This is a blog post from my personal website (LaneGarner.com) in 2014 that I am reposting at GarnerGuitar.com

You can also check out these videos I made more recently on a similar topic:

This is the second in a series of posts to follow with my approach to the guitar, topics I have been discussing with students, theoretical rants, and more. I hope these posts will help aspiring beginners and give more seasoned musicians a fresh outlook on their own approach. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below, share on social media, or use this material with your own students.
Copyright Lane Garner 2014

Throughout my early years in college I struggled to apply new chord voicings to my vocabulary. As much as I practiced inversions up and down the neck I would constantly find myself reverting to a few comfortable voicings (usually root inversions). Even more, I had trouble creating harmonic interest while playing chord melodies or comping for myself while soloing. I have always been very drawn to a pianistic style of comping for your own solo but struggled to apply it to guitar. Gilad Hekselman particularly amazed with his command of chordal vocabulary to the extent of accompanying himself and even being able to completely alter the harmonic framework a la a pianist’s left hand. To put it lightly: I have piano envy.

I have been working on a system to connect the modal positions described in my previous post to chord voicings and arpeggios in each position. Practicing in this way has given me greater command of each of the three elements. Connecting these elements has proven, for me, a far superior approach to the normal up and down the neck inversions many guitarists learn.

I have made these diagrams as simple as possible by sticking to “fifth-string-root modal positions”, arpeggios in position, drop 2/drop 3 voicings, and by avoiding too many stretch fingerings or additional chord voicings. These diagrams are major 7, unaltered dominant 7, and minor 7 chords. I will address altered dominants, minor7b5, min(maj7), and other chords in a future post. Don’t forget to practice these in all twelve keys.

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Practice ideas:

1. Start off with a vamp one one chord type and root. Slowly go through each corresponding position, chord type, and root. First play each scale position, arpeggio, and chord voicing. As soon as a position is comfortable begin to improvise within these same confines.

2. Take a single position and play through keys in 4ths.

3. Take a single position and play through keys in 5ths.

4. Take a single position and play through random keys.

5. Play through a standard in one position.

6. Start to combine positions into one cohesive fretboard. Think of the “puzzle pieces” connecting positions.

7. Use iReal Pro to make vamps to play over.

8. Force yourself to use these concepts while playing with others.

9. Play scales in four note patterns to get used to any unfamiliar positions. Do the same with arpeggios. Play the chord voicings as arpeggios.

10. Begin to experiment with further altering these positions for minor7b5 chords, min(maj7) chords, etc. These will be dealt with in further detail in a later blog post.

Feel free to comment or contact me with any questions, comments, or edits to this post.

-BLG