of how to find the octaves and duplicates of a given pitch (which we covered last week). Here we look at a method for finding the various intervals used in scales and chords that doesn't require a lot to remember.

Conquering the Fretboard - Part 2
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Today, we follow on from the octave shape we derived last lesson. If you remember, the red circle, labelled 1, indicates some point on the fretboard from which we're going to measure out semitones to various intervals. The "1" is the start note of a scale, or the root of a chord.

Today, I'm going to add in some easy to remember landmarks, found clustered near to the "1". Learn these landmarks (which are interval shapes from a "1"), and you should rapidly start seeing them in chords and scales you know, but also can use them to help you locate the chord or scale shape, if you know the intervals in that chord or scale. All the examples below are build around G. Move the contents of any diagram left or right to reroot (e.g. move left 3 frets (down 3 semitones), for the same ideas off of E).

Let's get started. The idea is to learn the concepts below independently of any particular scale or chord, and then to use them to help reinforce finding a scale pattern or chord voicing that you know contains particular intervals.

Finding the Perfect 5th

The first landmark that's extremely common, is the "5." Most scales have the interval of a perfect 5th (7 semitones above the start note). Many chord types, including major and minor triads, maj7, min7, 7... have a "5" in their interval makeup. The power chord is simply the start note and the "5" together. Notice how, if you know where "1" is, the "5" is found vertically below it (apart from when "1" is on the 2nd string), where it's diagonally below it, due to the guitar tuning between the 2nd and 3rd strings. I strongly recommend you learn this as a visualisation tip.

The 5 is a very stable sound. A safe landing note when present in the scale or chord.

Also, I've marked in blue roughly where each of the 5 regions encompasses. The regions are slightly more marked out when the 5th is present. (Ultimately, the precise shape of a region depends on what intervals are present in a scale we're viewing... More on this later.)

The Visualisation Fragement, 1,3,4,5

Next, is another visualisation mnemonic, using the intervals 1, 3, 4, and 5. So, I've simply added to the figure above the intervals of 3 (the major 3rd = 4 semitones) and 4 (the perfect 4th = 5 semitones... Remember the concept of the "vertical line" from the last lesson? That line denotes a p4 across adjacent strings (other than string pair 2 and 3, the usual offenders!)

I've drawn a blue outline around the pattern that crops up virtually everywhere, and a red shape for the one affected by the tuning on string pair 2 and 3.

This pattern falls very easily under the fingers. Not much to learn, I hope you agree. Note that the 3 is a semitone (a fret) behind the 4. Note 4 and 5 are two semitones apart (2 frets). It's also very easy to adjust top other useful fragments, such as 1, b3, 4, 5, or 1, b3, 4, b5. Again, these variations are present in many scales.

Finding the 7 and B7

Next, here's the thing to remember for finding the 7 interval (e.g. in the major scale, or a maj7 chord), and the b7 interval (e.g. in the blues scale, and in m7 and 7 chords). Note the vertical line again (and the effect of the tuning of the 2 and 3rd string pair, causing the shift to the right. Check back to last week's lesson for the details of figuring out semitones between two pitches.

So, what's to remember? The 7 is smack behind the 1, and the b7 is 2 frets behind the 1, visually. That's what... 10 seconds to remember.


What about those pesky altered chords, and scales with b5 and b6 (same as #5 sonically and visually).

Well, if you've nailed how to find the 5 (as above), this is trivial... It's smack bang either side of the 5.


And how about the b9 and #9 (same as b3 in scale shapes). Again, simple... Right next to the 1, and two frets away...

Dealing With Scales That Have Either a Major or Minor 3rd in Them, and Major and Minor Chords, and M7b5 Chords, Etc

This next diagram is critical to absorb. Notice the b3 and 3 are nearby either on the same string, on or the adjacent string. It's ok to play a b3 against a chord with a 3 in it (the bluesy effect), but it's pretty vicious when you play a 3 against a chord with a b3 in it. You can do it, but don't drag it out for too long, and move back to the b3.

Again, observe the same shapes are pretty much everywhere, apart from the offending 2nd and 3rd string pair. Don't get the shapes on that string pair muddled up with the other string pair shapes.

Finding the 6

It's one fret behind the b7. It crops up in maj and min 6 chords, in 13th chords, and in several scales.


That's pretty much it... Next time, I'll show the regions occupied by a few different scale types and chords.

As usual, try visualising the above shapes away from the guitar, and also on the guitar, with your eyes shut.

Cheers, Jerry

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