This is the first of a six part series on opening up the guitar fretboard.  In this podcast, I give an overview on the five best things you can do to pull yourself out of the blues box.  In the future, I will have an in depth podcast for each of the five topics.  In the second segment, I have an old fashioned pick shootout.  I test six different picks in a few different recording situations.




It doesn’t matter how much gear you have.  It doesn’t matter how expensive your gear is.  If you don’t know your way around the guitar, all those purchases won’t matter at all.  I’m in no way against having a great guitar or great amp.  In fact I enjoy those things as much as the next guy.  It just seems that things have gotten a bit backwards. We have all seen players with great gear who could stand a few hours in the woodshed.   I know at times I have found my self playing the same old licks and chords in easy positions, while dreaming about that next stomp-box that will take my playing to the next level.   Unfortunately, it is not that easy!   In preparing this podcast I wanted to tackle this head on.  So here are five things to work on that will get you out of your comfort zone,  and back to getting better at the guitar.

1      Know how the fretboard works.

Although the fretboard is quite a challenge, if you understand some basics, it becomes much easier to learn.  The first thing to know is  all the notes on a single string.  For example, the chromatic scale (every note) on the E string is:

E – F – F# – G – G# – A – A# – B – C – C# – D – D# – E

Once you know the notes to the 12th fret,  the rest are easy.  They just repeat themselves.  (Pay special attention to the relationship of  B and C and of E and F.   Notice there are no sharps or flats between them. (Important)

The next thing to know is how the strings work together.  Each string works the same as the E string, they just start on a different note.   Usually the note on the 5th fret is the same as the next open string.  This is useful for tuning.    (The G string makes thing difficult.  The note on the 4th fret is the same as the next open string.)

Recognize the shapes made by different intervals.  The guitar fretboard is very visual.  It is easy to see patterns.  For example: an octave on the E and D strings is two down and two over.

2     Practice technique exercises over the whole fretboard.

Technique exercises are a great way to  accomplish a lot with little effort.  I loved these exercises when I first started playing guitar, but I quickly got away from them.  I wish I had stuck with them.  I would be a much better player now if I had.

The typical technique exercise is the 1234.  This is 1st finger 1st fret, 2nd finger 2nd fret, 3rd finger 3rd fret and 4th finger fourth fret.  One after another, all played on the same string.  You then play this same thing on each string across the fretboard.  You can then slide the whole thing up a fret and repeat.   This simple exercise works on coordination, rhythm, and visualization.  Played with a metronome,  you will soon find what tempos are comfortable, and what ones you need to work on.  This is a basic example, but technique exercises can get very advanced ( especially when used  with scale and chord tones).

3     Know your chords and arpeggios.

Knowing a little chord theory will not only open up your rhythm playing, but your lead playing too.   Learning to move the chords you already know is a good start.   But, If you really want to open up your chord playing you need to know the notes and intervals inside the chords.   Also, the relationship between chords is very important.   Arpeggios are a little different.  They are musical lines that just use chord tones.   For example if you have a C major chord, it contains the notes C, E and G.  To play its arpeggio you would just play each note one after each other, instead of playing them all at once.  Larry Carlton is an example of a great player who gets tons of mileage off of arpeggios.

4     Know your scale patterns.

The most common problem with lead guitar players is that they learn one or two scale patterns and try to fit them into every song.   If you can just work a little harder and learn a few more patterns then you will allways have the scales you need under your fingers ( no matter where you are on the fret board).  Check out for a pdf of the five major and the five pentatonic scale patterns.  What is great about these patterns is that by starting the scale on different notes, you can get many different sounds.  Knowing all five major and pentatonic patterns puts you ahead of the game.

Learn your scales on single strings.  really helps you visualize the scale.

practice your scales in different rhythms.

5     Find multiple ways to play the same melody or song.

  • different strings can cause the same melody to sound different.
  • See  if you can find the new pattern that melody uses.

To recap –

Work on these five areas to open up the fretboard.

1      Know how the fretboard works.

2     Practice technique exercises over the whole fretboard.

3     Know your chords and arpeggios.

4     Know your scale patterns.

5     Find multiple ways to play the same melody or song.



In part 2 I hold an old fashioned pick shoot out.  I use six different picks.  Here are some pictures of the gear used in this shoot out.

IMAG0924 (FILEminimizer) IMAG0926 (FILEminimizer) IMAG0928 (FILEminimizer)

Have any questions or comments?  Please get in touch with me: