Ken, a budding Addict, sent me an email today:
I have a question: I’m a tad bit confused on scales. I wonder if you could answer a question for me to help me clear up my confusion. Using the Pentatonic scale in a key such as A, Do I use the same pattern for all the chords in the key of A? Do I use the pattern while playing A, D, and E7? or do I have to move this pattern while playing each chord? The same goes for other keys?
I know what all the patterns look like, but don’t exactly know where to use them. Is it possible to clear up my confusion? I would appreciate it.
His question contains a number of assumptions that are common among people trying to get a grasp on the instrument. So wide-spread in fact, it makes me furious. Through none of his own fault, Ken has come to believe what many believe. That fingering patterns, the oldest shortcut to fretboard mastery is the way. And it is. To confusion.
Here is my answer to Ken, in full:
First things first: with the diagram you’re using, there’s no way you won’t be confused. To begin with, it emphasizes fingerings over scale degrees. It tells you nothing about what’s really going on.
I assume this comes from some source that expounds on the CAGED “system”, which is best described by its inventor, who, as stated in his own book
became aware that there was a guitar-specific pattern organization that was completely separate from the various musical considerations such as theory, technique and style. He eventually came to the conclusion that the issues of this pattern organization should take first priority over the issues of music or style…
Separating the guitar from music? Way to go! Yes, of course adding one more layer in between will make things easier. Fuck me!
Back to serious. That “scale shape” has zero intrinsic correlation with the key of C. If you focus on surface manifestations on the fretboard, what this gentleman concludes is correct, but the result is that Ken is now confused. I advice, and advocate a system whereby music comes first. A system with no intermediate step whatsoever. A system that, to begin with, actually is a system and connects the stuff of music directly with its manifestation on the fretboard.
Since you’re participating in Fretboard Addicts, my suggestion to you is that you keep going. If I were to explain the specific correlations between scales and chords that you’re after, I’d have to bore you with endless theory explanations. Which I refuse to do. a) Because I don’t care to b) Because you’d fail miserably at your stated goal out of boredom and overwhelm. Keep at your habit and your one-minute drill a day! One step at a time. Once you can handle what we’re currently covering in your current Fretboard Addicts module, you’ll be ready to stack the next layer on it…
For everybody else, my suggestion is to sign up to get an invite to Fretboard Essentials. It’s free for 7 weeks, and results are off the charts. See you there!