Monday, July 6, 2009

Fretboard Symmetry

The diagram above shows the tones of the key of C as they are arrayed on the fretboard from the open strings to the 10th fret. There are no tones in the key on the 11th fret, and the system begins again at the 12th fret. By splitting the system into two groups of strings, upper and lower, we can see the clear embedded symmetry.

The 'upper string group' comprises the top four strings (D, G, B, E from low to high), the 'lower string group' comprises the three bottom strings (E, A, D from low to high), the 4th string (D) is shared by both groups.

The three half step clusters in the upper string group each comprise the same four pitches - middle B, C, E, F on the piano - shown as VII, I, III, IV in the diagram. The two clusters in the lower string group contain the same four tones and octave lower. Also, each of the string groups contain two partial clusters with two tones in each.

Just as the repeating pattern of black and white keys on the piano is essential in understanding and accessing the tones on the piano keyboard, this method of mapping and diagramming the guitar fretboard has real advantages over the conventional linear approach.

Every scale, mode, interval and chord can be understood more comprehensively with the help of the symmetrical approach offered by Fretography. Regardless of the style of music you play, your understanding of music theory as applied on the guitar will be enhanced.

Take some time to study the diagram above. Find your way around the fretboard using it as a guide. Let yourself meander, don't try to play scales, but treat the diagram as a roadmap and learn the terrain the way you would make your way around if your were visiting a new city.

You might start with the central half step cluster, positioned at the 5th fret, and then venture out from there in all directions, returning to the center again. Remember that the symmetry is based on two separate string groups, so stay within the top four strings for a while, then the lower three, before crossing between the two groups.

All contents of this blog are © Mark Newstetter