Music and Songwriting/The Infinite Grid - A Guide to Melody and Harmony/Positions

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Types of Positions[edit | edit source]

The core idea of studying 'Positions' is the attitude that it's usually musically beneficial to picture spaces/maps of notes that are more desirable than others at a given time. I would argue this is useful in most musical situations, though when you are in a creative/experimental mode it can be a limiting attitude. That being said, even in situations where you are purposely screwing around in an unknown pitch space, there are usually constraints that you are simply not cognizant of, and if you spend enough time there you will realize there are desirable constraints on the space you are in. I would argue it's actually extremely rare that it's desirable to avoid a scale, though not everybody is in a mental space where it's important to know where every available note it. Nevertheless, as you study and grow as a musician you're most likely going to want to get more familiar with particular spaces that help you define how you play music and master technique. Here is a list of types of melodic positions that I think about, lessons on how to perform/practice them, and some notes about how they get used.

Scale Boxes - Guitar Style - 2-3 note per string cross-string scales

Diagonal Scales - Classical Violin Style - Cross strings and shift up the neck from low bass to high treble

Vertical Scales Boxes - Sitar Style Scales - Shifting up and down one or two strings

Mixed Cross-String-Open-String Shapes - Harp/Kora Style - Playing one melodic note per string and crossing with fingerpicking to keep strings ringing

Scale Boxes[edit | edit source]

If you play guitar in standard tuning, these are extremely worthwhile to learn. In any tuning similar to standard they also tend to be valuable, but here I am teaching the shapes based on standard guitar/bass/ukulele tuning. These types of scales are generally best learned by the type of scale they fall into since they are easy to transpose. I teach these by lumping a group of 5-10 shapes into a scale category and I teach certain technical and theoretical ideas alongside the shapes. Be sure to check out the 'other lessons' on naming notes, the shifting grid, transposition and modal theory, etc, if you want to maximize the benefit of learning theseǃ

The 5 Pentatonic Scale Boxes[edit | edit source]

The 5 Diatonic (Major) Scale Boxes[edit | edit source]

These are the five main scale boxes I use for most kinds of music. Combined, they can let you play any mode of the major scale in any key in any position on the fretboard. They also only space 4 fret spaces at a time, so you never have to overextend your hand to play themǃ

  1. Locrian
  2. Dorian
  3. Phrygian
  4. Mixolydian
  5. Aeolian

The 5 Extended Diatonic Boxes[edit | edit source]

The 8 Melodic Minor Boxes[edit | edit source]

The 8 Harmonic Minor Boxes[edit | edit source]

Diagonal Scales[edit | edit source]

I'm not terribly fond of these myself, but essentially these are the types of scales in the Segovia system or that you might learn in rock guitar if you are learning in the virtuosic style that values the ways these scales give you extended runs up the neck. I tend to let these sorts of scales emerge naturally out of boxes because I can't really come up with a clear logic for when I would like to shift up and across strings, and I don't know that there is one. They do have some definite utility though and I think it's a valid system...I'm just not too fond of it myself. I'll build this section when and if the time comes, but I want to acknowledge that they are here and there are lots of lessons on them.

Vertical Scale Boxes[edit | edit source]

I think of these as Sitar style scales because I play them when I play in open tunings and I'm thinking like a sitar player and they work quite nicely. They are based on the idea of seeing the scale you are playing as a pattern of notes traveling down just one or two strings. These make sense when you are in altered tunings because crossing the strings tends to get confusing because the intervals between the strings vary so much that it gets hard to track the patterns. This is also a really good way to learn intervals and scale theory because it's easier to visualize and hear the relationships between sounds and what you are playingǃ

Harp/Kora Scales[edit | edit source]

This is a concept that I'm sure some others have discovered but that I also innovated my own style of. I got interested in the Kora and wanted to imitate the music on the guitar, and I decided the best way to capture the sound was to play the scales by fingerpicking them across strings. With that in mind, I started working in different tunings and scales to find out patterns for how to create linear scales by fingerpicking on different strings to keep all the strings ringing. A good example of this sort of playing is in my song "Flying"

Other Lessons[edit | edit source]

Learning the Notes

The Spider: Fundamental Melodic Guitar Technique Exercise

The Isopositional Scale Box Exercise

Shifting Exercises