Welcome back! This is Part 2 on how to break free of “position” playing on guitar. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here.
Here’s a quick recap.
Part 1 was all about becoming intentional about breaking through that stuck feeling created by relying solely on positions and patterns. To do that, I suggested ignoring positions and patterns altogether, limiting yourself to 1 and 2 strings, and playing much more vertically on the guitar.
These techniques helped me immensely and I almost immediately started seeing improvements. I began caring much less about about what position, scale pattern, or fingering I was using. A great start. To take this concept to the next level, we’ll be reintroducing scale patterns in a way that works for you and not against you.
I’ll be performing with singer David Elliot at the Country Showdown at Knott’s Berry Farm on August 23rd, 2014, 7PM. Details below. Come on out!
Have you ever seen those guitar chord dictionaries at guitar center? You know, the ones titled something like “3,001 Guitar Chords.” I always cringe when I see these because there’s such a more valuable way of learning about chords and harmony on guitar.
[Scan from one of my homemade chord books. With coffee stains and all]
When I got my first guitar at 10 years old, I would sit in my room and literally guess at what frets to press on and see what kind of sounds I could make. Most were bad at first, but I starting learning about the different combinations of sounds and how they worked together. I really believe it was that early tinkering that set me on a great learning path in music. It was like a fun puzzle to figure out.
That playful attitude is still what I strive for today. Chord dictionaries, to me, don’t really encourage this. It’s like trying to have a conversation in a new language by relying on a dictionary. It’s much more effective to learn the most common words, a little grammar, and then just start speaking. You’ll discover quickly what doesn’t work, what does, and most importantly – why.
One night in college during a jazz improv class, I had a mini-breakdown in front of my teacher and some fellow students. I was discouraged and frustrated that despite all my practicing, I was still struggling to get the music I heard in my head down to my fingers and onto the fretboard.
I kept getting lost on my guitar, jumping from position to position trying to find the right notes. Positions and scale patterns became a crutch for me. It was my default, and it was hindering my progress as a guitarist. I wanted to play more expressively, but I didn’t know how to get there.