Published On: Tue, Jun 24th, 2014

Guitar Techniques: Audio Visual

Get your head round these ‘visualisation’ techniques and unlock that fingerboard!

Previous drills have been largely based on physical playing techniques, with exercises on how to develop them or ones concerned with ear training. The workout this month is largely ‘mental’ rather than physical or aural, and concerns triads; in musical terms a triad is a three-note chord consisting of the root, third and fifth. Specifically, the approach we’re outlining requires being able to visualise triad shapes across, as well as up and down the fretboard. The end result should be a better knowledge of the fretboard and will also hopefully inspire new ideas and approaches to improvising. Since these exercises potentially cover a wide fretboard range, they are best played on an electric guitar.


All in 4/4 Time:

1: A Major Triad




The first bar of this exercise shows a one-octave A major scale in the second position. This means that the first finger is at the fifth fret, and since the fretting hand fingers are generally kept spread out one finger per fret, this automatically determines which frets the other fingers are poised above. In order to reach the G# note on the fourth beat, a temporary change to the first position is required for just half a beat. The second bar of the exercise isolates the root (or first note), the third and the fifth notes of the scale, thus giving a root position A major triad in arpeggio form (that is, the notes are played one at a time rather than as in a chord).

2: Inversions




The fact that the triad contains three notes lends itself naturally to triplets. Starting with the root position triad from the first beat of bar 2 of Ex 1, the lowest note, A, is transposed up an octave so the order of the notes on the second beat is third, fifth, root – aka the ‘first inversion’, with the third at the bottom. For the next beat the lowest note is transposed an octave higher again so the order of notes is fifth, root, third – a ‘second inversion’, with the fifth at the bottom. Then, for the fourth beat, the lowest note is again transposed an octave higher, so the order is root, third and fifth – another root position triad, but an octave higher than the one on the first beat of the bar.

3: Moving Up The Fretboard


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The pattern in Exercise 2 moved across the neck before moving up the neck; this exercise moves up the fretboard, then moves across the fretboard when we run out of frets. Since the second bar is all in the upper register of the fretboard where the frets are closest together, careful and accurate placement of the fretting hand fingers is required.

4: Across And Then Up The Fretboard.



This exercise shows another way to play triads, and involves moving across the fretboard, as in Ex 2, then up the fretboard, as in Ex 3, upon reaching strings four, three and two. All these will hopefully show that there are numerous ways of combining triads that move across, as well as up and down the fretboard – the more you experiment, the greater your knowledge. Also, try playing Exercises 2, 3 and 4 in all the other keys. Good luck!

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