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Author Topic: Finger Position for Scales  (Read 3384 times)

Offline NiteFlierJB

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Finger Position for Scales
« on: April 01, 2013, 09:37:09 AM »
Hello all.  I've been little more than a noodler for much of the 20+ years I have been a guitar addict.  I have decided to expand my horizons beyond rote learning and regurgitation of songs I dig to some music theory.  My question deals with scales, finger position, and muscle memory.  I will focus my question on the minor pentatonic scale.  I learned the minor pentatonic many years ago and the pattern (starting at the root) is automatic in my fingers.  I am now learning the shapes of the scale as you move up the neck.  I am seeking input on which finger position to commit to muscle memory as I practice the new shapes. For example, take the Am pentatonic.  The pattern begins with my index finger on the A (sixth string).  The second position begins with C as the lowest note.  Is it better to learn this pattern using the index finger or the middle finger to begin the scale on C?  In the past, when moving up the neck, I would simply repeat the first position shape.  I now realize that I am actually changing keys rather than staying in key.  I hope my question makes sense.  Many thanks!  Jason in Colorado.
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.
- 1996 Fender Am. Std. Stratocaster
- 1997 Parker NiteFly NFV1 - white pearl
- 2013 Parker PDF70 - Tangerine

Re: Finger Position for Scales

Offline prjacobs

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Re: Finger Position for Scales
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2013, 07:49:37 PM »
Since no one else is chiming in, I'll give you my two cents.
First of all, can I assume that the a minor pentatonic scale you play is all in the 5th position, so as you move down to each new string, you start with your 1st (index) finger? If I was starting an a minor pentatonic scale on the C, 7th fret of the low E string... - if I was going for speed, I'd use my 2nd finger. I don't think for me, that the index finger starting in the 7th position and then going back to the 6th position to play the E on the A string is as fluid. But regardless of that choice, when I got to the B string to play both G and A, I definitely would go back to the 6th position and play those notes with my 1st and 3rd fingers, which would lead to doing the same for the C and E on the high E string. For me, it's very weak to play those notes 2 - 4 (middle -pinky) compared to 1 - 3. I'm sure there are lots of scale books around to look at, but if I were you, I'd look at pentatonic patterns that move my hand because staying in only one or two positions sort of cements your hand in place and you'll be surprised at how easy it will become to shift positions with practice. I might also vary the note values. If you're playing those pentatonic scales as 8th notes they'll feel very different of you play them as triplets. You can also vary the accents of the notes. When working on speed you might play quarter - than 3 triplets, or quarter, 4 sixteenths so that you can pick up some speed but still ground your fingers. In addition to scales, I'd work on some chord patterns. Good luck.
 

Re: Finger Position for Scales

Offline ubo

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Re: Finger Position for Scales
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2013, 03:27:07 PM »
My $0.02 worth; totally understand that you are wanting to focus on pentatonic, however from the standpoint of building a more adaptable fretting hand you might want to look at some other scales as well, e.g. something like the chromatic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNlQFEgqlz8

The is gives you a good exercise to practice one-finger-per-fret technique and you can mix up playing triplets or quarter notes even although it's a 4-note per string approach by accenting. Really good to focus on efficient finger placement in respect of the frets as well. I use this as a warm up most days and you can transpose it freely up and down the neck to get your fingers used to different fret spacing. You can also mix to up a little, e.g. play the 4-note group ascending but descend the strings or visa versa. Whole tone / half tone scales are also good as an exercise.

Re: Finger Position for Scales

Offline NiteFlierJB

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Re: Finger Position for Scales
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2013, 07:39:42 AM »
prjacobs and ubo, Thank you for the comments and suggestions.  After having spent much of last Sunday just playing the scale in all patterns, I realized that the choice between index finger or middle finger sort of happened automatically depending on where I was coming from and where I was headed within the pattern, if that makes sense.  Seems the most important thing was simply knowing the patterns and where the root was within each.

Thanks again!  Jason.
Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.
- 1996 Fender Am. Std. Stratocaster
- 1997 Parker NiteFly NFV1 - white pearl
- 2013 Parker PDF70 - Tangerine

Re: Finger Position for Scales

Offline Bagatell

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Re: Finger Position for Scales
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2013, 10:05:22 AM »
Seems the most important thing was simply knowing the patterns and where the root was within each.

That root note is also the seventh degree of the Locrian mode, the third degree of the Aeolian mode etc. So the pattern contains all seven of the church modes, not just the major scale.

Re: Finger Position for Scales

Offline prjacobs

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Re: Finger Position for Scales
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2013, 02:35:48 PM »
prjacobs and ubo, Thank you for the comments and suggestions.  After having spent much of last Sunday just playing the scale in all patterns, I realized that the choice between index finger or middle finger sort of happened automatically depending on where I was coming from and where I was headed within the pattern, if that makes sense.  Seems the most important thing was simply knowing the patterns and where the root was within each.

Thanks again!  Jason.

That totally makes sense. Relaxed practice, without driving yourself crazy will reveal solutions to your technical questions. You'll also find that down the road, a different set of guidelines may be key in working out what you're doing. The more things that you can mentally and physically grab onto, the better. Sounds like you're in a good musical space. And... It's spring!