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Finding intervals

Postby BJG145 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 2:47 pm

I've posted something similar before, but I'm still curious about the most common way in which people navigate the fretboard.

I saw Joe Bonamassa at the Albert Hall last night, and at one point I started paying some attention to what interval he used to begin his blues licks. The fourth seemed a favourite. So, say you were playing over an E chord and you wanted to start a line from the fourth note...how would you do that...?

1) You'd know you wanted an A note, and the fretboard positions for A.
2) You'd know the CAGED positions for an E chord, and where the fourths are in each shape.
3) Other.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby LdashD » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:12 pm

BJG145 wrote:... 3) Other.

Ears.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Ramirez » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:47 pm

LdashD wrote:
BJG145 wrote:... 3) Other.

Ears.

Huh? Your ears don't tell you where a note is, else you could pickup any instrument and play anything on it without any knowledge of the instrument.
You know that an octave is 12 frets up because you can either see or feel the frets (or fret marker/neck position). Or on a fretless instrument because of your hand positon relative to other notes. Its nothing to do with your ears, otherwise you couldn't play guitars of different scale lengths. Your ears may tell you what want to hear, but you find the note through other means, and your ears then confirm that the note is correct.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby LdashD » Fri Apr 21, 2017 4:45 pm

Ramirez wrote:
LdashD wrote:
BJG145 wrote:
Ears.

Huh? Your ears don't tell you where a note is, else you could pickup any instrument and play anything on it without any knowledge of the instrument.
t.

This is exactly how I learnt guitar as a kid, not ‘anything’ though, a good few years later exact same thing with a synth, there’s only 7 diff notes in a Major or Minor scale, how hard’s that.

It’s easier for me to see where I am on a keyboard, with a guitar neck I’m still a bit in the dark, I like it that way, I like not knowing, I just use my ears, that way you get something different from everybody else, cos they’re all fretting over which fret, I ain’t.

Better still Pentatonic scale has only 5 notes, I’d written a fair few without knowing there was such a thing.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:18 pm

Ramirez wrote:
LdashD wrote:
BJG145 wrote:... 3) Other.

Ears.

Huh? Your ears don't tell you where a note is, else you could pickup any instrument and play anything on it without any knowledge of the instrument.
You know that an octave is 12 frets up because you can either see or feel the frets (or fret marker/neck position). Or on a fretless instrument because of your hand positon relative to other notes. Its nothing to do with your ears, otherwise you couldn't play guitars of different scale lengths. Your ears may tell you what want to hear, but you find the note through other means, and your ears then confirm that the note is correct.

I play guitars with 4 different scale lengths (6/7 if you include basses) plus mandolin and uke. Wouldn't recognise a CAGED system if I fell over it. The scale is fairly irrelevant or we would only be able to play around the first 5 frets. I rarely play the same piece the same way twice and, while I know scales etc I simple use them as a part of what I play without referring to which note is which. It's everything to do with ears IMHO, the followed by muscle memory.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Wonks » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:27 pm

My music theory is minimal and I just play what I want to play. It's probably held me back a bit, but I'm happy with what I do. Different things for different people.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby blinddrew » Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:05 pm

3) other

I'd know that I roughly wanted to be in that particular area of the fretboard and I'd take a punt on a starting note with an expectation of sliding one way or another as part of the initial playing.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby CS70 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:29 pm

BJG145 wrote:I've posted something similar before, but I'm still curious about the most common way in which people navigate the fretboard.

I saw Joe Bonamassa at the Albert Hall last night, and at one point I started paying some attention to what interval he used to begin his blues licks. The fourth seemed a favourite. So, say you were playing over an E chord and you wanted to start a line from the fourth note...how would you do that...?

1) You'd know you wanted an A note, and the fretboard positions for A.
2) You'd know the CAGED positions for an E chord, and where the fourths are in each shape.
3) Other.

There's a couple tricks, one a longstanding jazz thing, the other one which I found myself (but I know several people do the same, so it's like discovering warm water, I guess - we all do if we persist enough).

The jazz thing is easy: play the chord - meaning the notes in the chord figure. Obviously that implies that you remember a) which chord is playing in that moment in the song and b) at least a voicing for it, but as each chord has voicings all over the fretboard, that gives you an easy starting point and notes that fit well, plus all the various embellishments. You need to learn the voicings, but they are not many and once you know them in a key, you know them in all keys. Many great jazz players used this approach. Of course with time you start recognizing which adjacent notes play well too and which sound or dissonance they bring, and after a while (a somewhat long while, possibly) your fingers will simply find the sound you look for.

The other is to use geometric shapes to know where the right notes are - like a constellation, you make up figures from imaginary dots on the fretboard. There's the house, there's the boat, there's the wall etc.. :) I guess the CAGED thing is something along these lines, I just read superficially about it.

That's always been intuitive to me since you only need to know the key you're in (and if there's a modulation, which key you're going to). You have the same advantages (once you learn the figures, you just transpose them in any key you want, and you find nice ideas by adding accidents and getting used to how they sound); and after a while (the same while as above :)) you get to build any melody and bring it to conclusion without really thinking about it. Also, you can open yourself for nice ideas simply by starting with a different star in the constellation, and/or moving to constellation to the others. The main con is that you you need to consciously practice to "break out" of a single constellation and find notes in different ones, otherwise it gets repetitive and boring very quickly (that's the main problem with the guys learning the pentatonic scale - i.e. certain constellations - and sticking to it forever). The other disadvantage is that if someone asks me which note I'm playing, I have to stop and count or say "duh". :D It's an hilarious thing especially with classical players - I'm like "play this" and they go "what is this"?

Alternating the two approaches (perhaps in the same playing session) is a wonderful way to get original stuff.

Then of course there's scales - breaking them down in small eatable blocks allows you to have components you can use anywhere and of course play arpeggios and shred a little.

Another trick for finding new ideas is simply to try and do some technical difficulty that your fingers don't want to do (yet). A lot of my songs are actually born that way.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby BJG145 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:14 am

Thanks for the responses; all helpful to me in developing my slowly self-taught technique with guitar. (I can relate to the "get close then adapt" method, though I'd like to learn to attack an improvised melody more accurately. My usual approach to instruments has been a theoryless "play by ear" thing, not knowing what notes or chords I'm playing, but I just never got anywhere with the guitar that way for whatever reason, so a more theoretical approach and the CAGED method has been valuable to me in making some progress. I'm still establishing the balance between finding notes by name or by touch, but as a sceptical latecomer to music theory I'm finally discovering its usefulness, and I'm loving learning alien scales like the "string of pearls".)
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:26 am

Good luck with it, the theory side is fascinating (even though, as I said above, I can't quote scales and modes etc.) chord theory is very useful and fairly easy to understand, especially if you see it on a keyboard.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby slewin49 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 11:00 am

For years I've been getting away with just having a few standard shapes I put my fingers in and then moving those shapes round the fretboard to suit the key we're in. That together with being to shift rapidly if one of the notes doesn't seem be working and being willing to just try notes that "don't fit", except sometimes they do, has kept me going.

I love music theory and study it intently but I never seem to have time to apply much of it when I'm actually playing something. Probably why after all these years I'm still just an enthusiastic amateur.

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Re: Finding intervals

Postby awjoe » Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:27 pm

CS70 wrote:The other is to use geometric shapes to know where the right notes are - like a constellation, you make up figures from imaginary dots on the fretboard.

I'm hopeless at this stuff. Is the geometric shape, the constellation, the same as one particular voicing of a chord?
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Wonks » Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:59 pm

It's comparable, though it's all the notes in the scale playable from a certain fret position on the neck.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby CS70 » Sat Apr 22, 2017 10:20 pm

awjoe wrote:
CS70 wrote:The other is to use geometric shapes to know where the right notes are - like a constellation, you make up figures from imaginary dots on the fretboard.

I'm hopeless at this stuff. Is the geometric shape, the constellation, the same as one particular voicing of a chord?


No, even if it helps you along the same lines: it's easier to memorize and use (to me) than individual note names and positions. It's just a bunch of imaginary figures made connecting dots (the same dots as a chord figure). I simply find it easier to associate visual patterns to sound than to note names or interval numbers. Much likely a result of the way I learnt to play, as classical players seem to have no problem doing the latter.

Some of the constellations are scale-related - but mostly they are simply sound related - they give me a certain effect (can be anything - a dissonance, a specific sequence that gives a certain mood etc) and I can continuously discover more by changing little things and hear how they sound. They're like building blocks - if I have to make up a metaphor, it's a bit like it's easier to learn and use words using the alphabet rather than just making up stuff directly from letters. You also learn pieces of sentences, and that becomes a bit part of your style, just like in writing. But if you keep discovering, learning and using new ones, you soon get enough words that you can write many different stories.

Another advantage of the constellations is that it's easy to experiment and remember within one (for example, if I find that I always tend to play the dots in a certain way, I put on a drum machine and on purpose try to play in a different sequence, or playing more of the same dot, or starting from a different dot, etc). Many of these experiments dont sound that great but when they do it's very easy to remember what I just did since I'm actually thinking in spatial/visual terms. It's also easy to experiment across ones.

So the geometry simply is an aid to remember and associate sounds to physical movements - that's why I call them constellations: like watching the sky, if you look at individual stars it's very hard to distinguish what's what, but it's much easier to find Orion, or Ursa Minor etc and point at it. Then if you go to the theory you can certainly find which one is Betelgeuse and which one is Rigel, but it's much more fun to imagine Orion on a chariot :D

Keep in mind that this is something that I made up by myself to make sense of things while working towards my ultimate goal, which was (still is) to invent and play a melody over a chord progression on the spot. The post above (and the paragraphs in this post) are actually the first time I tried to describe it ever. :)
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Ramirez » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:56 am

LdashD wrote:
Ramirez wrote:
LdashD wrote:
BJG145 wrote:
Ears.

Huh? Your ears don't tell you where a note is, else you could pickup any instrument and play anything on it without any knowledge of the instrument.
t.

This is exactly how I learnt guitar as a kid, not ‘anything’ though, a good few years later exact same thing with a synth, there’s only 7 diff notes in a Major or Minor scale, how hard’s that.

It’s easier for me to see where I am on a keyboard, with a guitar neck I’m still a bit in the dark, I like it that way, I like not knowing, I just use my ears, that way you get something different from everybody else, cos they’re all fretting over which fret, I ain’t.

Better still Pentatonic scale has only 5 notes, I’d written a fair few without knowing there was such a thing.


Maybe I wasn't clear, or misunderstood the point - but what I mean is there is an intermediate step between 'playing by ear' and navigating the fretboard. They are not the same thing. You need a knowledge of the instrument in order to convey what your ears are telling you. Its not your ears making you place your hands at exactly the right point in space.

If your ears tell you you want to hear a minor third/a D after a B/three semitones/the first interval in 'Whole Lotta Love'/however way your brain interprets it, how do your hands know where to go? I thought this was the OP was alluding to? If you were genuinly playing only by ear you would have to hit a lot of random notes before finding the right one, because doing otherwise implies a knowledge of the fretboard and of the tuning you're in - that a fret up equals a semitone higher, that a string up is five semitones etc.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby The Korff » Mon Apr 24, 2017 8:49 am

It's all muscle memory; after a while the 'shapes' become completely intuitive. (And we guitarists have an advantage over pianists in that the shapes are the same in every key; we don't have to worry about those pesky missing black notes!).
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Music Wolf » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:01 am

I find that the challenge is not so much learning the shapes themselves so much as learning, and using, a variety of shapes. It can become all too easy to work within a small range so that you risk all your solos starting the same way.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:11 am

And there's a fine line between 'sounding like me' (a good thing) and 'everything sounds the same' (a bad thing). :D

I'm with The Korff in so much as, while there are many ways of navigating the fretboard, ultimately it all comes down to practice and muscle memory.

All those dudes who can say "well it was a II IV I in D and I played the mixolydian over it to achieve tension" (or whatever) are talking b0110x..... there is no time to go through that thought process mid solo, the most you can hope for is to pick a direction and just play what your fingers tell you around that framework :headbang:

edit :- and for me constantly trying different things in practice and jam sessions keep what I play fresh (to my ears at least).
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby mashedmitten » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:06 am

It's all about feel. Feel comes through practice and practical use. There are aids, like theory and exposure, but it still comes down to practice and practical usage. I started in a family of non-musicians, on a piece of crap guitar with one string, where the action was higher than a Dobro figuring out Dwayne Eddy songs to the stereo. Now I have a DAW where I can record backing tracks in all different styles to practice to and put skills to practical use in a number of genres.

As to why a note was used where, it could be innovation or just mimicing something heard elsewhere or improv on the thing heard before, by someone else and incorporated. Again, practice and practical use, no matter what the starting point and patterns just because that's the way humans work.

Forget constellations and theory, in the moment it's the last thing considered, no time for that thought process. Unless it's an exotic scale, every thing on guitar is based on three patterns. Per string, the possibilities are 1-2-4, 1-3-4, or stretch 1-2-4. These will cover every scale and mode except the exotics.

When you find someone that makes you notice something like that, chances are they learned to play with no idea as to rules and theory and approaches it from a blank slate, relying on feel to judge the right and wrong of something.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby mashedmitten » Mon Apr 24, 2017 10:17 am

Music Wolf wrote:I find that the challenge is not so much learning the shapes themselves so much as learning, and using, a variety of shapes. It can become all too easy to work within a small range so that you risk all your solos starting the same way.

Good point, I'd counter that position plays a large role in something sounding "different". How many blues/ rock solos are in first position Pentatonic of any key, and the ones that based on a different position in the key can make it appear exotic to the listener?

Patterns are the fingering, not position. First position of a 6th string major scale on guitar is the pattern; stretch 1-2-4, stretch 1-2-4, 1-2-4, 1-2-4, 1-3-4, 1-3-4.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby Kwackman » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:03 am

Sam Spoons wrote:All those dudes who can say "well it was a II IV I in D and I played the mixolydian over it to achieve tension" (or whatever) are talking b0110x.....

I suspect Larry Carlton does this sort of thing. I've read and listened to a lot of his interviews, and he does seem to work on this sort of level. (This isn't relevant but I got to see him play live in Cardiff - one ticked of the bucket list!)
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby CS70 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:04 pm

Music Wolf wrote:I find that the challenge is not so much learning the shapes themselves so much as learning, and using, a variety of shapes. It can become all too easy to work within a small range so that you risk all your solos starting the same way.

Yes, that's a big one. It's just to have a conscious strategy to avoid doing so - you gotta force yourself to try start or go with something different. But it's also important to remember that a melody or a lead line is not only about notes - it's about their duration, the pauses, the accents, the swing/shuffle/syncopation feel, the repetitions etc, the effect of getting there (slide, bend) etc. The combinations are countless.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby CS70 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:09 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:And there's a fine line between 'sounding like me' (a good thing) and 'everything sounds the same' (a bad thing). :D

Imho the "sound like me" is not so much about the notes but other things, like attack, amount of legato vs. staccato, timing.. it's always surprising to me how I and another guy can take the same progression and notes and get something quite different out of them. I was just looking at a youtube demo the other day and the guy did a little acceleration at a certain moment that I had to go and listen to again.. it just wouldn't have occurred to me to do that at all at that point. These moments are fantastic, it's when you really learn something new.

Another useful thing is to just sing a melody and then playing it, overcoming all the difficulties you encounter in doing that. It forces you to adapt the fingers to the music and not the opposite.
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby CS70 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:17 pm

mashedmitten wrote:Forget constellations and theory, in the moment it's the last thing considered, no time for that thought process.

I beg to differ. The fastest guitarist in the world is, in his own view, going at the pace where he can - and does - think about the proceedings at a perfectly sustainable pace.

Not all of us think about the same things, and we used different visualizations, processes, building blocks and names, but if you can't think what you're gonna play next, you're simply trying to go too fast and the result is most often crap.

I know quite a few jazz guitarist that do think in terms of intervals, accidents etc. Works fine for them :)
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Re: Finding intervals

Postby mashedmitten » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:29 pm

CS70 wrote:
mashedmitten wrote:Forget constellations and theory, in the moment it's the last thing considered, no time for that thought process.

I beg to differ. The fastest guitarist in the world is, in his own view, going at the pace where he can - and does - think about things at a perfectly sustainable pace.

Not all of us think about the same things, and we used different visualizations, processes, building blocks and names, but if you can't think what you're gonna play next, you're simply trying to go too fast and the result is most often crap.

You are correct. You'd have to agree that such a person would have to have a mastery of theory, a mastery of his instrument, large amounts of practice and then loads of practical experience to achieve that level? That's a true virtuoso. But it is entirely possible (wish I could half do it) to get to the point you think 2 or 3 steps ahead of where you are. Sad thing is, it's the exception to the rule these days for pop/rock/whatever musicians to have a clue of theory and use mimicry and the like as the basis of their abilities.
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