After years of teaching, in contact with many students and colleagues, years of studying and researching, always by focusing on the “state of art” in the field of modern guitar education, I follow (and suggest to my students) a simple basic rule that works very well when one approaches the study of guitar.
Certainly I’m not here to re-invent the wheel and I’m aware that what I’m going to say is pretty clear and normal for many readers, both students or educators, however I’ve found that a vaste majority of students does not apply it in a systematic way, so that they confuse often different things while studying.
What is this basic “golden rule”?
When approaching any kind of guitar study one have to BE AWARE to separate the study of THEORY CONCEPTS from their related GUITAR FRETBOARD VISUALIZATION!
Those two are totally distinct aspects (and phases) of the guitar learning process and this because of the inner nature of the instrument.
Unlike the piano, that has a linear and mono-dimensional geometric arrangement of the notes on the keyboard, guitar has a two dimensional geometric arrangement of the notes on the fretboard. So that guitarists lose that easy-to-visualize correspondence existing between note positioning as we have learned it from theory and note positioning on the piano keyboard. This implies that, compared to piano players, we have to do some additional work.
I’ve too many times found students with a very good theory knowledge having problems to apply it while playing or improvising.
Because of a shallow knowledge of the guitar fretboard: it is necessary to approach the fretboard study in a more systematic way.
This comes by studying theory structures (scales, arpeggios, chords) isolating them on each single dimension, the vertical and the horizontal one first, and then in a combination of the two.
By using an engineering language we can say that we have to apply some CONSTRAINTS when we investigate the fretboard in order to place some structures on it.
No matter how our level is… it’s only a matter of approach!
An example can better clarify what I mean.
By visualizing a C major triad on the piano we can easily notice that the note positioning we visualize is the same we have learned from theory: a C note followed by an E and a G.
To investigate about the C major triad positioning on the guitar we have to study it by focusing on the two single dimensions first and then in all the possible combinations of the two. So that we have to visualize any structure by:
1) limiting the vertical dimension using the “string set” concept
2) limiting the horizontal one using the “vertical position” concept
3) using combinations of the two dimensions applying, for example, a “notes-per-strings distribution” concept that allows us to find innumerable oblique shapes on the fretboard corresponding to the same given structure.
Although we can find a lot of educational material (books, methods, etc) about theory, it is under everyone’s eyes the lack of educational contents about a fretboard visualization systematic approach!
By summarizing, if I’m going to study any structure (scales, chords or arpeggios) or harmonic concept (relations between structures) on the guitar I will follow a “fretboard constraint approach” as follows:
1) I will study theoretically structures such as scales, arpeggios, chords first
2) then I will study how to place them on the guitar fretboard by using the previous discussed “fretboard constraints” approach
This is definitely one of the main concepts that has led me to conceive my guitarLayers app that helps me a lot to reduce the fretboard learning curve and gives me the opportunity to spend this saved time by playing more music…
Be aware of all that said can help us as much as be aware of the fact that music, fortunately, has no much to do with the simple knowledge of the rules and the instrument… 😉
OK! It’s enough for now…
See you for my next post on another guitar learning approach I follow in order to meet the inner dynamic nature of the music.