iBreatheMusic.com - Music Vision in Site

Article Print Version - Non print version - More Articles - Back to iBreatheMusic.com

Broaden Up Your Reach!!

Combining 3 and 4 notes per string patterns to expand your fretboard territory.

3 notes per string scale patterns been popular among guitarists since the shred era; we have to admit it: they feel comfortable for both hands, and they're an invaluable tool for building chops and speed patterns. So we have to say that 3nps patterns are really, really helpful and are the cornerstone of modern electric guitar playing.

But that's not the whole story; everything can't be that good after all. Granted, 3nps patterns are helpful, but we tend to overlook some little details. If overused, they can turn your whole playing into boring, triplet-sounding sequences. And the worse: 3nps patterns can lock your hand in just one position, limiting your access to other freeboard areas.

Just think about this: An A major scale, 3 nps pattern. If you are familiar with the pattern, you'll instantly know you'll start your pattern on the 5th fret, 6th string. From that point, it's three notes on every string, from the low E to the high E string, from the 5th fret to the 10th fret (on the high E string, it's B, C# and D - that's 7th, 9th and 10th fret, respectively). See fig. 1 to see what I mean.

As you may already have seen, if we follow the pattern, we'll find our left hand locked in just a small section of the freeboard (from the 5th to the 10 fret, that's just 6 frets).

After realizing this little but important fact, I had to figure a way out of that physical rut by myself. It had to be an easy one, with no big changes that could affect my overall performance and technique in a significant way.

After watching Allan Holdsworth's and Brett Garsed's instructional videos, I tried the four notes per string patterns. Cool, those ones give you plenty of reach and really expand your fretboard horizons greatly (see fig. 2).

But we have to admit it: 4 nps patterns are for the physically gifted guitarists. In my case, I have small-sized hands and it's quite hard for me to play in that 4 notes per string fashion all the time without having my left hand go sore, since most of the single string patterns require difficult stretches.

I quickly became frustrated with the 4nps patterns. I knew it was a good way out of position ruts, but it was too hard for me to apply in the real world because of my physical limitations. And I still had to break out of the 3nps rut, but how could I do that? Soon a great idea came to me.

After all, not all the 4 nps single-string patterns were uncomfortable; there were some fragments that were really friendly to my left hand. So, with this in mind, I decided to experiment by combining the old 3nps scale patterns with some of the 4 nps scale fragments, the ones that felt most comfortable for my left hand.

The resulting hybrid pattern proved to be a great way of breaking out of the position rut of the 3nps scales: By just using 3nps ideas on one string and 4nps ideas on the next, I was able to cover a lot of ground on the fretboard; In fact, I nearly doubled my reach, going from 6 frets to 10 frets with this new hybrid pattern.

The following example helps to warm up the left hand and to make you more comfortable with the different 4nps sequences. It's just an ascending/descending 4nps pattern in the 5th fret. As you may have already seen, some of the sequences are really easy for the left hand (e.g. the first one on the 6th string), while others may prove to be a little more challenging.

Tip: When you play the fourth note in the sequence, lift the first finger from the string to make the stretch a whole lot easier.

This is another great example to wake up our left hand. The shapes shown in this one cover most of the single string patterns, even when they're not scale sequences: what we want to do with these shapes is to understand the basic left hand position for the 4nps single string patterns.

Practice this slowly, and make sure each note of the pattern rings clearly. Again, if the shapes are too much of a stretch for your left hand, just lift your first finger as you're reaching for the last note of the shape.

After this prelude, let's dive into the main stuff: Combining 3 and 4nps patterns to create some cool sequences, and to broaden our fretboard horizons.

3 and 4 Notes per string sequences

As I mentioned before, there are some comfortable 4nps single string sequences. We'll begin our study with these ones to make our learning process progressive and even.

The first sequence will use a whole step between the first two notes, a half step between the 2nd and 3rd notes, and a whole step between the 3rd and 4th notes. We'll use that single string pattern on the 6th, 4th and 2nd strings. For the rest of the strings, we'll use just three notes on each. Our pattern will end up looking like this:

Now that we have our hybrid pattern wired down, let's create some interesting sequences with the scale, applying this new 3nps/4nps pattern we just created.

Sequence 3 is a cool sounding, triplet-based lick in A Dorian. At first, it may appear like your common 3nps fast-picking lick, but at the end of each bar, I threw in a pentatonic lick that requires a similar shape to the Ws-Hs-Ws used in the first single string sequence, but we just removed the 2nd note.

More 3/4nps patterns and sequences

The next shape we're going to check out is another fairly easy one. This time, we'll work on a major sounding single string idea. We'll have a whole step between the first and the 2nd, and another whole step between the 2nd and 3rd note; to top it off the 4nps idea, we'll have a half step between the 3rd and the last note of the single string shape.

Be sure to practice the shape slowly as your fingers may not be familiar with the stretch. The hybrid pattern will be the same this time: 4nps - 3nps, and it will repeat itself on the rest of the strings in this same fashion.

In this first sequence, we start with a descending run (D, C#, B, A); to make the stretch easier, just lift your 4th finger from the string as you reach for the last note of the descending pattern (A) with your first finger. Reverse the procedure when going up the string.

In the last two sequences, some hammer-on/pull-offs are suggested for ease of execution; however, if you feel comfortable picking all the notes, it's up to you. Also, the tempo is only a suggestion; you may want to practice slowly at first and try to build up speed as you increase the clicks in the metronome. Also, there are some 3nps ascending/descending sixteenth-note runs to put emphasis on the 3nps part of the sequence.

Harder sequences

To close up our 3np/4nps workout, I'll leave you with some of the harder single note sequences of the 4nps pattern, of course, combined with the good ol' 3nps scale. Be sure to practice slowly, because some of the sequences have weird stretches for the left hand. Be sure to warm up your left hand before attempting any long finger stretch.

Notice that in the last one sequence, I threw in some chromatics just for fun. Play them using strict alternate picking to make the passage sound crispy and in time.

With this new technical approach to scales, I hope to broaden your perspective of the fretboard and technique in general. I don't mean to change the way you play by any means; I just thought this new concept was cool and decided to share with you. If you have any comments or ideas about this, please feel free to post in the forums.

See you next time.

PS.: Here's the PowerTab version of all Examples and Exercises: Broaden_Up_Reach.ptb

This article can be read online at http://www.iBreatheMusic.com/article/152
David is a guitarist from Venezuela, South America and he has been playing guitar for 10 years. He enjoys playing almost any style, but prefers classical music, modern fusion and progressive rock. Currently he's gathering musicians for a prog metal proyect, as well as finishing his University studies to become a journalist. He likes writing, playing guitar, sports and transcribing music.

Article Print Version - Non print version - More Articles - Back to iBreatheMusic.com