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I used to be amazed by guitar players who’s fingers ran smoothly up and down across the fretboard while improvising.
It seemed their fingers just went to the right place at the right time without the guitar player really having to think about it. It’s like those fingers had a life of their own.
Although the pentatonic / blues scale would already allow me to go wild and free in a blues rock environment, but playing like that using diatonic scales (major scale, natural minor scale and modes) looked like a whole nother ball game.
I did learn the diatonic major scale and it’s modes in different shapes, keys and tried various exercises, but it didn’t come off as sounding natural and I missed that feeling of sliding freely and musically across the fretboard without having to think about it.
It took a while before I figured this one out when I started playing melodic patterns.
A melodic pattern is an intervallic and repetitive pattern that will make your scales sound less like scales and more like musical phrases. The pattern provokes melody. There are many variations, from easy ones to more challenging patterns.
Practicing melodic patterns will increase your dexterity and make your technique become more fluid. With regular practice you will start noticing that your fingers will be going to the right place at the right time. They will develop, to some extent, a life of their own. Your fingers are being trained to master the fingerboard.
A melodic pattern also allows you to translate the melody in your head more quickly onto the fretboard because both your ears and fingers are trained to know where to go.
While you want to be careful that you don’t end up playing just patterns all the time (you don’t want to sound like a machine), it does get you to the next level of playing freely across the neck.
If you combine this with all the other tools like arpeggio triads, licks, harmonic intervals, mix it with some blues and creating real melody with the diatonic scales, your way of playing will become melodic, limitless and beautifully interesting to listen to.
– Practice the melodic patterns in this post:
6 basic major scale sequences / melodic patterns
– Apply the melodic patterns from the post above to all 5 major scale shapes.
– Learn to play scales in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 3 in a line, 4 in a line, etc.
Major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
C major scale = C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C
3rds = 1 3, 2 4, 3 5, 4 6, 5 7, 6 8, 7 9, 8 10, 9 11, etc.
C major scale = C E, D F, E G, F A, G B, A C, B D, C E, D F, etc.
4ths = 1 4, 2 5, 3 6, 4 7, 5 8, 6 9, 7 10, 8 11, 9 12, etc.
5ths = 1 5, 2 6, 3 7, 4 8, 5 9, 6 10, 7 11, 8 12, 9 13, etc.
6ths = 1 6, 2 7, 3 8, 4 9, 5 10, 6 11, 7 12, 8 13, 9 14, etc.
3 in a line = 123, 234, 345, 456, 567, 678, 789, etc.
4 in a line = 1234, 2345, 3456, 4567, 5678, 6789, etc.
Practicing melodic patterns takes time, perseverance and patience, but if will pay off!