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Learning the guitar neck with licks

Learning the neck

Here it is:

Keep it in mind as we take a look at that Louis Armstrong solo again.

What’s the first thing you see in the first bar?

Nothing but C major chord tones. But where are those notes on the guitar? This is the crucial part. If you study the diagram above, you’ll find four practical locations to play it.

  1. Open position using an open E string to start.
  2. Fifth position starting with the E on the B string.
  3. Ninth position starting with the E on the G string.
  4. Fourteenth position starting with the E on the D string.

Finding the notes in all the positions might take a little while. Be patient. It’ll be worth it.

Play the lick in all of these positions, saying the names of the notes out loud as you do. Move randomly between positions, and see if you can play in each position five times.

Do this every day for a week, and you’ll know where the four pitches in this lick are in all the practical positions on the guitar. You’ll also have a lick that you can use in a number of different places. Don’t like the lick? Find one you do, or better yet, invent one. Don’t make it longer than four pitches; you want to make it easy to learn where the notes are.

Then learn two more four-note licks. Each of these three licks should have their own unique set of notes, different than the other two. Do this and you’ll cover all twelve pitches. Don’t worry about making licks that only use chord tones. Just make sure all twelve pitches are represented in the three licks.

Learn each one in two different octaves, and you’ll have covered most, if not all of the guitar. Give each lick in both octaves a week, and in six weeks, you’ll have a reasonably solid knowledge of the fretboard. And you’ll have six licks you can use in your improvising. Six weeks is nothing in the scope of things.

Then just keep learning new licks, and your knowledge will get stronger and stronger.

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