Hi everyone –
The below is a guest post from the amazing Matt Warnock. Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all experience levels meet their practice and performance goals. Matt lives in the UK, where he is a senior lecturer at the Leeds College of Music and an examiner for the London College of Music (Registry of Guitar Tutors).
I’m very happy to have him share his wisdom for your benefit, so without further ado, here is Matt.
Learning to play box patterns is an essential skill that any developing guitarist needs to get under their fingers as they begin to explore scales in different keys across the neck. But, while these patterns can be very helpful at first, if we are only using box-patterns in our playing they can end up being a hindrance over the long term. For this reason, many guitarists reach a level in their development where they feel the need to break out of box patterns in their solos. But how does one go about this?
Below are three exercises that you can do in order to expand your fretboard, learn your neck in different positions and thoroughly break out of box patterns in your solos.
Single String Scales
One of the easiest ways to break out of box-patterns on guitar is to play horizontally instead of vertically across the neck. One exercise that works really well when trying to play more horizontally across the neck is to practice scales on one string.
To practice this exercise first pick a scale that you want to work on, let’s use the C major scale for now, and then find the notes that are in that scale.
For the C major scale the notes are:
Once you have figured out the notes, start on the lowest possible note in this scale on the 6th string, which would be the open E string in the key of C major, and play up the scale on one string.
For the C major scale on the 6th string you would play, before you started repeating yourself above the 12the fret.
Here is how this exercise would look with a C major scale on all 6 strings.
By doing this exercise across all six strings, you will not only learn to see scales across the neck, instead of only up the neck, but you will learn the notes of each scale and see these notes along the neck at the same time. For these reasons this exercise is something that every guitarist should check out in the practice room at some point during their development.
Two Octave Scales with Shifts
One of the approach that I really like and that I use in my own playing to break out of box patterns is to play two-octave scales, like you normally would in position, but I shift at the end of the first octave into a new position on the neck in order to span more real estate with a two-octave scale.
To do this, pick a scale that you want to work on, then play the first octave of the scale starting on either the 6th or 5th string. When you get to the end of the first octave of the scale, shift up the neck and play the second octave in this new position.
Here is how this approach would look with an A minor pentatonic scale on both the 6th and 5th string.
A cool side effect of playing scales in this way is that you can add slides, hammers and pull-offs when shifting octaves that can create some very interesting melodic ideas in your solos, while breaking you out of box patterns at the same time.
4 Note Per String Scales
The last box-pattern breaking idea we will look at in this article is playing four-note-per-string scales on the guitar.
With this concept, you pick a scale that you want to practice we’ll use F major for this example.
Then, start on the root note on the 6th string, in this case the F on the first fret of the 6th string, and then play up the F major scale using four-notes-per-string as you ascend the neck.
It would look like this once you have ascended up all 6 strings.
By playing scales with four notes per string, you are learning to shift up the neck as you ascend the scale and shift down as you descend the scale. As well, you are covering 17 frets with one scale, so basically using one scale to cover the entire neck of the guitar. This will open up your knowledge of the fretboard, as well as get you to break out of box patterns as you use the four note per string scale to cover a large amount of real estate in your solos.
Breaking out of box patterns may seem like a tough thing to do at first, but check out these three exercises and they will help you be on your way to expanding your neck and exploring more fretboard real estate during your solos.