Practice Session // 28 Things G Major
I consider this page as a living organism of all the information that I provide here, and I incline to revise this content regularly with further observations, conclusions, additional scores, examples and of course corrections. In time, it may become a fully comprehensive and expansive lexicon that hopefully will be proven a practical guide for guitar explorers.
Learning how to play an instrument can be quite frustrating at times and guitar is not an exception as it seems to baffle beginners and professionals alike. Maybe one could even say that guitar is one of the most frustrating instruments around, not only it is a delicate instrument to make it sound right. However, also it is one that has been used in numerous popular styles of music, including many different traditions across the globe; a fact that leads to a general lack of a standardised way of doing things.
All I'm suggesting here is that the lack of standardisation and the fact that we, guitarists, rely a lot on fingerings and patterns to navigate the fretboard, leads us to a virtual detachment from a deeper form of awareness and fulfilment.
These writings are to share with whoever is interested part of my journey to understanding the fretboard in a more meaningful way. It is partly derived from my early years as a young student of the Piano - as it is an instrument with an entirely clear visual geometry, partly from my experience and observations as a music educator and guitar instructor and partly from my attempts and insistence to
It is an intensive journey to demystifying the fretboard that applies to composition and improvisation as well as memorising and performing standard repertoire. I am glad that you have joined!
One last thing, if you have to ask why G Major and why 28 Things? It could have been any scale really, and we should be equally familiar with all 12 Major scales, G Major’s relative friend though is E minor, and it happens to be the lowest note of a six string guitar in standard tuning. Also, there are 12 Major scales as they are Months and February is the second month, it also usually has 28 days!
Day 1 - the G Major Scale
There are some excellent sources for visualising scales for guitarists, namely, I endorse and teach the 7 (or 12) Levine fingerings for Major scales I think that is pretty useful as well as the various explorations from Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick. There are also various systems like 3 note per string scales, 4 notes per strings scales and etc. which allow us to cover more range.
All these methods above are pretty useful, but my main to objectives in practising scales, especially after a while was a. to be able to see all notes across the whole fretboard and how they relate and b. to stop relying on fingerings as much as possible as I believe that although they are useful in the beginning they act like brick walls the more you rely on them.
(I also want to be able to sing or hear any melody and be able to play it without much fuzz, but this probably is a subject of a different but not unrelated set of studies)
What I found useful was to treat practising as different games that have different rules.
Some examples of different games:
- Starting on the lowest note of the scale, play four notes per string up to the highest
- Do the same with starting on the next note - that will create a different path to follow, so that will make it impossible to start memorising fingerings
- Do the same by using only one finger on the left hand - again it works against memorising patterns
- Start on a different but higher position and play two notes per string - that will lead to a different kind of diagonal path
- Play only specific intervals - like only 3rds or specific up-down combinations
Additionally, a different type of game is to improvise with what I would call Educational or Explorative improvisation where you target a specific goal.
Here are some rules:
- You are only allowed to use the notes of a specific scale
- You can put range restrictions as well
- Every time you play anything that is something, stop and anywise it, invert it, play it in different ranges and areas of the fretboard
- If you feel that you are stuck in a rut - playing the same things, again and again, restrict yourself to a part of the fretboard that you are not as familiar
- Allow yourself to make melodies only with using a specific or combination of intervals - what if you could only play 4ths and 5ths
Create your own games that will help you break your habits!
Bonus game: Take a melody or a song that you know quite well and play it in a different tonality and/or register - play it by ear or by analysing the intervallic structure of the melody - do not just play the same fingering in a different position! Depending on your level, folk songs to Bach’s cello suites can be a very fun game!
Remember, to practice as slow or fast as you need in order to make it sound right!
Day 2 - Intervals and Double Stops
I always find it fascinating how much colour we can squeeze out of combining just two notes together.
Traditionally, the most common use of the double stop is to add more weight and support to melodic lines. Therefore it’s our obligation to study them exhaustively since not only they can assist us with the further demystification of the fretboard but they are also quite useful compositional elements.
Within one octave can be found the intervals of the second, third and fourth as well as their inversions fight, sixth and the seventh. It is very useful to think of these pairs of intervals as reflections on a mirror since their effects are similar and we deal mostly with how much space you leave between the voices.
The following happens when we invert the intervals:
- Seconds become Sevenths and vice versa
- Thirds become Sixths and vice versa
- Fourths become Fifths and vice versa
- Major intervals become Minor and vice versa
- Diminished intervals become Augmented and vice versa
- Perfect intervals remain Perfect
- When Major or Perfect intervals become a half step larger are called Augmented
- When Minor or Perfect intervals become a half step smaller is called Diminished
The diverse pool of emotions and colours that different intervals convey can be by a not so subtle margin subjective and therefore their uses differ across various cultures, centuries and genres of music.
It is generally accepted though that:
- Thirds and a Sixths are consonant and colourful
- Perfect Fourths and Fifths are tonally ambiguous
- Seconds and Sevenths are dissonant and provide plentiful tension
Music with excessive use of dissonance can sometimes be alienating but contrarily music without tension and dissonance can quickly become boring and too convenient. A way to use dissonances in a more companionable tone is to hide dissonant intervals within a consonant texture so that they become less animating and dominant features of the overall music.
Things to do:
Explore all intervals in the same diagonal manner similar to the scales practising
Pause and try to think what each interval brings out to you
Create miniature works or improvise only with the use of double stops, why not restrict yourself to only one type of double stop
Find uses of double stops in the works of the composers you like and analyse them.
When practising intervals and double stop, my goal is to be able to recall any sound without much thinking and to be able to play anything, anytime and everywhere on the guitar!
After all, double stops are 66,6% triads….
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Day 3 - Triads & Inversions
Triadic harmony is so profoundly embedded into our western culture that, even when played out of context, their sound is so powerful that our souls, minds and bodies still revert to their meanings.
Therefore, our next stop in the journey to the further demystification of the fretboard could not be anything but the Triads; regardless of how well you think you know them.
True to the form of all 28-things, after learning the Triads in all positions and with the use of different string-sets, I came to the conclusion that learning and practising the Triads in a diagonal array - starting on the lowest note available which is not always the root, is not only the most effective way to have the whole fretboard at your disposal at any time.