Using the diagonal positions
Are you stuck in one position on the neck of the guitar? This lesson will show you how to start moving away from soloing in one position, so that you can play using the entire neck of the guitar.
In the first part of this lesson series (Blues Lead Guitar Basics part 1) we covered the box position and extracted some licks from it. The box position is the most commonly used position for soloing with the notes of the minor pentatonic scale, so the first step in learning to play and improvise blues solo’s is memorising the fingerings of this position. Also, it is a very good idea to practise excisting licks within this scale. In the first part of this lesson series, I explained some easy blues licks from the basic box-position step by step. If you haven’t watched the video you can learn those licks here: blues licks video.
Once you are familiar with this box position you can start learning other shapes so that you can play on the entire neck of the guitar.
There are 2 main ways to do this:
- using the diagonal positions
- mastering all 5 pentatonic shapes (we will cover this in part 3 of this lesson series).
The Diagonal Pentatonic Positions
A great way to start moving away from the very limited box position is to use diagonal positions. Check out the next chart. It covers ground from the 3th fret on the low E string all the way up to the 12th fret at the high E.
Notice the relationship with the box position, all notes on the 5th and 7th fret correspond.
Notice the slides in the tablature above. We use this technique to connect the 5th fret on the 5th string with the 7th fret. One octave higher, we repeat this slide from the 7th fret to the 9th fret. I suggest using the fingerings noted beneath the tablature.
This diagonal shape is the most basic form of such a position that covers the length of the fretboard.
There are other diagonal positions to learn. However, right now the most important thing is to use this diagonal position that we learned as we can always add other positions later.
Using the diagonal position in your playing
The next step right now is to apply what we have learned. Before going any further make sure you’ve already memorized the fingerings from the diagonal position above.
Application of scales is essential in becoming a great guitar-player. Once we have learned a new scale or position, the idea of improvisation is to “make it your own”.
This has many advantages but is quite often overlooked by beginning and even intermediate guitarists. So how do we get started here?
There are many things you can do, but you’ll get the fastest results by learning a few blues licks by heart and then experimenting with those licks. Let’s take a simple lick like the one below. You see that we use the diagonal position in the first bar and then end with a double stop lick played in the box position in the second bar.
After becoming familiar with this lick, try playing the notes in a different order. You can add notes from the box position or diagonal position if you prefer.
Here is another simple lick, now using the higher notes of this diagonal position:
Also try experimenting with it, this will not only give your fingers some exercise but will start to awaken your creative mind, instead of mentally holding on to licks you memorised.
Applying licks to real-life situations
It is essential that you practice those licks with backing tracks or use them when jamming with friends to further develop your improvisation skills. This application is a very broad topic (which I might cover in a future lesson someday), but I want to make sure that you understand that playing with backing tracks should be part of you practice routine if you want to become a guitarist that can make up his/her own solo’s. There are plenty of tracks on youtube that you can use for this matter. Simply search youtube on “backing tracks”.
Important note: All of these licks and scales we have seen in this lesson use the notes from the Am pentatonic scale. So in order to have these licks sound “correct” over the backing tracks, you’ll need to pick a backing track in the key of Am.
Most backing tracks have a description that states the key or you’ll find it in the tittle of the video.
Licks using the full range of the diagonal position
Most blues guitarist use just a fraction of this diagonal position. They either start there licks from or end there licks on this position. When we first learn to improvise over a blues progression chances are that we are staying within the comfort of the box position (found at the 5th fret for Am pentatonic). As we have seen in the previous examples, the diagonal position gives us a great tool to break free from the box-position.
Apart from these licks you can also cover the entire diagonal position from top to bottom (or bottom to top). These licks are generally a bit more challenging and require a more developed technique. To explain this I have added a lick that starts on the 12th fret on the first string and runs all the way down to the 5th fret of the 6th string which you can check out in the next tablature. This position covers ground from the 3th fret on the low E string all the way up to the 12th fret at the high E.
If you feel like practicing this country-blues inspired run, you can watch this video on my site where I guide you trough this lick: Blues Guitar Video Antony Reynaert is a blues guitarist and teacher based in Belguim. On his website you will find more useful blues guitar resources to learn from, such as his free blues guitar e book.