Friday, July 30, 2010

Arpeggio Fingerings

> Hi Barrett,
> I'm currently working through your chord tone soloing book.
> Thank you for this by the way, I'd been introduced to the
> CAGED system from a previous teacher, but ended up leaving
> him, and had been looking for a source that systematically
> took you through learning the guitar based on this method.
> So in that regard it's great, all the information I've been
> looking for in a well-organized, and surprisingly thin book.
> There's just one thing missing though, fingerings! I'm
> having difficulty with the arpeggios, for instance, for
> pattern 2 do I really need to play the notes on strings 4,3,
> and 2 with my pinky? That's how I've been doing it, but it
> seems really awkward. I have other questions, but that's
> really the most pressing one. As per your book, I've been
> making my practices more regimented, and I think it's
> helping. There's still a lot I wonder about whether I should
> be doing or not, but I feel like this a good start.
> Geoff

Hi Geoff,

There's no universal agreement among teachers about the best way to approach fingering. A final decision might be based on: if it sounds good (that's my main one), does not throw your hand into an awkward position for later notes, does not tire you, and does not form bad habits that cause these bad things to happen later.

Here's one way I practice fingering a Pattern-2 major 7th arpeggio. There are many other ways that work well for different reasons. This is a good one because it forces you to plan a little ahead.



FH 2 1 3 2 3 4 1 4   1 4 3 2 4 1 2 1 2 1 2

FH = fretting hand

We don't want an unnecessary string jump where an open string might ring out, or to get forced into an awkward move with the pinky finger. In the third note of the fingering you can see how I'm planning ahead by using the ring finger. The general idea is that we don't run out of fingers while we still have notes to play.

We want to play the fourth note with the middle finger, so that the next one can use the ring finger, saving the pinky for the sixth note, which is on the same fret as the one before. That is a situation that requires special care. I avoid using the same finger twice in a row unless it is for a specific sound.

These decisions may seem impossible to accomplish on the fly as you solo, but the idea is that you train your reflexes to do things while practicing so that they are automatic later.

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book on technique and interval studies (still in the draft stage) which helps with the fingering challenge you mentioned: multiple single notes on the same fret but different strings.

The Fretting Hand

As a general rule, use one finger per fret. (Some scale patterns cover more than four frets and will require a position shift.) Use the pinky or 4th finger just as much as the others. It may feel weak at first, and there will be situations like string bends where you may substitute the 3rd finger for it later. But now you should make the commitment to use it.

Go Lightly
You should push the string onto the fret with the minimum pressure required to get a clean note with no buzz. Any more than that will waste energy, slow you down, and also possibly cause the note to go out of tune. Try steadily picking a string, and gently touch the fretting finger to it, right behind the fretwire, slowly increasing the pressure until the note sounds clearly. You may be surprised at how little force is required, as long as your thumb is centered behind the neck.

The First Challenge
There will be many times when you will follow a note with another one on the same fret but a different string. This can be hard to play cleanly. If you just lift the same fingertip up and put it down on another string, there will be a gap between the notes during the time your finger is in transit, and the still-vibrating string will sound its open note during that time.

There are two ways to deal with this situation, and I recommend practicing both. The first can be summed up by saying, "avoid using the same finger twice in a row." Think about it. Assume you have two notes on the 5th fret, on adjacent strings. Play the low note with the index finger and the higher one with the middle finger. This order is preferred over the opposite, which can tilt your hand into a slightly awkward position (though in rare cases it will be necessary).


The same notes might need to be played with fingers 2 and 3, or fingers 3 and 4, depending on what came before and what's coming next.


The above classical-based technique helps maintain proper fretting-hand posture, with the fingers curled over the fretboard, ready to attack notes with efficiency and speed. It gives you clean, solid-sounding tones. Applying it to the interval studies will teach your reflexes to plan ahead for proper execution of notes that are coming up.

Now let's consider the other method of switching from string to string on the same fret: finger-rolling. Play the lower note with the fingertip, and then roll the finger over by unflexing the last joint, to play the higher note with the pad of the finger. The tip should roll off and damp the lower note so that only the higher one is now heard.


When rolling the notes in the opposite order, you have to plan ahead by fretting the higher-sounding note with the finger pad, so that the lower note will be played by the tip when you flex the joint. (Flexing is when you curl the finger more, the opposite of extending.) The two notes should not ring together as a chord unless that is specifically what you want.


At first finger-rolling may be difficult, and you might end up moving your entire hand to get the finger to fret the next string while damping the previous one. Work on minimizing that rocking hand motion in this little finger-rolling exercise. It doesn't use a scale or any musical concept; it just rolls all four fingers. Press the 3rd finger on top of the 4th finger if it won't flatten by itself.


With practice, you'll learn to relax the last finger joint in a way that allows it to flow into the flattened position. When you're finished with the notes that require this technique, return your fingers to the curved posture.

Thanks for sticking with me up to here!
Barrett Tagliarino

find out more about my books -
Rhythmic Lead Guitar: Solo Phrasing, Groove and Timing for All Styles
Guitar Reading Workbook
Chord Tone Soloing: A Guitarist's Guide to Melodic Improvisation
Guitar Fretboard Workbook
Throttle Twister: the Transcriptions

Monday, July 19, 2010

Practice while Commuting by Bus or Train

Hi Barrett. First, I really enjoy your workbooks. I finished Fretboard Logic a month or so ago and now I'm working through your Guitar Reading Workbook. What's perfect about your books is that I commute into San Francisco daily and I have been working through them on my bus ride. The problem is that I'm half way through The Guitar Reading Workbook with no book to work on next! I haven't found anything close to your books. My question is, do you have a recommendation for other guitar or theory workbooks (question and answer) you may have come across? I plan on picking upChord Tone Soloing book but Amazon didn't describe this as a work book per se.

In any case, thanks so much for the great books.

Hi Saul,


I had to think about your question a bit because I don't know of other guitar books that use the workbook approach, except for some college textbooks that come with a workbook for ear training exercises. You need audio for those though, so you probably won't want to do them on the bus.

But now you know a bit about chords and diagrams and notes on the staff, you can start to create your own chord diagrams and notation of music you know or are trying to read. Do it without a book.

Take a Real Book chart for a tune like "All the Things You Are" and draw a diagram for each chord. If you've gone through both the Fretboard Workbook and Guitar Reading Workbook this will be possible, if still a bit challenging.

(The "Fretboard Logic" you mentioned is a book by another author and I'm not very familiar with it.)

When I was learning notation this next thing helped a lot. Take a piece of blank staff paper and write out nursery rhymes ("Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" etc.) or any other simple familiar tunes like "Happy Birthday" or songs you sing on religious holidays. At first you'll need to figure them out on guitar and then write them down at home, but after awhile you'll be able to just write down the notes you hear and check them for accuracy later. It's very good for connecting notes you hear in your head to the fretboard and the written notes.

Thanks for working with my books. I'm sure you'll like Chord Tone Soloing, although you're correct, it is not a workbook. You need the guitar in your hands for it. You'll also like another book about soloing I did recently, "Rhythmic Lead Guitar." It relates all those rhythms you're reading about to actual application.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

strengthen fingers and improve speed and coordination

Hi Barrett

i've been playing for a while (i'm 56) - never really got it together but know enough about the fretboard and theory to make the investment and enjoy the results.

of course i am ordering your fretboard workbook.

i am also looking for a learning tool that will help me strengthen my fingers and improve speed and coordination.

as for style - i like blues, old rock, and jazz

any suggestions?

many thanks

Hi Ethan

Thanks for using my book!

To strengthen the fingers and improve speed and coordination, you should just practice scales and etudes in time with a metronome or a drum machine and track your progress on a log sheet. That's all you need. No gadgets or anything special.

For the etudes, you can use anything you like hearing yourself play. I used classical violin studies like Paganini's Moto Perpetuo and 24 Caprices, and some Bach partitas. I also played lots of Charlie Parker melodies from the Real Book, eg. Donna Lee, Au Privave, Confirmation etc.


Barrett Tagliarino

Barrett Tagliarino