The Woodshed

Neck navigation method?


Not to derail too much - but in regards to improving ones playing - I cannot recommend Rocksmith 2014 enough (PC Version is what I use).

Learning other's songs isn't creative but I think it really does open you up to new ways to conceptuslize music, and the fretboard

It's also got me using alternative tunings I never did before

I'm way more impressed with good rhythm guitar than lead pyrotechnics, and the program helps improve both

Learning something like Crazy Train w/o Rocksmith?

Hard to figure out all those blistering notes w/o it

Ditto for the intricate Metallica stuff

The ability to download free user uploaded songs from CustomForge is a great feature

I'd love to hear Elliot Easton's commentary on this stuff - he does those seemingly effortless, tasteful, hooky solos...


There's a fascinating book out- "This Is Your Brain On Music", by Daniel Levitin that is worth a read if you are at all interested in the science of your brain and the how/why it works for some and not others.

Levitin is a McGill University neuroscientist, but he writes like a real person.

Warning- you may need to read it through twice to really understand it, even so. But it's worth it.


As for me, I'm still hitting wrong notes on a daily basis, simply because my guitars react badly when I try and physically remove 'em!!

– Kevin Frye



For me? a hybrid of everything stated above. But it depends on the song and the master of the song is the melody. Now think of that and add Curt's input, and I play. I solo alot trying to be careful and walk the tightrope of letting the players that influenced me help me vs. trying "to be" the players that influenced my style.

Some songs I just learn, practice, and play note-for-note....example: SRV's version of "Little Wing" Other songs are shaped to allow me freedom to mix canned riffs with something a little new.....IF I know my way around the fretboard well enough for that song.


NJDevil wrote:

Some songs I just learn, practice, and play note-for-note....example: SRV's version of "Little Wing" Other songs are shaped to allow me freedom to mix canned riffs with something a little new.....IF I know my way around the fretboard well enough for that song.

Yes, there are some songs that I have learned note for note. One in particular which took me two years, the the Byrds' version of "Turn, Turn, Turn." I've taken what I learned from that piece, and am now applying it to my 12 string playing generally, and one or two of my own songs in particular.


So, as a teacher as well as a performer, Jim, do you subscribe to the CAGED system as others here have mentioned, as a means of making your way around the fretboard? In other words, you navigate by knowing the chord shapes and therefore all the notes wherever they occur up and down the neck? Here's how I understand that method works - as explained by Kirk Lorange.


Yes, I do. Here's the guy who turned me onto the whole system.


Nice Jim. I have to say that I use that system and lean on it heavy with new songs. It really is helping when doing some acoustic Doc Watson stuff. I'm really finding fun in the fact that new possibilities keep on presenting themselves vs. feeling limited.


Here’s the rub. Transposing chord shapes involves involves making barre chords. If that’s the basis of locating notes, whether playing by ear or eye or finger (touch), then that’s the stumbling block for me. Just practising barre chords is physically awkward before even attempting to get up to speed to pick out individual notes to play a riff or lick. It’s incidental if I actually know the names of those notes or just hear that they’re “right” or not. The object of the exercise is to locate ‘em and hit ‘em effortlessly in quick succession. I’m in awe of players like this next guy (and most of you here) who can do so.


There are lots of chords that don't have bars that use the same root notes. And you only need to visualize the chord.


B flat, B, C minor, F... spring to mind. Many other transposed chord shapes, particularly when using inversions. If improvising riffs around a root note, it seems easier just to memorise every note on the fretboard. Think I'll leave soloing to the experts and just play rhythm.


I have gotten to the point of thinking in terms of 3 string chords, usually dominant 7th types, and 6th chords. If one is playing with another guitarist, or better yet, a bass player, you can let the other guy worry about the root or fifth of the chord. Frees you up quite well.

Barre chords take a little practice. It takes time. Be easy on yourself.


I'm currently learning so much new stuff that practicing is very conscious indeed. I'm trying out diminished chords, augmented chords, and virtually every type of extended chord and the scales associated with them, and finally starting to understand how they fit in with the material I'm playing

Once I do truly understand what function any new element in my musical vocabulary serves, though, I just go with the flow and play as spontaneously as possible, at least in live performance. I try to unleash my imagination and recombine the things I know in new ways. At the best of times, I'm not anticipating anything other than the general arc of the passage and the need for a resolution at a particular time. Rhythm is a huge part of this, especially if you can play threes against fours without losing your place.


And another thing: listen to yourself only enough to make sure you're in tune and on time! Listen to everyone else, assuming you're playing with good musicians, and you'll never run out of ideas.


In my experience.

Muscle memory allows for your hands to do what it is your brain dictates. You play whats in your head.

Practicing the major, minor, scales and so on teaches you hands to move this way and that. To stretch as needed and not to have to think about where you have to be to get to where you have to go.

There are solos you play by rote. Note for note exactly how it is written, while there are also solos you make up on the spot though they have to abide the key and tempo, they are unique occur on the spur of the moment.

So what you're asking is, "is music one or two?" and the answer is as ambiguous as neither. Music is one and it's two and it's one and two and it's not one or two at all.

I like to arrange a song with the rhythm intact, the key according to the original and remaining true to the song in my interpretation of it but leaving myself room to expand and put my own style into it.

For example, Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd.

There are two solo parts for guitar. The first I play true to the original without variation so that the song is intact and unmistakable in pir execution of it. The second solo has "markers" so to speak that I feel should be there but getting to one and on to the next is open ground free for interpretation. So you must be able to play the trills, bends and licks as though they peel off you like they were meant to be, but there are areas that you must, in my opinion feel your way along, with what the band is doing, what the audience is feeling and how you feel in the present.

Sometimes it's what you hear in your in ear monitors and sometimes its what you feel leaning back into those three stacks that are going to deafen you and at the same time are sort of holding you up by sheer spl.

So I would say to you in summation that to be a good musician, you must train your hands to the highest level you are able to and understand that sometimes you have to just let your mind flow in the music and allow for your hands to do what they are able to.

Now you ask, "when should I do which?" The simple answer is of course, what does the song want?

That you ask this question is a good indicator of you moving up in ability as a musician. You're on the right track so keep forging onward.hth


Two years later, a re-read finds still fertile ground. Till it over a tad more if you've a mind to. Aerate it some so it don't lay fallow. (FB'd love these farming analogies.)

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