Five topics that will keep guitarists grounded when playing on the neck.
The musical range of the guitar neck is very difficult to understand. There are often four or five locations to play the same pitch. This means that we have many ways to play one phrase. Let’s talk about what we can do to get some grounding with the fretting hand.
Lowest and Highest Note (chromatic switchbacks)
This may seem obvious, but we need to internalize the idea. The lowest note is sixth string open, E. The highest note is on the first string and the highest fret number on your guitar. This is usually C, D, or E.
Try playing chromatically from the lowest to highest and highest to lowest. Try to play about the same number of notes on each string until you get from one end of the guitar range to the other. You will notice a “Switchback” pattern as you work through.
If we want to maximize our access to the full range of the instrument we can begin our hand position in the middle of the range. With the chromatic exercise above, figure out the approximate location of the fretting hand when playing the third and fourth strings.
Starting our hand position in the middle of the guitar range is great for sight-reading and general playing.
Each Fret/String Location is Unique
The guitars usually have six-strings and about twenty frets. Each string has its own width and to some extent, tone. Fret spacings have various widths, getting closer together as we move toward the picking hand.
Where strings and frets intersect we have a unique combination of qualities. There is string width, tone, and the fret spacing.
Know the inlays on your guitar and know the most common inlay pattern. Inlays are commonly placed on frets three, five, seven, nine, twelve, fifteen, seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-four. Visualize these so that you will have no problem switching guitars.
See these inlays in your minds-eye as your hand position changes across the neck. This will help prevent you from getting lost.
Know Patterns and Listen
Study and internalize patterns. Guitar is very visual, but we need to also hear very solidly what we are doing.
Try working on patterns while listening to a harmony. It is very beneficial to understand each note from a pattern as it relates to a harmony.
Work on these five areas and watch your fingers become more secure in what they are doing. Play great!