Fretboard Mapping – Part 3

In this video, Colin demonstrates how to map scales in various configurations that defy conventional fretboard boxes.

In order to freely improvise outside of the proverbial “box” or be able to sightread a piece of music well on the guitar, one has to be able to see the pitches on their fretboard in as many ways as possible. In this video, I’ll show you another approach to effectively mapping the fretboard to help you know your guitar inside out.

Hey there. Welcome to Inside Out Guitar. I’m Colin Sapp. I hope you’ve been having success with what I covered in the first two fretboard mapping videos. The more repetitions you give those exercises, the more the fretboard will reveal itself to you, so keep up the hard work. Once you have the Chromatic Scale and all of the Major scales mapped on every string, you can apply that exercise concept to other scales such as Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major, Symmetrical Diminished, or any other scale that you want to have command of. Practicing our scales linearly is a great way to graft our theoretical understanding onto our instrument.

If you haven’t watched the first two fretboard mapping videos, I highly recommend that you work with those first, as I’ve covered some of the information there that I’ll be using in this video.

Up to this point, we’ve done extensive mapping of our fretboard along what you could call the X-axis. But of course, we can also map the fretboard along the Y-axis. One way to think about this is by using a set number of notes-per-string. So let’s dive right in.

Let’s work in the key of G Major. As you know by now, the pitches of G Major are all natural except for F#. Play the G Major scale one note-per-string. While it may not be the most practical way to play a scale, it gives us some insight as to how the guitar behaves when we cross strings. Notice the steep backwards angle that playing the scale in this way creates and what an incredible contrast it is to playing the scale on one string. Right away, it looks to me like we could connect two paths: the one note-per-string path and the single string path. This already obliterates the convention of staying in one place on our neck when playing a scale.

We could play G Major with 2 notes-per-string and that would give us not as steep of an angle, but still going in the same direction as before. If we played 3 notes-per-string, we start to inch up the fretboard and get more than a two octave span of pitches. Playing 4 notes-per-string gives us over a 3 octave reach.

Then we could start G Major from the different degrees of the scale, which of course yields the modal relatives of that key: A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, etc.

A little side note here: if you don’t already know major mode theory, do some digging on the internet. There are so many resources that explain the modes that I feel it’s redundant for me to re-explain them here. We will be using them down the road, so get the theory part together and apply this mapping approach to them.

After you feel comfortable playing G Major in these different configurations, move on to other keys and map them in the same way. An important point here is that you should always be thinking about the pitch names you are playing, not memorizing a finger pattern. If saying the pitch names out loud like we did in Parts 1 and 2 help, then do that.

When you’ve mapped out all of the Major scales along these different paths, start to explore various combinations of notes per string. For example, we could start on the fifth degree of G Major (D) and play 4 notes on the low E, then 3, 2, 3, 4, and 4 on the way up and then on the way down 3 notes, then 3, 3, 4, 4, and then 3. Just make it up as you go and see if you can find your way. This is a great intermediary step to help connect your fretboard awareness and theoretical understanding to your improvisation process.

Once again, you can apply this concept to any scales you want to master: Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, even Pentatonics. Let me show you how this could apply to an A Minor Pentatonic scale. The pitches of A Minor Pentatonic are A C D E G. I’m going to start on the last note, (G), and play a two-three pattern: two notes per string on the low E, then play 3 on the next string, then repeat. Look at the range that we’ve just covered: from the 3rd fret up to the 12th fret with relative ease. Mapping scales in this way gives us useful options when it’s time to create.

Now it’s your turn. Spend some hours exploring scales with various combinations of notes-per-string. Over time, I hope you become less restricted on your fretboard. For more guitar insights, please subscribe to the Inside Out Guitar channel. Thanks for watching, happy practicing, and I’ll see you next time on Inside Out Guitar!

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