Position Shifting With The Chromatic Scale

author: jasonwilford date: 12/23/2010 category: scales

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Position shifting is a very important part of playing the guitar. Here is an easy way to practice the chromatic scale and position shifting at the same time. The chromatic scale consists of twelve equally spaced pitches within one octave. Understanding the concept on the guitar is easy, as it's the same as playing every single note all the way up a single string (eg. Playing frets 0 through 12.) Ex. 1 is a two-octave chromatic scale. The key to making this sound good is to use fingers 1-2-3-4, then stretch your first finger to the next string while still holding down your fourth finger. The goal is to make the transition seamless. Practice very slowly at first, then try it with a metronome once you get the hang of it. Make sure there are no obvious stops in sound in between stringsyou may want to focus on just switching to the adjacent string if you find this difficult.
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
B |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
G |----------------|----------------|----------------|--2--3--4--5----|
D |----------------|----------------|--3--4--5--6----|----------------|
A |----------------|--4--5--6--7----|----------------|----------------|
E |--5--6--7--8----|----------------|----------------|----------------|
Ex. 2 is the same scale, but descending. The key here is to stretch your fourth finger to the adjacent string, while still holding down your first finger. Follow the same guidelines above, making the transition as seamless as possible. Smooth note transitions are what you're looking for, not speed.
E |--4--3--2--1----|----------------|----------------|----------------|
B |----------------|--5--4--3--2----|----------------|----------------|
G |----------------|----------------|--5--4--3--2----|----------------|
D |----------------|----------------|----------------|--6--5--4--3----|
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
Once you have the position shifting down with both of the examples above, we're going to try Ex. 3 using just the low E (6) string. The objective here is to have smooth shifting between 5th position and 9th position. You are going to have to quickly move your index finger to the 9th fret once you have played the first four notes of this exercise. When descending (measure 2), the concept is reversed, and you have to move your fourth finger down to the 8th fret. This may take some time to master, but make sure to practice this on all strings.
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
B |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
G |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
D |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------||
E |--5--6--7--8----|--9--10-11-12---|--12-11-10-9----|--8--7--6--5----||
     5th Pos.         9th Pos.         9th Pos.         5th Pos.
Ex. 4 combines all three exercises into one super exercise that can be used for warming up, practicing speed, and much more. You are going to be switching positions between strings, as well switching positions on a single string. Make sure the transitions are as transparent as possible, so practice with a metronome and play slowly.
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
B |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
G |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
D |----------------|----------------|----------------|--7--8--9--10---|
A |----------------|--4--5--6--7----|--8--9--10-11---|----------------|
E |--5--6--7--8----|----------------|----------------|----------------|
     5th pos.         4th pos.         8th pos.        7th pos.   
  6th pos.                          10th pos.        9th pos. 
E |--12-11-10-9----|----------------|----------------|----------------|
B |----------------|--13-12-11-10---|--9--8--7--6----|----------------|
G |----------------|----------------|----------------|--9--8--7--6----|
D |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
A |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
E |----------------|----------------|----------------|----------------|
     9th pos.        10th pos.        6th pos.          
  7th pos.         8th pos.         4th pos.         5th pos.
Once you have mastered all the exercises here, your position shifting should sound a lot more natural. Play around and find different ways to go up and down the chromatic scale. Shift your positions on different strings, and try to ascend in a different pattern than you descend. This should let you access more areas of the fretboard when you transfer the position shifting concept to other scales and modes etc. The options are limitless! Jason Wilford ------------------------------------------------------------------- Jason is a guitar teacher and musician from Mississauga, ON, Canada. More information can be found here.
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