Guitar Advice

The idea of opening up the fretboard and not being restricted by your hands would mean you could roam wherever you want, playing whatever you hear moving in whatever direction not restricted by fingerings or picking. Potentially amazing, but probably unrealistic unfortunately. Still, we can try incorporating ideas that stretch us from natural/normal/convenient playing to help spice up our playing hey.

Figure A takes a four note per string approach. With an A dorian sound it will really feel uncomfortable at first for the majority of players. Firstly as you won’t be used to the fingering and additional stretches needed and secondly the notes, fingers and beats they fall on will feel and sound different to what you are normally used to. Both of these facets take work to overcome. The physical side of things is no different to an athlete learning a new technique and building up speed and endurance and the mental approach is hard to shake when you’re accustomed to playing scales and licks with certain fingerings and whether you realise it or not, notes typically falling on certain beats, so start slow and build up.


You’ll notice that you cover a lot more of the fretboard with this four note per string idea and all of a sudden the typical box positions are no more. The ability to play through the range of the guitar is one of the beautiful features of these fingerings, so of course try moving these all over the neck and into different keys, scales, modes, and fingerings.

Of course you don’t have to move across strings, you can also build phrases ascending and descending on just a couple of strings.  Figure B works over E minor or G major, amongst others, and builds by ascending and descending across the third and fourth strings until the last bar. Start slowly and don’t be swayed by what finger is playing what note on what beat. More so, try and get the phrase smooth and even dynamically, making sure the articulations are even. Tom Quayle discusses this aspect a lot in regards to his legato playing as does the Australian master Brett Garsed. It’s really noticeable if some notes are louder than others or some aren’t as clear. This needs to be addressed in both hands and really takes work. Especially if you think of the possible combinations of picking, legato, hybrid picking and hammer ons/pull offs.


These examples are quite straight ahead and an easy-ish start to getting your head and fingers around four note per string shapes. The aforementioned Brett Garsed along with Allan Holdsworth take these approaches to serious levels with all sorts of harmony, intervals and chromatic ideas. Get listening and see how they fare for your own playing. At the very least they hopefully make you think in a different way or approach a scale or lick from a new viewpoint rather than playing the same old fingering in the same position every time.