Richard Daniel's Ezine -- Issue #5

Dear Ezine subscriber,

Welcome to the fifth issue of the
Ezine.  In this issue  we examine the "Scale Coverage:
The Fretboard's Territory".

Our tuition column looks at Moving a Fixed Box 
Around the Board.

See also answers to questions from subscribers.  

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Richard Daniels speaks on Scale Coverage: 
The Fretboard's Territory.

This time around I thought we would take a very close look
at exactly how a particular scale, namely the A minor
pentatonic, covers the entire fretboard from top to bottom.
As we all know, the fretboard works chromatically: that is
how it is set up. The story of the evolution of the
chromatic scale goes something like this: After the octave
was discovered and nailed down to a fixed understanding, the
positions of the lower overtones provided the elements of
the major chord, and eventually the entire major scale. The
smallest increment of the major scale, the half-step between
the 3th and the 4th and the 7th and the 1st was eventually
adjusted and used as a division point between the other
major scale intervals commonly known as whole-steps. The
half-step ended up to be, after all was said and done, the
smallest common denominator of Western music. The fact that
it is built right into the old guitar's fretboard, and Elvis
swung one around without playing it, is enough to make
somebody take the chromatic scale for granted.

Just know that a lot of determined development went into
the establishment of the chromatic scale. Once it was
installed on fixed string instruments, like the piano and
the guitar, the world was ready for what I will call
Universal Scale Application: Any scale, any place, any
position, any time the performer wants to go. We take the
fact that the guitar and the piano allow this open minded
approach to playing music, but the truth is that before
these instruments were born, the actual music you could
create was often limited by the instrument. Once
chromaticism was established, the door opened to universal
application. Many times I have had a laugh with a student on
the phone who complained on being "stuck in a rut." The joke
came out when I said "You are in the rut, not the guitar.
When was the last time you played out of the three common
boxes you use over and over? When was the last time you
pushed your playing way up the neck, just to do it? The
limits of playing are set by the performer, not the
instrument. Next time you play- try something new, go to new

Today's study is simply an exercise in examining how a scale
covers the board. I want you to see first hand exactly how
one single scale unfolds all over the board. This effort is
not about style or technique. It is about where you can play
in the A blues scale. Where the boxes are, where the
positions are, and how the pattern repeats. That is what
this exercise is about. Once you work the thing through,
across and over the board, it will dawn on you that the
boxes that you commonly use are a small subsection of the
true available area in which you are free to work at any
time. Your playing restrictions are set by your familiar
playing territory. A new, vastly more open world awaits.

The A blues scale is composed of three major scale degrees,
and two "adjusted" minor scale degrees (1, -3, 4, 5, -7).
Respectively, these notes are A, C, D, E and G. Because the
blues scale only employs five out of a total of 12 chromatic
degrees, the result is a "gapped" scale pattern. One way to
see the master pattern left by this scale is to examine it
on one-half of just one string. This will demonstrate the
scale over just one fixed octave. We will look at the fifth
or A string and see how the scale works out over the first
twelve frets.

Bar 1 - A minor pentatonic- over 1 octave

This sequence of notes offers up the master interval
sequence of the blues scale in any key: minor 3rd,
whole-step, whole step, minor 3rd, whole step. In other
words, look for the scale to play out along any one string
with this interval pattern: 3 frets, 2 frets, 2frets, 3
frets, 2 frets. The guitar's strings are naturally staggered
to six separate, fixed tones spread across the usable
musical range. Primarily a bass chordophone, five of the
guitar's open strings are below middle C. The most basic
problem of the guitar student is to "see" that the usable
domain over which he plays is a "broken field" fraught with
irregularities, and that understanding comes with knowing
that an unchanging "model octave"  is employed over each
string. It is just that the fixing of each string to a
different note results in a bit of a mess when we consider
the over all pattern. Just know that underlying the
confusion is the same model octave (bar 1) that does not

Each string carries an octave of the chromatic scale over
the first twelve frets of the guitar. With six strings to
consider, this leaves us with a universal digital pattern
(any chormatic note is either in or out of a chosen scale
spelling) across six strings over 12 frets. At the end of
the day, the chromatic scale pattern is a 72 digit pattern
over which all other scales of Western music are derived. On
the guitar, this pattern repeats twice over a 24 fret
fretboard. The common Strat usually has 21 frets. So as we
divide the total usable territory of the fretboard into
usable hand boxes, remember that we are always considering a
part of a larger repeating pattern, and that each string
carries the same "code" or scale interval pattern (with
different starting points) as the model octave outlined in
bar 1.

We will start out looking at the A blues scale in its most
primary position across the 5th fret. Know that this unique
fret position is called the root note fret because it
carries a key's tonic note on both the upper and lower E
strings. This fret is also unique because it is the only
fret of the repeating 12 fret blues scale pattern that
carries degrees of the blues scale across all six strings.

Bar 2 - A Blues Scale- Root Note Fret- 5th position

This is the most basic box for lead playing that the guitar
offers. The tonic A notes are located on 6/5, 4/7, and 1/5.
Next we will go to the open position and take a look at how
this very same scale spills itself out over that part of the
fixed blues scale pattern.

 Bar 3 - A Blues Scale- Open position

Now we will focus on the intermediate box between the open
position and "just under" the root note fret. Index finger
moves between the 3rd and 2nd position.

Bar 4 - A Blues Scale- 2nd/3rd position

Moving up the board, the next place we witness a nice,
simple place to play a "hand box" for the A blues scale is
based on the 7th and 8th position with the index finger
shifting between these two fret positions.

Bar 5 - A Blues Scale- 7th/8th position  

Moving up the board, the next place we witness a nice,
simple place to play a "hand box" for the A blues scale is
based on the 7th and 8th position with the index finger
shifting between these two fret positions. The example then
moves the index to the12th fret and finally to the 15th
fret. This is an extended box that moves through the pattern
as it ascends. The reason that this box is popular in
pentatonic use is that is allows a certain ease of playing
with just the use of the index and ring finger. Using just
these two fingers, the early delta fathers, and later the
Chicago blues players and the inventors of rock style from
the 50's and the 60's were able to create a simplified
approach to the instrument.

Remember that the guitar was first produced and played
during the height of the classical period in Europe. Players
were expected to use all available fingers, and common usage
required the disciplined player to execute any an all work
that was written for the instrument. That is the environment
into which the guitar was born. What we know is that at some
point in time the guitar was brought over to North America
and was picked up by the workers and applied to their own
simple entertainment needs.

The simpler needs of the Southern workers that picked up the
guitar did have a real requirement: Playing must be easy
style. One or two fingers in use was the preference. The
guitar allowed for that adaptation, even though it was
originally built for a more rigorous, major scale type of
application. The pentatonic scales do not have the complex
pattern of the diatonic or major scales. A simple blues
scale playing can be accomplished with just the ring and the
index finger of the left hand. Watch a video of Eric Clapton
playing and you will see that this great tradition of "two
finger" based playing still continues to this day. The box
below is an excellent example of an approach to the blues
scale that allows movement through the scale, while at the
same time provides an ease of playing.

Bar 6 - A Blues scale through 10th, 12th, 15th position  

Next we will take a look a box that runs under the root
note fret at the 17th fret. The A blues scale pattern
repeats itself between the root note fret on the 5th fret,
and the root note fret on the 17th fret. What is covered
between these two points in basically one octave of the A
blues scale played across all six strings. The very same box
that we will now look at in the 14th/15th position is
identical to the box we played in the 2nd/3rd position (bar
4) with the exception of its size. If you actually get a
ruler and measure it, you will find the box outlined below
in bar 7 is precisely one-half the size (running along the
string's length) of the position outlined in bar 4. That is
a great thing for you to know: If you go up an octave on any
one of the guitar's string, everything is exactly one half
the size. The distance between the nut and the first fret is
exactly twice the distance between the 12th and 13th fret.
You only have to stretch half as far to execute the same box
played twelve frets higher. That is a basic unchanging rule
of guitar playing.

Bar 7 - A Blues scale 14th/15th position  

Below we will visit the same box that we studied in box 2
along the fifth fret, but now we will now catch it as it
defines the 17th fret. As stated above, in the key of A both
the 5th fret and the 17th fret represent the root note fret
with blues scale degrees straight across the fret on each
string. You can still practically play this upper position,
but a concerted effort has to be given to the minimal size
of the box. It is tiny if you are not used to playing that
high up. The fun thing is to take all of the full scale
licks that you know in the lower position and take them up
to the octave position. You have to adjust your
sensibilities to a half size position, that is all. Try
staying in the position past where it is comfortable. Get
into the tiny size. Squeeze some new sounds out of this
little guy. You can't hurt it. Maybe your fingers will hurt,
but you will not hurt the box. It all comes rather clear to
the player once he returns to the 5th fret for more playing
after a run at the 17th. Check it out.

Bar 8- A Blues Scale- root note fret 17th position  

We will finish off with a few "upper range" pick up boxes
from the rest of the pattern above the root note fret box.
The first example is along the bottom three strings, and the
final example is along the top two strings.

Bar 9 - A Blues Scale- root note fret 17th position  

One final box for good luck. We will return to the A blues
scale primary position outlined in box 2 and we will extend
it down to the 3rd position on the bottom two strings.  This
is just to show you an easier way to get at the same note
sequence presented in box 2. The difference is that on the
fifth string you will slide the index finger down to the
third fret from the note played on the fifth fret. This
allows you to pick up the flatted 3rd played on 6/8 at the
position on 5/3. It is the same note, but in a position that
is easier to play and manipulate.

Bar 10  A Blues scale- Root note fret w/3rd position

Certainly there are many variations that go beyond the
above study of A blues scale application. What I wanted to
get across to you today is that the entire board is always
covered with all musical scale in all musical keys at all
times. The performing artist's ability to envision any scale
is the limiting factor in most student's playing. What I did
today was show you first hand in a dry run, exactly how a
scale covers the board. Just keep this "open board"
perspective in mind while you are improvising your next lead
guitar break, and you will find that you have a few new aces
up your sleeve that you did not have before.

Richard Daniels




Moving a Fixed Box Around the Board

One of the things that experienced guitarists do to amaze
and impress their friends is "play all over the place" at
will. It can all seem perfectly incredible to the
uninitiated, but the player's secret for success often lies
in the fact that he is actually repeating the very same
figure or methods and moving them to other identically named
positions on the fretboard. Basically, playing the same
thing in a variety of places. It is all fair and legal, and
looks quite impressive to the outsider watching for the
first time. But the seasoned performer knows that the
instrument is versatile, and that boxes that encompass parts
of the playing field can be "shifted" to adjacent "sister"
positions without any consequence whatsoever, except that
the resulting performance is more intricately complex. Of
course, the piano is laid out in such a way that all playing
octaves are the same size to the hand, unlike the guitar
which reduces in physical dimension as the range gets
higher. The real beauty of the guitar is that is
incorporates the repeating of the octaves, and the scales
within the octaves, in such a way that knowing "other
places" to play the same thing is a cornerstone of learning
the instrument. Now check out the simple lead guitar box
outlined in the bar 1 below which works the index finger
across the two thin strings.

Bar 1  A blues scale boxes 5th and 2nd positions

The six note box outlined on the top strings is a simple,
common, yet ultimately important lead guitar box. It is used
endlessly in lead guitarwork, and is a foundation of all
rock and blues style guitar. The index finger defines the
box by holding down the two strings with one finger. Play
around in this box for a while and get the feel of which
notes should be bent (-3rd on 1/8, -7th on 2/8) and which
notes should be employed for the signature Chuck Berry
opening riff (the notes on 2/5 and 1/5). After you establish
a bit of a vocabulary with this position, take the entire
thing as a whole and move it down to the second position
outlined in Bar 1. This is a lower octave position for the
first position on the thin strings. You can do pretty much
the same techniques that you would within the first box, but
now you are in a lower octave and execution requires that
you stretch a little bit in order to reach the box.

The deal is that as a lead guitarist, you know that you can
run the upper box, turn a corner and run the same riffs in
the lower positioned box. The licks will take on a different
sound, a different nature with each box that you go to.
Below you will find three more position for this same simple
six note box.

Bar 2  A Blues scale boxes- various positions

If you go to these various positions and play the six note
box in each spot, you will realize which are octave
positions, and which are higher or lower in the range. If
you go back and forth between the five boxes presented above
with the same repeating figure (perhaps a double triplet)
you will quickly see that playing a lick in one place is
fine and well, but the secret to fluid playing is to
constantly change position: even if you are playing
basically the same thing in each position. A smooth
transition between positions, and a confident eye to change
quickly from one position to the other is the hallmark of
the inventive guitarist.



How come when I tune the guitar perfectly to play any open
position major chord (E, C, D, G or A) that is sounds fine
on that one chord but clearly sounds out of tune when I go
to play another open chord?

The problem that you describe is a very common one and
involves the design of the instrument itself. Without going
into fine details, all musical instruments that have fixed
strings (piano, guitar etc.) and especially those with frets
have an inherent problem with tuning. You see, when the
major scale was discovered it was found to have three
different sized intervals. Two are almost the same size, and
the third is just about half the size of the others. To
solve the problems presented by different sized intervals,
and to make a sort of "end run" around the obstacles placed
in front of instrument makers by the nature of string
vibration, a system was installed on guitars and pianos
called "equal temperament" which slightly, yet noticeably,
alters the frequency of the all major and minor scale
degrees up or down from their natural position along the
frequency range. In other words, they fooled around with the
true frequency points of the naturally occuring notes in
order to gain an instrument that was capable of building
chords and scales on any chromatic note without regard to
key or triad type. The equal tempered chromatic scale allows
endless open ended invention, but the major scale has been
slightly compromised in order to permit this open type of
application to take place.

You may ask "why temper the scale at all if we know the
natural settings of the open string and its overtones?" The
reason for the tempering is that the naturally occurring
frequency points of the major scale, known as just
intonation, only really works if you are playing a single
note melody in a simple song. The reason that our instrument
has been tempered is to allow harmonies to be built on
melodies. The natural scale is very limited. If you have a
slide trombone and you want to play Dixie, you are free to
tune in nature's perfect degree for each note of the song.
The naturally intoned scale does not work for more complex
applications of fixed string instruments such as chording.
So equal temperament came along as a compromised solution
and it was fixed into the frets and strings of our guitar.
So what is the problem?

The problem is that if you finger an open chord (like a C
chord) and then tune "to the chord" holding it and adjusting
it until it sounds pleasant and in tune, you are unwittingly
tuning to just intonation, or to the natural notes. This
would be the way to go if you only had a C chord to play all
night. But when you go to make another open chord it sounds
out of tune. Time is spent chasing the second chord into
tune only to find that the first chord is then out. This is
maddening but please understand that this is not the fault
of the guitar (unless you are playing one that needs

The explanation of why it won't tune is very complex, and
we have only touched on the tip of the subject at this time,
but the thing to know is that there is a somewhat happy
ending to the story. 1. Get your guitar set up correctly. 2.
Tune the six open strings of your guitar to a precision
tuning meter. End of story.

What this does is assure you that your equal tempered
instrument is being tuned to using equal temperament. Left
to our own means, our built in "natural tuner in our minds
will gravitate to a natural tuning. The tuner is calibrated
at the factory for equal temperament. Get the six strings
perfectly in tune to the meter and the fretted notes and
chords should all sound acceptable. The temptation to tune
perfectly to any one chord should be resisted because it
will cause more trouble that it is worth when you go to use
other chords or scales. Let the tuner do the fine work.
Trust it to do its thing. After tuning, go ahead and strum
each open chord and see if you are getting an acceptable "in
tune" harmony out of each one.

One exception to this rule is if you are in a playing
situation that allows you to tune a guitar to an open E
chord. Go ahead and tune the six strings open strings to the
E chord itself. Tune the low E to the meter, but let your
ear tune the other five strings until the chord sounds
perfectly in tune. Then you can go ahead a play major bar
chords all night with just one finger and know that you
really are "perfectly" in tune.


Dear reader, that wraps up this month's issue of Ezine.  Please send your questions, and 
your TAB requests.  We'll see you next issue.

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wish to subscribe so that you get these issues directly, 
you can do so by visiting,
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Ezine to your friends!

Cordially, Richard Daniels, Heavy Guitar Company /
Richard Daniels Productions. Voice: (610) 869-5885 
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