Kreutzer Etude #5, Part 1

Let’s check in on our ongoing Kreutzer Etude series, and take a look at a short yet melodic piece, the #5 Etude. It is just 24 bars (the final bar is a single ending note) of triplet 8th notes. Some of the etudes we’ve looked at so far are useful in developing specific techniques, such as alternate picking or sweep picking.

Certainly the #5 will help with alternate picking as well, but its real strength is in taking simple scale patterns and developing them melodically. It’s also an interesting exercise for practicing position playing, and we’ll show you how to play this piece in no less than four different positions (two in the lower octave, two in the upper octave).

Since this etude is in a fairly unusual key for most guitarists (C minor / Eb major), it also serves as a great way to learn how to play effectively in those keys. As always, there will be additional exercises to help in learning the piece, as well as show you some ideas in scales and fretboard navigation.

So let’s take a look at the first half of the piece, break that down into a couple of sections, and check out some exercises to go with those sections.

K5_01

K5_02

Breakdown and Analysis

You don’t really have to know too much music theory to benefit from the analysis and exercises, but the more you know, the easier it is to follow along. If some of the terms don’t make sense right away, don’t worry about it. Concentrate on learning the piece itself first, you can always come back through and check out the extra parts later.

As noted above, the key signature for this etude is C minor (relative major is Eb major). The notes in the C natural minor scale are C D Eb F G Ab Bb. It always helps to match up the notes numerically, as degrees of the scale, so C is 1 (1st degree), D is 2, and so on, right up to Bb (7th degree of the scale).

For those of you unfamiliar with reading musical notation and key signatures, take a moment and look at the three flat () markings on the left side of the notation staff, just to the right of the clef. In order from left to right, those flats are Bb, Eb, and Ab, corresponding to the flat notes indicated in the scale.

Section A (Bars 1-4):  The first four bars introduce a 12-note pattern based on the C minor scale. This 12-note pattern is basically a doubled 6-note pattern, the second one lower than the first. Starting from the 5th degree of that scale (G note), you go up 2 scale degrees (to Bb, the 7th note of the scale), then right back down the scale, five notes in a row. The pattern then starts up again from the next lower scale degree.

The first bar works this pattern down twice, so let’s look at it first as notes, then as numbers of the scale.

Notes:      G-Bb-Ab-G-F-Eb      D-F-Eb-D-C-Bb

Numbers:    5-7-6-5-4-3           2-4-3-2-1(root)-7

(Note that the Bb at the end of the second 6-note pattern is an octave lower than the one near the beginning of the first pattern.)

Practice that first bar over and over again, until the pattern feels comfortable, and you can hear how the pattern sounds. Observing how the numerals correspond to the notes can be tricky at first, but it will make it easier to extrapolate the pattern through this scale (or any scale), and develop exercises to work along the entire fretboard.

Now looking at the second bar, we can see that, rather than continuing the 6-note base pattern straight down through the scale, it jumps back up a fourth (interval) to start up the pattern again. This happens again, going from bar 2 to bar 3, and again to bar 4.

Here’s an exercise that will illustrate what we’re talking about with “extrapolating” a pattern “through a scale” or along the fretboard. This first exercise takes our 6-note base pattern, and works it down through the scale in the 3rd position.

If you break it up into 6-note chunks, you can see that each one starts one scale degree down from where the last one began. Numerically that would go 5-7-6-5-4-3, 4-6-5-4-3-2, 3-5-4-3-2-1, 2-4-3-2-1-7, and so on. Those sequences will eventually repeat as you go down (or up) through multiple octaves. Check it out:

K5_ex_01

Now, we’ll take our full 12-note pattern, and work it up the fretboard along the G-B-E’ trio of strings, ascending one scale degree at a time:

K5_ex_01b

Unless otherwise noted, stick with strict down-up alternate picking, until the patterns feel comfortable. After that, feel free to start with an upstroke, incorporate legato, palm muting, etc.

With these and any other exercises, use whatever musical knowledge you have to transfer them into as many keys as possible. For example, how would you play this exercise in C major, instead of C minor? How would you start from a given key, and work the exercise through the entire circle of fifths/fourths? Can you play these patterns on other string combinations, and map them out along the neck? Those can be tough questions for people who don’t have much theory, but if you use our free cheat sheets consistently, that knowledge comes pretty quickly, and will make it much easier to learn more complex ideas with less time and effort.

Despite the simplicity of the etude itself, the above demonstrates very clearly how many ideas can be drawn from just a simple 12-note scale pattern (composed of a doubled 6-note pattern), played for 4 bars in a single position on the guitar. Pretty cool, right? Chances are that this post alone will give you plenty of ideas to keep you busy for a long time — and we’re only covering the first half of the etude right now.

Before moving on to the next section, let’s take a quick look at the scales for this etude, in various positions. Here’s the base C minor scale in the 3rd position, starting from the 5th (A) string, played two ways, first in position and then 3-note-per-string style, with the position shift:

K5_ex_02

Usually the importance of scale patterns that use three or four notes per string is emphasized here, and those patterns are more useful in encompassing a broader musical range, as well as navigating more of the fretboard. You can cover more ground with a 3-note-per-string (3N/S)pattern than with a position scale pattern.

However, position patterns are still valuable to know and use, in that they provide yet another way of visualizing the fretboard, and that minimizing movement along the neck can help simplify the notes and patterns. Certain positions tend to be more conducive to certain keys and scales, but the fact of the matter is that every key in every scale is contained to at least some extent in every single position on the fretboard.

The relative major key/scale to C minor is Eb major. Here is that scale, first in position and then as a 3N/S pattern:

K5_ex_02b

Use the suggested picking and fingering, and be sure to run all these scales down as well as up. Observe how the descending shifts may differ from the ascending shifts, and which fingers prepare to “anchor” for those shifts in each direction.

Also practice the scales along all 6 strings:

K5_ex_03

K5_ex_03b

Section B (Bars 5-11):  Bar 5 starts out with a straight run up the scale, starting from Bb. Modally, this could be considered Bb Mixolydian. On the descent in bar 6, notice that the second-to-last note in that bar is an A, rather than an Ab, implying Bb major (G minor). Bars 7-8 shift the A note back to Ab, and feature some nice back-and-forth intervallic play.

Bars 9-11 have an ascending-descending scalar sequence that misses the 2nd degree (spelled intervallically:  1-3-4-5-6-7), moving the sequence up a scale degree at a time. The tonality shifts the Ab back to A yet again for the first two of those bars, before settling back to the original key for the time being. We’re only talking about changing a single note (Ab to A and back) in the context of the scale, but you can hear how that small change creates melodic tension. This etude plays with that melodic shift repeatedly, and it’s a powerful tool to incorporate into your soloing.

Here’s a couple simple but effective exercises based on what we’ve seen in Section B. First, let’s take a look at three different ways to play the Bb Mixolydian mode. The Mixolydian is the fifth of the seven major scale modes. It is identical to the major scale, except for the flattened seventh, and is most commonly found these days in country music, but certainly has nice melodic applications in blues and rock.

The idea here is to play the same scale, starting with a different finger each time. Here is the standard 3N/S pattern, beginning with the index finger:

K5_ex_04

Easy enough, right? The first 3 strings have the same pattern, and the subsequent shifts are small and fairly easy to learn. Now let’s take a look at starting with the middle finger, and remaining in position:

K5_ex_04b

Note the position shift heading into the B string, in order to catch the Ab (G#) note at the 9th fret. You can also play that note on the 4th fret of the high E string, and not have to shift at all, but stretch the index finger down a fret to play the note. Needless to say, it never hurts to get familiar with both of those ways.

Now let’s take a look at playing the mode starting with the 4th finger. There’s a 1-fret shift at the B string, and then we’ve added a nice 4-note descending sequence to help work on the fingering and shifts:

K5_ex_04c

Remember when learning new scale patterns, that once you learn the basic pattern itself, to move beyond just running the scale straight up and down, and to plug it into different sequencing patterns. Check out some of these past posts on scales and sequencing for some ideas:

3N/S Patterns: Major Scale

3N/S Patterns: Minor Scale

3N/S Patterns: Harmonic Minor Scale

Melodic sequencing is the key to building technique and musical knowledge at the same time, and will absolutely give you a huge advantage in understanding how to create memorable solos and melodies. Stay tuned for the second half of the Etude #5 in a few days!

Maximum Fretboard Control: Fretboard Mapping, Part 3

Position Mapping

In this series so far, we’ve looked at the overview of all the possible notes along the entire neck, and broken it down, piece by piece, one string at a time. When learning how to map and navigate the fretboard, it’s important to break it down in as many ways as possible. It’s also important to make these pieces as “bite size” as possible, rather than trying to memorize the entire fretboard all at once.

So it makes sense that the next approach would be by position, to divide the neck into groups spanning four frets each. This will look similar to diagrams you might use to work on standard chromatic exercises that use all four fretting fingers, but remember, we’re not studying technique this time.

So you can play each note in each position with the usual respective finger, but it is not a requirement. The important thing with mapping is to help memorize and internalize the names and locations of the notes.

Continuing with the 12-fret neck diagram we’ve been working with, let’s just break it down into three positions:  open position (through 4th fret); 5th position (through 8th fret); and 9th position (through 12th fret). You can — and should, of course — continue further up the neck, knowing that the notes are the same in that region of the neck as they are 12 frets below, just an octave higher.

As we’ve been doing so far, we’ll look at each section with just the natural notes, then plug in the accidentals. Here’s the diagram for the open position (1st through 4th frets, plus open strings):

PM01a

PM01b

Just as mapping along each string one at a time gets you thinking along the neck, mapping by positions gets you thinking across the neck, adding another dimension to how you perceive and process the entire playing field.

Let’s move up to the next section, which spans the 5th through 8th frets:

PM02a PM02b

Since the two E strings are identical (aside from being two octaves apart), that basically gives you two strings for the price of one. You’re already a third of the way there!

Keep in mind also that, again, as this is not a technical study, you don’t have to play these notes in any particular sequence or order, like you would with practicing scales or sequences. In fact, as we’ll cover more in depth in the upcoming book, there are some really beneficial exercises that specifically involve not playing these notes in any particular order.

Finally, let’s look at the 9th position, which spans to the 12th fret:

PM03a PM03b

Make sure to review all the various “things to remember” from the previous two posts in this series, and apply them here as well. Review all the accidentals, and both of the note names for each of them — every sharp has an enharmonic flat note, and vice versa.

Visualize where the positions border each other, and go from one position to the next. Make sure to keep mapping positions and working them further up the neck, frets 13-16, 17-20, and 21-24 if possible; each of those corresponds exactly to the position 12 frets below. So for example, 17-20 (17th position) contains the exact same notes as 5-8 (5th position), just an octave higher.

As mentioned in the previous posts, just pick one of the diagrams, and work on it for five minutes at the beginning or end of your regular practice session. Assuming you practice 3-5 times per week, I can practically guarantee you real results within just a couple of weeks, certainly within a month.

We’ll finish off this series in a few days with a few simple things you can do to put all these things together and start working the map. See you then!

Maximum Fretboard Control: Fretboard Mapping, Part 2

Picking up where we left off in the last post, let’s resume our crash course in fretboard mapping and note memorization by taking a look at the 2nd (B) through 6th (low E) strings, from the open string on up to the 12th fret. We’ll look first at all the natural notes on each string, and then include all the accidentals (sharps/flats) for the complete chromatic octave along each string.

Reminders from the previous post will be included as we go along.

Here’s the B string:

SSM02b

SSM02a

Remember that each accidental has two (enharmonic) names, so C# is also Db, Eb is also D#, and so on. The name used will generally depend on the key signature. The particular names used in these diagrams are more commonly used than their enharmonic counterparts.

Moving on to the 3rd (G) string:

SSM03b

SSM03a

Remember that all of these patterns replicate 12 frets up the neck; for example, the B note at the 4th fret in the above diagram shows up an octave higher at the 16th fret.

Let’s check out the 4th (D) string:

SSM04b_

SSM04a

You don’t have to worry about it too much while you work on each string one at a time, but as you put all the strings together, it’s critical that you then work on the notes that are multiply located.

Let’s take the D note at the 12th fret on the 4th string as an example. Keep in mind how standard (EADGBE) tuning creates multiple locations for notes. What other locations can this exact note, not an octave above or below, be played? For most of the strings, the same note can be found 5 frets up on the next lower-pitched string (going from D string to A string, for example), or 5 frets down on the next higher-pitched string (going from D string to G string). The exception to this is going between the G and B strings, which will be four frets in the respective direction, rather than five.

Take a look at the entire 24-fret map and see if you can spot the other locations for that note. (Answer at the end of this post.)

Here’s the 5th (A) string:

SSM05b

SSM05a

Remember to learn the natural notes first, by the time you have those down, you’re more than halfway there!

Finally, let’s take a look at the low E string, which as you’ll recall is exactly the same as the high E string, just two octaves lower:

SSM06b

SSM06a

Again, don’t try to learn and memorize every diagram and pattern all at once. Five minutes at the beginning or end of each practice session, focusing on just one string each time, should get you going within a week or so (provided you practice 3-5 times a week).

After a couple of weeks cycling through the single-string patterns, start mapping adjacent string pairs, working on all the various elements covered so far. For now, just do 1-2 (E-B), 3-4 (G-D), and 5-6 (A-E) string pairs. Work these patterns above the 12th fret as well, knowing that the notes are the same, just 12 frets (and an octave) higher.

More techniques and exercises to help you master the art of fretboard navigation will be covered in the upcoming PTG Kindle book, Maximum Fretboard Control, coming soon. We’ll give you a heads-up as to the launch date, as well as free download dates to get yours when it drops. Play hard and have fun!

[Answer to question about the other locations for the D note found on the 4th string, 12th fret:  3rd string, 7th fret; 2nd string, 3rd fret; 5th string, 17th fret; 6th string, 22nd fret. Needless to say, play all of them.]

Maximum Fretboard Control: Fretboard Mapping

Knowing how to navigate the guitar neck is probably the single most important skill to develop, in terms of the results it will bring. You don’t have to learn to read music or any theory concepts to get the hang of fretboard mapping and navigation (though those things certainly don’t hurt, and you should look into those areas eventually).

The next PTG Kindle book, to be released later this spring, will be called Maximum Fretboard Control (in Just 5 Minutes a Day), and it will have plenty of tips, tricks, and exercises to help you in that area. Players of virtually all levels, but definitely beginning and intermediate guitarists, will benefit from these ideas. As the title implies, the idea is to make it quick, easy, and painless to get this vital skill under your belt and into your playing regimen.

You may want to use the Scales and Intervals series to provide some context here, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to cut right to the chase. There are just a few fundamental things to know up front:

  • There are 12 notes in an octave: A  A#/Bb  B  C  C#/Db  D  D#/Eb  E  F  F#/Gb  G  G#/Ab  A’ (next octave)
  • The octave sequence repeats in both directions, up and down, but can start from any point in the sequence. A 6-string, 24-fret guitar in standard tuning (EADGBE) will have 4 full octaves (open low E string to 24th fret on high E string).
  • Notes without sharps or flats are called naturals. There are 7 natural notes: A  B  C  D  E  F  G
  • Notes with sharps or flats are called accidentals. There are 5 accidentals:  A#/Bb  C#/Db  D#/Eb  F#/Gb  G#/Ab
  • The reason accidentals are doubled up as shown above is because they are enharmonic; that is, A# is the same note as Bb, C# is the same note as Db, and so on. The note name will change depending on the key signature.
  • There are no accidentals between B and C, or between E and F.

Because of the guitar’s tuning, there are multiple locations for most notes. This is part of the reason why standard notation is more difficult to read than guitar tab; where most other instruments have just one location for each note in the instrument’s range, a given note may have as many as six locations on a guitar neck.

Many times, the context of the music will give you a pretty good idea of the most practical location to play a note. But it’s still important to get familiar with all the possible locations for every note.

That’s where mapping the fretboard, and learning it a piece at a time, come into play. Use the Fretboard Maps PDF on the Resource Page to see charts for an entire 24-fret neck. For this post, we’re going to simply use the lower half of the neck, from the nut to the 12th fret.

FM04

This will help reinforce the concept that any given note repeats an octave higher, 12 frets up the neck on the same string. So for example, the C note located at the 5th fret on the 3rd (G) string is replicated an octave higher, at the 17th fret on the same string. (This same C note, located 5th fret 3rd string, is multiply located at the 1st fret 2nd string, 10th fret 4th string, 15th fret 5th string, and 20th fret 6th string.)

In reviewing the chart above, notice that all the accidentals are listed using sharps. You could also list them using just flats:

FM05

Use these maps as references as we move on. Let’s look at the map with just natural notes:

FM01

If you’re a regular reader here, or have some knowledge of theory, you already know that these natural notes also form the C major (or A minor) scale. If not, don’t worry about scales or intervals or any of that stuff just yet, just concentrate on learning the names and locations of these notes first. Again, pay attention to the multiply located notes contained here.

Since the natural notes are 7 out of the 12 notes total in an octave, that means that if you learn the naturals, you’re already over halfway there. Then it’s just a matter of plugging in the accidentals, understanding the enharmonic capabilities of those notes, and putting it all together.

Here are the accidentals, shown as sharps:

FM02

Now shown as flats:

FM03

To touch back briefly on the subtitle of the upcoming book, you really can learn all this with just a few minutes a day. The key here, as with learning or practicing any other idea, is consistency, just doing a little every day. Within just a few weeks of consistent practice, you should have most of these note names and locations committed to memory.

Another key is to take multiple approaches to this, and to take it a piece at a time. You don’t have to memorize the above diagrams right from the start. The best way is to go one string at a time.

Let’s take a look at the first string (high E), first just the natural notes, then every note located from the open string up to the 12th fret (E to E’):

SSM01b

SSM01a

This is yet another instance where there’s a built-in advantage to learning quickly and easily — since there are two E strings, the notes are the same, it’s just that the low E is two octaves lower than the high E. But as all you are concentrating on right now is names and locations, learning one E string gives you the other E string, which means you’re already one-third the way there.

We’ll cover the other five strings in the next post. Stay tuned!