How to play nearly everything within 5 frets
In a lesson I posted a while back, I introduced the concept and musical value of practicing arpeggios within a range of one octave and also within a limited span of the fingerboard. Using these kind of fingerboard restrictions can be really helpful, especially for improvisation as it makes you think of notes and not fretboard shapes. I’d like to expand upon that approach a little in this lesson and also offer a way of practicing some of the most common scales and arpeggios all from the same root. In effect it gives you a way to play nearly everything within 5 frets!
You might be wondering now what is the point of a guitar practice routine where everything is played from the same root? Well for a start, it really helps your ear to hear the interval differences between various scales and arpeggios, and without the added complication of changing keys. It also helps you understand that the pitch difference between a lot of scales and arpeggios is often minimal. For me at least, this was quite an ‘eye-opener’ in terms of my understanding of new scales and arpeggios.
To give you an example, once you realise that there is only one note different between a major scale and a melodic minor scale (built from the same root) then you often find that your use of the melodic minor scale becomes more confident, as all you have to do is change that one note. That’s a lot easier than finding a whole series of new fingerings every time you learn a scale or arpeggio.
If you are perhaps looking for a new form of guitar practice routine, or are really finding it hard to memorise new scales and arpeggios, then this routine might just be what you need. You don’t have to learn it all at one sitting of course and it would work best if you gradually add it in to your own schedule, taking a new scale or arpeggio on board every few days or so.
For the more advanced players out there, you might find it beneficial to work on these one octave scales and arpeggios firstly from a C root and then move into the other keys. Remember to try and keep within a five fret span of the fingerboard too. Trying a new key every few days is a great way to develop your fingerboard knowledge and you will certainly notice the difference in your soloing within a few weeks.
I have used this particular guitar practice routine play nearly everything within 5 frets to really good effect with many of my online students and of course in my own practice as well. It is also one that you can modify to suit your own needs. I haven’t for example included every single scale/mode/arpeggio, but rather picked out some that most jazz and fusion players would require in their normal playing. Feel free therefore to change things around as you feel you need to.
Posted below is an audio file (and accompanying PDF of the music) played on MIDI piano of the various scales and arpeggios played within one octave:
OK that’s it for this lesson. Take things slow and gradually build the exercise up until you can play all the different scales and arpeggios at a single sitting. Now you know that you can play nearly everything within 5 frets.