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Fingerstyle & Flat Picking

One of the most crucial aspects of fingerstyle playing is knowing your moveable scales. Finding the Major and Minor scales on the fretboard (especially the Minor Pentatonic) is important to your learning as well as building playing skills. The Major and Minor scales are chromatic scales (each note of the scale is played). The Minor Pentatonic is not chormatic (Penta means Five so only five notes from the scale are played).

In finding the Major Scale, we are going to look at two ways of approaching it. The first way is finding it by building one note after another in our head using our understanding of Intervals and Fretboard Relationships. The second method of approach will be looking at a Moveable Pattern for the Major Scale and Minor Scales. We will look at the Major and Minor Pentatonics in an upcoming lesson. This may seem like a lot for now but it's not.

Building the Major Scale

For this part of the lesson, we are going to use the A Major Scale. You will remember that the A Major Scale (TTSTTTS) is comprised of:

A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A

(Refer to our lesson on the BEADGCF and FCGDAEB to build this in your head).

Building the Major Scale on the Fretboard from the 6th String
external image major_minor_scales_MajorRoot.gif
First we find the Root Note of the Musical Scale on the 6th string. This is the starting point for the pattern. It doesn't matter what note you choose to start with, the pattern will always be exactly the same as long as you are starting on the 6th string.
(The 5th string Major Scale pattern will be shown later).

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor2nd.gif
For the second note in the Musical Scale we move up c which is a Whole Step (W).

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor3rd.gif
Next we move up 2 More Frets which is another Whole Step (W).

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor4th.gif
Since we are now spanning five frets with our hand, instead of moving another fret on the same string, instead we move up one string to the same fret that we started with on the Root Note. Keep in mind that this is one HALF STEP above the Major 3rd we last fretted on the 6th string.

The 4th degree of any musical scale, is on the same fret and one string up on the fretboard. This is one of the tricks for helping you remember pattern of the Major Scale on the fretboard.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor5th.gif

So far we have completed (TTS) of the Major Scale pattern. We now move one Whole Step again or two frets to find the 5th degree of the musical scale.

A "Perfect 5th", the 5th degree of any musical scale is one string and two frets up on the fretboard. Another "mental note to self" on the Major Scale Pattern.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor6th.gif
The 6th degree of the scale (a Major 6th) is one more Whole Step or two more frets.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajor7th.gif
Again we are already spanning five frets so we move up one more string. The Major 7th is 11 intervals above the Root Note. We also know from our lesson on intervals that if we move up two frets and up two strings that we will find the Unison, the Root Note one octave higher. Therefore, the Major 7th is one half step (one interval) BELOW the Unison.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajorunison.gif
Finally we are here. We are at the Unison. The Root Note one Octave higher. Up two strings and up two frets from the Root Note.

You have now built the Major Scale for any key on the fretboard, one note at a time. Studying this pattern will also help you find notes on the fretboard.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajorpattern
Instead of continuing on with the step by step process (you can do that on your own), here is the Major Scale Pattern for the Fretboard. You will see that is spans two and a half octaves. Study this pattern and memorize it. You will always be using it in your musical growth and learning.

external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajorpatternNotes
Here is the moveable Major Scale pattern one more time, showing all the notes of the "A" Musical Scale. The one other thing I would point out is the open E Major Scale. In this case, the Root note and the Perfect 4th would be the open Low E String and the open A String. The pattern would still be the same.

Building the Major Scale on the Fretboard from the 5th String

I am not going through the step by step for the 5th String Root. You already know how to do that from the lesson above. Instead, I am going to just show you the pattern. Take a few minutes to work it out on your fretboard and play it a few times chromatically (up and down the scale through the Octaves). The example below is showing the D Major Scale from the 5th String.
external image major_minor_scales_MajorRootMajorpattern5thString.gif


The key to quick picking of a guitar in the "flatpicking style" is to:
  • hold the picking hand/arm loosely with the wrist slightly canted forward. This ensures the pick is tilted ever so slightly forward (i.e. NOTparallel to the guitar string, but is at a slight angle to it)
  • keep the pinky finger against the pick guard
  • tilt the top of the guitar slightly towards your body so as you pick upwards you're coming slightly from behind the string and as you pick down you're pushing ever so slightly into the sound hole.

Take a moment to watch this video

Your Fingerstyle!

Music you enjoy today likely has elements of fingerpicking from John Mayer to Walk off the Earth. You are to find a band that uses a lot of picking in it (either fingerstyle or flatpicking). You are to showcase a band/musician of your choice that uses a lot of picking/fingerstyle.

There are 2 parts to this assignment:

A) Theoretical, consisting of a 2 page article that has a brief list of accomplishments of each of the band/musician. Deconstruct at least 3 of their songs that have fingerpicking/flatpicking or fingerstyle in them. Use the guidelines below to help you in your journey:

a. The 3 pieces of music by analyzing the key;
b. identify the region of the song that has the picking and describe the picking itself. See if you can identify what style of picking it is (if applicable - e.g. Travis picking etc...);
c. prepare ONE of the pieces of picking on TAB/sheet music;

B) Applied, you will;

a. Oral Presentation: You are to tell the class briefly what you found (I hate long stale presentations! Be passionate! 3-4 minutes will do fine). On Youtube create a playlist that gives 1 example, minimum, from each song.
b. Practical Presentation: Rehearse 1 song from 1 of the artists/bands you researched. While you do the presentation from part a) play the piece on your guitar. You needn’t play the entire piece, but give an example of part of the definitive sound/style of the artist.

Don’t dread this!!! You will get a lot out of whatever music you listen to today by researching this. You will also get a deeper appreciation for music you love.


General Style- minimum 2 written pages free of errors, with pictures, readable dialogue and appropriate font type/spacing
Demonstrates superior skills in layout and readability
Layout meets expectation
There are some layout difficulties. Aspects of the written document do not meet expectations.
The written submission does not approach expectations.
Theory applied - analysis of 3 songs, informs reader of the musicality of the pieces
Extremely creative analysis of studied artists
Creative analysis of artists, meets course expectations discussing things like influences and why they themselves were influential
Nears expectations discussing the history of the artists examined
The project does not approach expectations and does a poor job of analysis of the 3 artists
Oral Presentation - Engaged and gives examples of music from the artists being discussed
Shows superior presentation skills by engaging the audience with a captivating analysis of the artists and gives relevant examples to support analysis
Presentation meets expectations for oral presentation. Examples are given, analysis is complete
The presentation nears expectations for oral presentation. Some examples given, but the presentation is stiff, read from papers and/or is lacking examples of music from artists
The presentation is missing music from artists, lacking preparation and/or is delivered in a stilting fashion.
Live performance of song
The piece was played professionally in front of an audience
The piece was well performed, with few if any errors
The piece was performed adequately, though riddled with errors
The piece was difficult to listen to through errors in reproduction
Use of Time
Used time well during each class period (as shown by observation by teacher, and documentation of progress in journal) with no reminders.
Used time well during most class periods (as shown by observation by teacher, and documentation of progress in journal) with no reminders.
Used time well (as shown by observation by teacher and documentation of progress in journal), but required reminders on one or more occasions to do so.
Used time poorly (as shown by observation by teacher and/or documentation of progress in journal) in spite of several reminders to do so.