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The Blues Foundation Course

Lesson 6 - Shapes 3 & 4

As we continue up the fretboard, our approach continues to remain the same. We are going to keep focusing on a single point of connection, and that point of connection will still be on the G string:

Unlike the other shapes that we have covered so far, the point of connection here coincides with the tonic note of A at the 14th fret. This is shown on the diagram by the note with two colours. The light blue colour represents the tonic note and the yellow highlights the fact that we are targeting this note in our connecting movements.

This provides you with an interesting opportunity to target the tonic note as a way of resolving your phrases, whilst also moving between shapes of the minor pentatonic scale.

As in the previous lessons, there are a variety of different ways to connect these notes. Just some of these are as follows. You can:

  • Slide up from the 12th fret to the 14th fret

  • Do the opposite, and slide down from the 14th fret to the 12th fret

  • Connect these two notes using hammer ons and pull offs

Compared with the previous lesson, where there was a larger stretch between the two focus notes, here they are very compact. This makes executing movements between these two notes relatively straight forward.

• Fretting Hand Focus (revisited) •

The challenge at this stage (as well as the opportunity area!) is in connecting this shape with those illustrated previously. After all, we now have the following shapes and connecting points:

All of these notes and points of connection provide you with a range of options for creating cool and interesting licks. They also provide you with the ability to move across large sections of your fretboard in a smooth and musical way.

However, as you start to add in more notes to target and move between, you also have to be careful about how you execute these ideas. The consideration here is the same as in previous lessons. You need to think about your fretting hand and which fingers you are using to execute licks and movements.

This is particularly pertinent now, as you might find that you use different fingers to move between different shapes. And so if you start to combine these movements together, you might have to make small adjustments to your fretting hand.

You can see this in the video above. As I move between different shapes, I keep adjusting my fretting hand to make sure that it is in the most advantageous position at any given moment.

This is challenging to do at first. And so when you are improvising and trying different ideas out, I would recommend pausing. Don't rush from shape 1 to shape 2 and so on. Take a moment to pause (even if just for a second) before moving on. This will help you to plan your next move and change your fretting hand position if needed.

• Mechanical Movements •

To consolidate this idea, I would recommend moving up through the pentatonic shapes in quite a mechanical way to start. Begin in shape 1 and move up to shape 2. Pause there and work on some ideas in this position, before moving on to shape 3. Once you reach shape 4, pause before working your way back down to the starting point.

To help with this and as recommended in previous lessons, it might be worth limiting your focus to the notes on just the top 3 strings:

This won't help you to craft the best guitar solos of your playing career. In fact it is likely that your solos will sound quite mechanical and a little lifeless. However, going through this process will help you to combine these ideas. Crucially, it will also help you work out what you need to do with your fretting hand at any given moment.

As you then start to get comfortable with moving through the different shapes - both up and down the fretboard - you can start to work on making your solos smoother and more musical. We will cover this point in much more detail in a later lesson on this course.

• Next Steps •

For now though, just spend your time working through this shape, along with those covered so far. Continue to experiment as much as possible. You now have 5 notes on the G string that you can target and connect. And by using slides, hammer ons, pull offs and bends, you can move through these notes in a variety of different and interesting ways.

The key to your success here is to improvise and experiment with a granular focus. Try to get as much mileage as you possibly can out of each phrase or movement. Think of all of the different ways you can connect each shape, and then work on creating licks and phrases which include those movements.

Once you feel comfortable with these ideas, spend time jamming over backing tracks and consolidating everything we have covered so far in a real musical context. In the next lesson we'll then look at the final shapes of the minor pentatonic scale and how to connect them up. I'll see you over there!