View Poll Results: Shapes or notes? What, in your opinion, is more important?

205. You may not vote on this poll
  • Shapes

    29 14.15%
  • Notes

    29 14.15%
  • Both

    133 64.88%
  • I kind of just fiddle around and hope to hit the right notes.

    14 6.83%
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  1. #1

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    Hey guys,

    I'm a Jazz guitarist from Perth, Australia.
    I started on piano at age 3, but moved to guitar at around 11. I've loved it ever since.

    Just recently I've had a few piano/theory lessons with an amazing local pianist. It's been great seeing things from a different perspective, and I must say that after a few weeks, I am frustrated to realize that I (think) I have been going about the guitar the wrong way ... possibly working backwards in a sense.

    I started (and have been) learning the way most guitarist's learn - shapes and patterns.
    All these educational and instructional books/dvds seem to be filled to the rim with a million different patterns & shapes. And like a good, eager student, I have tried my best to lap them all up.

    But since seeing music from a piano's perspective (which I think we all agree is probably the best perspective to view things from) I've realized that I actually don't know much about the music, scales, chords, etc that I am playing. They are merely just shapes that I have learnt, but don't understand!

    Sure, the shapes are important, but I feel it's working backwards.
    The note's are the ingredients that make up the music, not the shapes.
    And if one knows the notes, he can create a chord, arpeggio or scale anywhere on the fretboard... just as a pianist can.

    Anywho, I could talk about this forever. But it seems that the guitar world is more interested in shapes, diagrams and patterns (being that it is easier) than actually learning and understanding the fretboard.

    It appears the logical way to learn any instrument... Am I crazy? What do you guys think?

    Feel free to also throw in any personal techniques in learning the fretboard



    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    hey andy,thats a hard question to answer because you havent stated what level you are or anything! do you know any jazz theory? mark levines jazz theory book is a good book if your just starting out. try outlining chord changes using guide tones when your wodshedding your tunes,that'll start getting you to think about what notes fit where in any given chord.

  4. #3

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    I don't think there is 'one' logical way to learn the fretboard. I'm sure you can find incredible players that learned from shapes and incredible players that learned from a more traditional notes approach. And, perhaps these two approaches lead to two different sounding guitarists which is a good thing... we don't all want to sound the same.

    I think many probably see the guitar both ways, shapes and notes.

    When improvising I often see chord shapes and/or arrpegio shapes that I'm playing over. I also can often hear what scale tone is being played, whether I'm playing it or someone else is playing it.

    That is the approach I aspire to, to hear it... Instead of hearing "he's playing an A note" I'm hearing "he's playing the 2nd scale degree of the key/mode being played". For me that's the approach that makes the most sense.

  5. #4
    hey oleo20,
    i'm not necessarily after a solution for my own playing, but more in a general sense. How others view the guitar is what I'm interested in.
    For instance, when you look at the fretboard... do you see the notes or key? Or scale/chord shapes?

    I can understand why you woulnd't want to look down and see every single note at once, but knowing where all the notes in a certain key are on your fretboard I imagine would be helpful.

  6. #5
    hey fep,
    thanks for the response.

    I know what you mean, and it's not that I have any thing against shapes or diagrams, I just think that understanding the shapes and relationships to the key, common tones, degrees (as you say), etc is probably more important than learning and running up and down a shape for hours on end.

    I guess what I am saying is shapes are a great (and probably essential) place to start, and of course in faster tunes you rely on common shapes in improvisation, but when it comes to more advanced ideas, understanding the notes is probably going to be of more assistance.

  7. #6

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    My feeling is that shapes and notes are equally important in learning how to negotiate a fretboard. To me, the shapes act as a trigger, a picture for the notes you need to play. In better terms, a picture is worth a thousand notes. So long as you know what's under your fingers, so long as you know which notes are in the lead in the pattern, the 3rd, the 5th, b5th or whatever, so long as you know what scale degree you want to play when, the shapes are a great way to quickly get you where you want your fingers to go without having to do a lot of "note thinking". One shape is easier to remember than the order of 3-5 notes at a time. The notes in a sense become second nature and automatic.

  8. #7

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    I for one do not agree with the idea that a pianist's view of music is the best. It is certainly best for pianists, but the piano is a very linear instrument. The guitar fretboard is a grid, and as such lends itself to lots of shapes. These shapes, when coupled with the note knowledge of more linear instruments like keys and horns, give guitarists so much more freedom imo.

    Other instruments envy things that are unique to the guitar, like bent notes, ringing open strings, etc. Either approach is fine, but the combination creates a well rounded guitarist imo.

  9. #8
    Thanks for your input, Hot Ford Coupe.
    You make a good point.

    My thought is just that one single scale pattern can be quite restricting.
    Perhaps a better way to approach patterns would be to know shapes like intervals.
    This would give you freedom to create any fragment, in any way, of any scale, arpeggio or interval from any given note - without having to visualize the entire pattern across all 6 strings.

    I guess the idea is to enable freedom of creativity and imagination.
    Narrowing the gap between the melodies in your mind and the muscles in your fingers.

    After practicing scale's like a mad man, I'm after something a little more liberating, something that can be expressed in more ways than one.

    Perhaps the knowledge of intervals, scale degrees, keys and the notes on the fretboard is the way to go for me.

    (By the way, just been listening to a few MP3 lessons by Wayne Krantz... really worth listening to if your keen on a different approach to chords, scales and rhythm. He's got some extremely helpful ideas, and some great practice tips. Check it out: ++ ++)

  10. #9
    Hi Derek,

    Sorry, let me rephrase myself.
    I didn't mean music as a whole, mainly the notes (and you must agree that the piano is the most logically laid-out instrument, as far as notes go. natural notes are white. enharmonics are black.)

    I agree with you that the guitar offers massive amounts of freedom. But to the guitarist who doesn't understand how the fretboard is laid out, the intervals, keys, scales (or whatever you want to call them)... the freedom can be confusing. And instead of being "free" it leads to frustration... seeing as though there are so many options on guitar.

    And in saying so, I don't believe that a set 'pattern' for a scale justifies the freedom that the guitar grants.
    Seeing as we have such a versatile instrument, that allows the possibility of endless chords, harmonies, intervals, melodies, phrasings, etc... wouldn't it be worth exploring the guitar as much as possible? And somehow exchanging the need of a set pattern, with something more exchangeable?

    Anywho, there are as many opinions on the topic as there are patterns! haha. so thanks for your input

  11. #10

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    I think that we, most of us, probably learned guitar initially by shapes and patterns. I don't like this either because it's limited to one instrument. I think it's important to play a variety of instrument so you can hear things better and make sense of harmony and melody without getting so reliant on patterns and shapes.

    That being said, the guitar is quite a grid and it sure is easy to learn things, say 5th and 6th string patterns and then just slide them up and down. I imagine most guitarists play this way to some extent.

    This certainly wouldn't work for horns etc...


  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by andihopkins
    Hi Derek,

    Sorry, let me rephrase myself.
    I didn't mean music as a whole, mainly the notes (and you must agree that the piano is the most logically laid-out instrument, as far as notes go. natural notes are white. enharmonics are black.)

    I agree with you that the guitar offers massive amounts of freedom. But to the guitarist who doesn't understand how the fretboard is laid out, the intervals, keys, scales (or whatever you want to call them)... the freedom can be confusing. And instead of being "free" it leads to frustration... seeing as though there are so many options on guitar.

    And in saying so, I don't believe that a set 'pattern' for a scale justifies the freedom that the guitar grants.
    Seeing as we have such a versatile instrument, that allows the possibility of endless chords, harmonies, intervals, melodies, phrasings, etc... wouldn't it be worth exploring the guitar as much as possible? And somehow exchanging the need of a set pattern, with something more exchangeable?

    Anywho, there are as many opinions on the topic as there are patterns! haha. so thanks for your input
    All linear instruments are easier in some ways with regard to standard notation. For instance, there is only one middle C on the piano. However, there are a couple of choices on guitar. So which one do you start with? Classical guitar is pretty prescriptive, but with jazz, you pick.

    Yes, imo, standard notation could be called tab for piano. Each instrument has its challenges and very cool aspects. One of the great things about guitar is there are so many choices and places to play. That can be pretty overwhelming for beginners to intermediate players.

    We had a thread on the CAGED system this past week, and it encourages pattern playing across the fretboard. To really utilize the instrument, being able to play your scales/licks/arps along one or two strings, and be able to do it on all string sets.

    After a while though, patterns and stuff like that go away, and we just play.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek
    After a while though, patterns and stuff like that go away, and we just play.
    Exactly derek. That's what I meant about everything becoming second nature. If you know how the chords are made up and you can recite each note under your fingers, then using patterns and shapes is not cheating. Another thing is that if you know the basic shape and how the chords are constructed, it's much easier to figure out all the extentions you need and how you want the voices to move around.

  14. #13

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    Quite a paradox; how much time learning shapes and patterns vs how much time listening/feeling......

    I wish there were a definitive way to teach guitar from the start. Most of us come to the answers after a lifetime of poor practice techniques and time wasted playing the wrong things the wrong way. Ironically, this too, nets us an understanding!!

    The art and science of music is, I hope, never totally understandable; that's where I'm at at least!


  15. #14
    After a while though, patterns and stuff like that go away, and we just play.
    I think we agree that there are many, many ways to learn the guitar. Some perhaps more efficient than others. However many of the greats have learnt just from patterns, some ignored patterns and scales altogether and just used their ears, others knew the notes.

    I went to a John Scofield workshop 2 weeks back. Not what you would expect from a 'workshop' - but nonetheless he has some great perspectives.
    Most of his learning, he said, was just from playing.

    Perhaps my only point could be, that learning patterns may make you efficient on guitar, but as far as music (as a whole) goes, I think it may be lacking. Such as, reading music... if you are unaware of the whereabouts of notes, reading is difficult.
    Also, when your working in a band, it's important to be able to relate to other instruments. My brother play's saxophone, and it is interesting and fun to spend time relating both our instruments together. Seeing as though everything on my guitar must be transposed a Minor 3rd down for the sax. However, I would be lost if I only knew patterns.

    Thus, I guess both patterns, intervals, and notes are all vital. But I think as not only guitarists, but musicians, we must consider music as a whole, and other instruments likewise, when we are learning and practicing our instruments.

    In response to your reply Sailor, I think if there were a 'definitive' way to learn or teach guitar, it would no longer be art. And perhaps take the creativity and beauty out of music.
    The fact that we struggle to grasp aspects of music proves the vastness of it. Theory tries it's best to explain it, but even so, sometimes theory can't explain everything.

  16. #15

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    Nice response Andi - the art is the key, and the humanness? of it makes it a very vast and almost illogical endeavor (to master).

    Every time I figure one thing out, two more questions arise! I played classical for years and it seemed more methodically coherent. I guess the nature of jazz is looser and more interpretive.

    I like this thread - maybe we can all arrive at a better understanding of how the instrument is viewed.


  17. #16

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    Andi, by George, I think you've got it. It's all important. You can't have a sense of completeness without all of the factors and how they shape the music. You're dead right about being able to read music. It's the only way you can communicate what you want to other musicians effectively. It also transcends the language barrier. I'm from the U.S. I can send a piece of music to Chile, Italy or Romania and the musician there, as long as he/she is musically literate can understand exactly what I'm trying to say. As far as a definitive way to teach the guitar, I don't think we'll ever really get there. I heard a video where Mundell Lowe was asked how does a guitarist know where to play middle C on the guitar since there are 4 places you could play it? Mundell said you don't really know because the guitar has never had a particular school of thought or teaching method like classical instruments i.e. piano, violin, trumpet did. Go figure.

  18. #17

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    Hi, everyone!

    Getting back to andihopkins' initial question I must say a big YES that in the begining the majority of new guitar players are lazy to learn the fretboard. I remember myself 20 years ago, even 12 or so, and I only knew the notes on the 6th and 5th strings to get the root of the major or minor chord I wanted or had to play. I know guitar strummers who play for some years already and they only know the notes on these 2 strings. I give my opinions in another forum and kids are only writing on threads about guitars, guitarrists and concerts, which I understand because they're young and don't take life very seriously, but only a few ask something about theory. That website's owner opened a thread with the question "Is it important to learn the fretboard"?, and noone gave his opinion or had any question on the matter, nothing!
    This attitude towards the learning of the fretboard and the theory leads me to think that this is one of the main reasons why many people who attempted to play the guitar stopped trying to play it anymore.

    As the opinions on this thread come up forumers say: yes, we learn the fretboard this way or the other..., but you're talking about yourselves and I wanna talk in general, and I think that what you guys say only happens to guitarrists who have understood why it is important to learn it and what advantage we can take from learning it.

    About the piano/guitar thing; I play piano too and think it is much easier to think much more about notes while playing piano than while playing guitar. I also think it's a very obvious thing. And andihopkins you have to understand that the guitar's notes lay-out is like a puzzle while in piano it's not.

  19. #18

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    When I first started to play the guitar and all the cowboy chords, it seemed like no one played beyond the 5th fret. For the first year I played, I thought the frets beyond the 5th fret were purely decorative. I don't think things have changed in over 40 years.

  20. #19

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    The one thing to remember in all this is that different people learn in different ways. Some will respond to a visual key i.e. the shapes on the fretboard. Other will use an aural focus and hear the note first and foremost, and that will lead their learning. So I don't think that there is one right way.

    As has been said, however, once you reach a certain level, all that goes away and you just play. (To borrow from my other favourite pastime, the great golfer Bobby Jones said something along the lines of "If I have two swing thoughts, I cannot play. If I have but one, I can compete. But if I need none at all, then I can win").

    At least I'm hoping so.
    Last edited by mangotango; 11-04-2008 at 06:58 AM.

  21. #20
    Definitely. Some people learn best with visual aid (I myself prefer things visually) however I think this needs to be coupled directly to notes, because without the notes, the patterns really mean nothing... and I think that is why I started to get frustrated... I knew a whole lot of shapes and figures, but didn't really understand them.
    For instance, I knew that a Cmin7 chord was made up of the 1, b3, 5 and b7 of the C major scale, but I had no idea what those notes were, I just knew that if I found the 1st, flat 3rd, 5th, and flat 7th degrees of the scale pattern (and moved some up or down an octave) I would be able to play a Cmin7 chord.

    That being said, I think you can rely on patterns in two different ways:
    One being that you know the pattern simply because you saw the shape in a book, and it said to memorize it.
    And two being that you know the shape merely as a guide, but understand the notes and intervals involved.

    Within the last few weeks, it has been extremely liberating making the move from just patterns to notes. I feel a new sense of freedom on the guitar.
    Previously, the scale degree's of any given scale where just 'another note'... but now that note (and every note) has a name, and I am starting to understand it.

    It all seems pretty logical... to learn the notes, I mean. But in reality, I think it is something all guitarist's need to work on.

    Thanks everyone for your contribution.
    It's all been really constructive, and helpful.

  22. #21

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    so for the more experienced players out there,,,,when you say that 'you just play,' does that mean you can just hear line after line and it just naturally flows out of your fingers so you dont need to even look at the fret board??

  23. #22

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    My approach was (and still is) to learn to recognize the where the roots are, then learn to identify the intervals surrounding the roots, then finally learn the note names for all of the intervals as well. The patterns will manifest themselves to you eventually.

    The reason guitarists become focused on patterns is because of the complicated fretboard layout, and the fact that certain shapes can be moved to different tonal centers to play in different keys without having to think about flatting and sharping things. Piano players learn the notes, because they have to. Guitarist don't really need to learn notes as much, although to play, but if you do know the notes as well as the shapes/patterns, then you can really unlock the power and beauty of the guitar's layout.

    So, I vote for learning the notes and intervals first, then playing a lot until the patterns present themselves to you and you can begin to put it all together into your own personal fretboard map.

  24. #23

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    Sounds like a plan Goofsus. One good thing about the fretboard layout that doesn't occur in many instruments and it's a great advantage is that you've got the ability to slide chord patterns up and down the neck for transposition without having to think about it. Try that on a trumpet or a sax.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by oleo20
    so for the more experienced players out there,,,,when you say that 'you just play,' does that mean you can just hear line after line and it just naturally flows out of your fingers so you dont need to even look at the fret board??
    I am at best a semipro, so I am not sure if am the respondent you want. For me, and for the pros I have talked to about this, I can give you a quote that has been attributed to jazz guitarist Joe Diorio that explains it well. "On the best of nights, maybe 30% is true improvisation, the rest is a reshuffling of material already learned from my bag of tricks".

    Joe is a master (or was before his stroke), and if someone at his level is only creating at best 30% new on a good night, then for the rank and file, I would guess that we are recycling and reordering the scale and arpeggio fragments and licks we already have put countless hours in on.

    I can close my eyes and just play in the moment on tunes I have lived with for years. However, I am not playing anything new, just am able to really absorb myself with the tune and get lost in that. For me, the guy who epitomizes this sort of thing was Lenny Breau. He could take chorus after chorus of a tune and just go deeper and deeper, seemingly without end.

    A story I have heard told about Lenny was that while playing solo, he played a tune several times, and each time through went further and further into reharmonization, with one being just as compelling as the next. After about 10 minutes of this, he promptly stopped, put down his guitar and walked to the bar. The bartender asked why he stopped. His response was, "I thought if I went any further, I would disappear." Who knows how much if any of that is true, but it reflects on getting to a place where you really lose yourself in a tune.

    I have a ways to go.

  26. #25

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    I answered "both", but that's not the whole story.

    Shapes are important when you're improvising or comping. Shapes relate directly to muscle memory.

    Also, there are interval relationships on the fretboard that are spatial. You don't have to name the root, for example, to know where the 3rds, 5th, 7ths and extensions lay on the nearby frets.

    When you're reading from a chart rather than playing from memory you have to know where the notes are. Otherwise you'll struggle to find your next position...

  27. #26

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    Shapes are a guitar-only invention. Yes, on guitar, they come in handy, especially when you're really blowing over changes and what not. Muscle memory is important on any instrument in any style. But that's just what it is...memory. Not creativity.

    I believe that, in terms of scales and chords, the piano is perfect. Scales go two directions-up and down, as do arpeggios. Chords happen at a single instant, and thus you can see it happen on a piano. The piano is very very visual. But the linear motion of scales is not what music is. Music moves in different directions. So limiting yourself to a "piano only" view of music is constrictive. That's not to say, of course, that pianists are linear. Definitely not. But thinking in terms of the instrument (which most great pianists are not) can cage you.

    I think that once you have a definite, second nature grasp over music, horns are the best instruments to view music theory through. The have no shapes. I'm starting to learn tenor sax for this reason. I'm trying to erase many of my patterns. Horn players play each note with more intent than a guitarist or pianist because there are no shapes to follow. Granted, they too have muscle memory with pressing the keys on the horn, but their muscle memory is not as great or as prevalent as guitars and pianos.
    The human voice is the same way. Horns and voices can be bent...they have no definite shape. Neither does music...unless you give shape to it.

    That's why I'm starting to try and not think in terms of scales and/or arpeggios. They have shape and direction. I don't want my solos to be caged to the X, Y, and Z axis. So instead, I think in terms of "weight."

    I know my chords, and therefore I know how different notes respond and relate to those chords. For example, the note with the least weight over a Cmaj is C. The note with the most weight could arguably be Gb or Db. G has slightly more weight than C, E more than G, B more than E, F and D are about equal and heavier than B, A more than D and F...and so on. This can relate to what we call "tension and release," though it's not just that. Tension is tense according to the ears of other players. Each note possesses slightly different weight to other people. Therefore, musical beauty--tension, release--weight--are in the ears of the beholder.

    This is just a budding idea. I hope to expand it a lot more. I can't effectively use it in an improvisational setting, but I hope to one day. I believe that eventually escaping direction and letting your feelings transcend directly into music is the ultimate goal of the musician and the improviser.

    God I sound like such a stoner!

  28. #27

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    I love this thread because it is demonstrating how much this subject weighs in our minds as guitarists. Some really great responses.

    It sounds like a lot of us learned in a rock/pop type fashion which is really dependent on learning a few things and sliding them all around. I hope to see the whole neck soon, perhaps an epiphany; it happens!

    Jazz and classical should be taught simultaneously in schools so we see the bigger picture sooner and don't spend a lifetime just learning the "alphabet", so to speak.

    Expand more Smitty, nothing wrong with sounding like a stoner.


  29. #28

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    Good post Smitty, very thought provoking.

    Regarding muscle memory and the saxophone... I've never played saxophone but a saxophone player I use to play with like to say, "all I have to do is drop the sax down the stairs and it will play a Bb scale". Meaning it was easy to play that scale. Isn't there some easy "pattern" to that?

    Regarding weight, a #4 over a Maj7 chord (i.e. F# note while the band is playing CMaj7), I love that sound. Or a b3 with a 1/4 tone bend over a dominant 7 chord, or a 1/4 tone bend on the 4th over a dominant 7 chord, love those too. Never thought of it as weight (it's hard to describe tones with words). I think I play those tones with the kind of 'weight' concept you describe... I haven't consiously assigned that kind of experience to all the tones though.

    Don't you think this weight concept can go beyond single notes to a group of notes. Just like playing F# note over a Cmajor chord has a certain "weight", couldn't you also say running a Bm7 arrpegio over a Cmaj7 chord has a certain "weight" also.

    At least for me, I can't think quick enough to consider the 'weight' of each note and it is a necessity to think in terms of groups of notes (i.e. scales, arrpegios, licks). The note I end on and sustain, yes that destination is sometimes considered in terms of 'weight'.

    Which gets us back to where we started... That Bm7 arrpegio shape has a certain weight against a Cmaj7 chord.
    Last edited by fep; 11-06-2008 at 01:19 PM.

  30. #29

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    Great post, Smitty. I like the way you phrased a lot of the good points.

  31. #30

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    Thanks guys. Glad to see someone can see where I'm going with this

    I agree that the "weight" idea doesn't work when blowing over changes. It works best when playing slow. But then again, to me it's not a method. It's a thought process that forces me to think about each and every note. Which is why I prefer one chord vamps or songs with chords that last over more bars. But that's a completely different can of worms.

    I've found that being able to truly physical feel music is a very cool phenomenon, though it's very rare. I've felt phrasing before that actually makes your body sway. Andy Timmons does that sometimes. I like the idea of giving single notes a value that one can relate to physical terms. Music only exists in one sense--hearing--so being able to detect it with another sense is pretty cool. Once you really start to notice the actual weight that some notes have, you start to notice that holding out certain notes can be very cool.
    For instance, in a Gmaj/Ebmaj vamp, holding a B over both chords produces a different weight each time. The B is much heavier over the Eb than the G. We already know's because the B is the #5 of Eb and the 3 of G. Easy theory right there. We know that the 3 is less tense than the #5. But one can't really feel tension. So, I atleast, give notes weight. It's not necessarily concious though.

    Someone brought up different chords or arpeggios over chords rather than just single notes. The example was, I believe, Bmin7 or Cmaj7? You see, the reason that I try not think in terms of a Bmin7 arpeggio over a Cmaj7 is because an arpeggio moves two directions...up and down. There's no side to side movement. Chords are just a dot. They happen at an instant. They move in all directions and no directions. Sure, they can continue to happen...their instant can be longer than what we commonly refer to as an "instant," but still, they don't move. They just are. So if we were to play a Bmin7 arpeggio over a Cmaj7 chord, you are caging yourself to two directions...once again, up or down. Now, if you say "I'm going to play the notes of a Bmin7 chord over a Cmaj7 chord," then that's different. True, an arpeggio is just a broken chord. But it has direction...a chord doesn't. So, once you start thinking that you're playing notes of a chord over another chord, you're getting more free but also more confusing. Rather than thinking about Bmin and Cmaj, I just think of notes relating to Cmaj. I think "B over Cmaj7...mmm.....D over Cmaj...more mmm....F# over Cmaj....that's a little bit different....A over I feel like I need to go somewhere else (meaning change chords.)"

    So really, there are no arpeggios or scales. Just pools and groups of notes.
    But don't get me wrong...I'm a huge theory dork. I thinking about theory when I practice. When I'm working on a particular scale, I'm thinking in terms of that scale. I'm ingraining that scale into my head and therefore my fingers, which I guess results in different shapes. Because, of course, the guitar is a directional instrument. Shapes occur, I build muscle memory. But when it's time to let a solo rip, I don't think about what scales or arpeggios I'm playing. Just the relations of the notes I'm playing to the chord that's being played at the time. I feel that that tends to allow more openness to come out in your playing. Each note has a purpose.

    On a completely different note, when it comes to truly ripping and trying to break speed records....shapes are more important.

  32. #31

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    This topic is very interesting and made me register on this forum.
    There are so many answers to the first post and each pulling me in a different direction. It just shows how this subject cannot be covered with one or two answers. We can only write our own experiences and let every one else fill in their own blank spots.

    I played guitar in bands all over the place for forty years. In the past three and a half I've been practicing the alto and soprano saxophone and haven't touched a guitar since, except to replaced my daughter's guitar strings every now and then.

    When I first got into sax I found myself hunting for notes (in an intervalic way) by picturing how they were located on the guitar. My instructor said that I sounded like a guitarist when improvising.

    As I read in several responses, the guitar gives us a unique and efficient intervalic perspective. The problem I find with the piano is that notes are too spread apart and it is difficult to picture intervals in my mind. The great think about the saxophone is that it is mostly about the development of our earing since we can't really picture where the notes are and we can very easily play out of tune. Sure we can read music ( and we should) but after the second hour of daily practice I always find myself playing by ear for another fifteen minutes and i feel that is is the most rewarding not just in learning advancement but also as a musician since music is all about playing the instrument in ways that communicate with the gods. After all, the art of playing an instrument is all about communication.

    I find the topic on insterval weights very interesting. I also agree that there is a time to learn music theory and there is a time to play. Ultimately, playing is the most important of the two. As much as I value the study of music, I think we were born with all the knowledge already and it is up to us to discover it! Nothing like playing in a mindful way to discover how notes relate to each other and how they comunicate with us. Like Joe Pass once said: There are no wrong notes and if we play one such note, we make it right by what we play aftewards. Isn't that the real art, reinventing ourselves everytime we play?

    Thanks for this little moment. I'm looking forward to read more ideas.

  33. #32

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    I've been doing some self-directed study of music theory while also learning some scale (mode) patterns. I think they both go well together. If we as guitarists limit ourselves merely to learning patterns I think we will be stunted in our growth as musicians. But the patterns are very useful when combined with some knowledge of the music theory behind them. I've found several useful instructional materials that have been helping me as I've been working on both learning patterns, note reading, and music theory.

    Guitar Scales Method

    Absolute Fretboard Trainer Pro

    Chord Wizard Music Theory

    I've also benefited as a developing musician from learning to play the bass guitar. Since bass players are often just given chord sheets and expected to create a suitable groove, a knowledge of music theory is pretty much essential to being a good bass player (at least in my opinion!). I've found that books like Bass Guitar for Dummies and The Complete Idiots Guide to Bass Guitar very useful for getting a better understanding of the connection between chords, arpeggios and melody lines. This knowledge is then transferable to my guitar playing.

  34. #33

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    I teach my students the shapes that your fingers form with each chord and what notes are under each finger then a fret away in both directions making runs and riffs without movint hte hand...just the fingers...thats the mechanics of it...after they have that well executed I have them close their eyes and listen to what they are is where it starts to come out of you...listen instead of works....
    time on the instrument.......pierre..........

  35. #34

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    I think that learning shapes isn't necessarily a bad thing on the guitar. Though learning just the shapes can hinder certain aspects of ones playing, it can really help when first learning how to play as well as playing over faster tunes.

    Since the guitar is set up in a geometric way, this is to say that it's not symmetrical like a piano where every octave looks the same, we can take advantage of shapes to help us learn scales, arps, chords, melodies, licks, etc in different parts of the neck. I still see shapes when I play though I always know what notes I'm playing, for me it has become a combination of both.


  36. #35

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    I just read a comment in an earlier post that mentioned that the piano doesn't have shapes. I can agree that they don't have shapes like we do on the guitar, BUT they do have very specific fingerings which can be related to how guitarists see shapes.

    When someone learns the C major scale on the piano there is a very specific fingering that they are taught and they repeat that in each octave to move higher or lower. This is very similar to how we learn scales on the guitar. We learn a fingering for a C major scale in a certain position BUT on the guitar we have to learn a whole new fingering when we want to play the scale higher or lower on the neck.

    So I would say that the piano is a symmetrical instrument, where fingerings are the same no matter what octave the player is in, where as the guitar is an asymmetrical instrument because we have to learn a new fingering each time we play a scale in a different octave.


  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by m78w
    I still see shapes when I play though I always know what notes I'm playing, for me it has become a combination of both.

    Having read other forumers' opinions during this past half year I already began to think that seeing shapes after 20 years was a bad thing.
    I agree that it has to be a combination with knowing what notes you're playing.

  38. #37

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    Hey, Matt!
    Do you play jazz with a piano? If you do can we see any video of you playing?

  39. #38

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    Do you mean me playing on a piano or with a pianist? I don't normally like playing with pianists, I like being the only harmonic instrument in a group.

    I used to play piano, I studied through the royal conservatory for 12 years or so, then took jazz piano as my second instrument in college. It's a great instrument to learn on and I'm glad I did it, it's really helped my guitar playing.


  40. #39

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    Hi, Matt!
    I mean you playing live jazz piano. A performance.

  41. #40

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    I was going to comment that both shapes and notes have equal weight, but then I read through the posts and realised that with comping it ends up being about 80% shapes... maybe for some 100%.

  42. #41

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    Both is the only answer I can give.
    I will go even further, you must learn your fretboard out of many perspectives.
    Notes - arpegios - shapes - scales - intervals

  43. #42

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    finding all the notes on a piano takes about 10 minutes..

    finding all the notes on the guitar takes a little longer...

    we must work on learning us guitar players more to work with...

    time on the instrument..pierre

  44. #43

    User Info Menu me, there's no way around it. If you want to get good on guitar in any style, you have to learn the fretboard and the theory applicable to it. Unless you're one of those one in five million geniuses who just pick it up and go for it.
    From my observations, it seems that learning the fretboard is just about the most hated/dreaded thing in the learning of guitar. Sorry, but you have to do it. Just get your head down, follow all the advice in this forum and DO IT! Then you'll feel much better. I am doing that, and I am feeling much better (if not, indeed, a little cocky as I watch my fingers bounce around on notes I the the name of...nah nah na nah na! ).

    I was VERY lazy on this till I joined this forum. My thanks to you all.

    So I voted for notes.

  45. #44

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    Ive been playing the guitar for about 21 years now and i know from experience there are so many ways on the instrument how you want to play a certain way. I think the more you can do the better of you will be on the instrument. I used to years ago practice my scales up and down all day long but now i dont. I usually use a few scales and/or just the important ones that are needed. You will end up working it out on your own after a while of what is important to you and even take short cuts in how you do it.
    I currently just work on things that are difficult to do. I work on things that i used to play 15 years that i have forgotten. I usually have a few different scales types remembered, few arpegios, triads and things like that on the fretboard remembered. Its imposible to have everything memorized on the guitar because there is so many things out there.
    Maybe when I get to 50 years of playing experience my palying wont be much different to what it is now. I have covered everything that is used in past and present music plus all the music education and training that I have recieved.
    Write now I only enjoy a challenge on the guitar and with my students i teach i tell them what is the most important to know and keep stayin in that direction.

    Im a graduate of the Mcnally Smith College in Professional music (guitar major) receiving a diploma. - 1997. USA

    Im a graduate of the Diploma in Jazz music performance . 2001. Australia.

  46. #45

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    I'd like to hear something more about the "human voice" being the first "instrument" of all

  47. #46

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    are you satisfied with your "graduates" or "diploma"?

  48. #47

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    agree, to me listening is the most important time on the "instrument"

  49. #48

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    Hubert, how do you learn how to sing then?

  50. #49

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    Uh oh, this is one of those mysterioso threads that I pop up once in a while.What's happening?

  51. #50

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    I guess accobbydaycle is voting for "shapes".