14 Ways to Escape the First Four Frets, Part 2


Read Part 1

The second way to escape the first four frets is, well, gonna suck. You're not going to like this one. Let's just get that out of the way right now. The best we can hope for is that feeling you have running your tongue over your teeth after a visit to the dentist. Nice and clean. You do a big double-jaw grin in your rearview as you drive away to see how shiny and white they are. And you also know that you don't have to go back there for six months. So let's look forward to the shiny-white end result and dive in to learn a new way to escape the first four frets. And honestly, it really won't be as painful as your last date with the tarter-scrapping Attila the Hygienist.

During college I played guitar with a school-sponsored traveling music group called "Celebration!" Oh yeah, complete with matching mid-90s style striped vests from Structure complete with over-sized denim shirts. We tore it up at churches between Fargo, SD and Menominee, WI. Even got as far north as Roseau, MN once, too. (That's where your nose hairs freeze together during each inhale...in June.) At some point in my tenure with group, I decided that I needed a new guitar effects rig. I kinda assumed I had rock star status at this Bible college, so I figured the music department should pay for it. Unfortunately, during my pitch to my choir professor, another doc-o'-music walked in and joined the conversation. Before I could convince my prof of the merits of this multieffect marvel, the second prof said, "Why don't you just learn to play thing?!" Being a Bible college student, I couldn't hate him. But I disliked him so strongly that I silently called fire from heaven down upon him. It didn't work. And I didn't get the effects processor either. So much for being a Bible college rock star.

It's funny the things that stick with you. I can't remember the name of the red-head I kissed my sophomore year. But I remember that comment. Vividly. Why don't you just learn to play the thing?! A few years later, I did. I attended what is now called McNally Smith College of Music and got rather intimate with 22 frets and 6 strings. And that's one of the 14 ways to escape the first four frets. Probably one of the most crucial. Why?
If you know where you're going, it's easier to get there.
Before attending music school, I knew the notes in open position, thanks to Mel Bay and some classical studies at Bible college. And I could tell you the notes on the 6th & 5th strings as a result of playing lots of power chords (you know, the whole rock star thing). I could tell you the notes on the first string for the simple fact that I knew the 6th string. But it took some serious thinking to name the notes between the 5th and 12th frets on strings 4-3-2.

One of my guitar teachers in high school gave me a chart of the neck that looked something like this. He said, "Learn this."

Umm. OK. 
He finally gave up trying to get me to learn it after a month or so. It was like trying to learn the periodic table in 8th grade science. Didn't learn that either. (Fe is iron? What moron named that?)

Fast forward to music school. I had a class on fretboard theory. One of the first things we did was, yep, learn the neck. But it was different. We learned one note at a time. First the Cs. On each string, starting with the 6th, ascending up to the first and descending back. 
They were called "note location drills." They were mind-numbing. We ran them every day. First C. Then G. Then D. And on and on around the circle of 5ths till we came to those notes that none of us had ever heard of: "the flats."

The result of all that is being able to put my finger down anywhere on the neck and know instantaneously what it is. Not exactly a skill that will woe chicks. But good to know nonetheless.
So here's your chance to learn the neck. Download Note Location Drills. The pdf contains the training explained in tablature and instructions to help you practice. By the way, it only teaches you the first 12 frets. Once you can visualize the notes on the first twelve, you'll be able to see the upper octave without much effort.

Again, it won't be the most fun you've ever had. But as you're escaping the first four frets thirteen other ways, you'll know where you're going.

Read Part 3

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