August 31, 2019 by Klaus Crow
In becoming an adept guitar player it is important to master the fretboard, learn all the notes on the guitar, and be able to move freely around the neck and play all your scales, riffs, licks, chops and solos in every key.
You can cultivate this by using and practicing your musical ideas through the cycle of fourths. For in depth explanation of the cycle of fourths check out How to Benefit from The Circle of Fifths and Fourths. In this post we are going into the practical side of things.
Let’s say you play a cool lick in the key of A (See example below). Now the next thing you do is move the lick up a fourth (up 5 frets) and play it in the key of D (A to D is a fourth), then play it in the key of G (D to G is a fourth), next in the key of C (G to C is a fourth), then the key of F (C to F is a fourth), next key of Bb (F to Bb is a fourth), key of Eb (Bb to Eb is a fourth), key of Ab (Eb to Ab is a fourth), key of Db (Ab to Db is a fourth), key of Gb (Db to Gb is a fourth), key of B (Gb to B is a fourth), key of E (B to E is a fourth), and back to the key of A (E to A is a fourth).
Below an example of how to move the lick through the cycle of fourths from A to D to G. You try to figure out the other keys. If you want to learn this lick in a videolesson check out Cool Acoustic Electric Blues Guitar Lick
Now you’ve passed through every key via the cycle of fourths. Practice this with your chords, triads, licks, arpeggios, scales, etc and you’ll discover it’s purpose and benefits. You will feel it’s different, akward and challenging to play the same lick, scale or exercise in other keys. You have to relearn that lick or scale a bit in various positions, because you have moved it up or down the neck.
If the lick is played on just the higher three strings, then find the root note of the lick (See and listen to the examples below). Let’s say the lick is played in the key of C, find the C note in that lick and on which string and fret it is located. In the example below the C note in the lick is located on the G-string 5th fret. Now when you move the lick up a fourth to the key of F ( C to F is a fourth ), find where the F note is on the G-string (pssst…on the 10th fret), and play the lick from that position. Next, go up a fourth of F, that is the key of Bb. Locate the Bb note on the G-string and play your lick in that position and so on.
This is a great exercise to learn and memorize all the notes on the fretboard and on every string. Your musical knowledge and horizon will expand and make you feel more familiar and comfortable around the guitar neck.
If you want some extra help figuring out and memorizing the notes on the string check out Learn the Guitar Fingerboard Thoroughly in 16 Days
The practice through the cycle of fourths will lead to serious improvement in your playing, increase your dexterity, but more important, it will give you more control and insight of the total playing area of your guitar, and how musical ideas and notes work, move and connect with each other.
More and more the pieces will fall in place and you will get to know and really understand your instrument and how to make it work for you.
The Cycle of fourths is one of the practicing tools from The 50CoolBluesLicksImprovisation Course along with many other effective tricks and tools to improve and upgrade your licks, soloing and improvisation skills. Check it out here: 50CoolBluesLicksImprovisation