Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Music Theory: Fret Board Knowledge and your Practice Routine

I incorporated fret board knowledge into my practice routine by choosing a particular key and playing the major pentatonic scales for the I, IV, and V chords of the key in each position on the fret board.

For example, key of G and the major pentatonic scales. Start at fret three of the low E string and ascend the G major pentatonic scale (G Major Form I from the Berklee Method). Next, descend the C major pentatonic scale using Form IV starting at fret 5 of the high e string. From there, ascend using the D major pentatonic scale using Form III. Move up to the next area of the fret board, descend using G major pentatonic Form II, and ascend in C Form V and so on. Choose a different key with each practice and over time you will gain the ability to quickly locate any scale in any key.

The advantage of this approach is you can instantly change keys while staying in the same area of your fret board. This keeps your improvisation a lot smoother. I play on top of “Let’s Jam!”, a CD by Peter Vogl to work on practical application of this improvisational approach. This CD contains a variety of instrumental backing tracks in rock, blues, and jazz styles. It lists the chord progression for each track as well as suggestions on what scales to play in your improvisation. I utilize my TASCAM Guitar trainer to slow down the tempo as needed when I first apply a new technique and gradually speed up until the track is at actual speed.

I have to admit that once you begin improvising using any approach it is thrilling to hear the relationships between the underlying chords and your playing. However, the great thing about this hobby is there is always more to learn. Identifying where you are starting from enables you to use your fret board map and move to the next level.