Fretboard Visualization Methods


That’s it! That’s the Cracking the Code hope. I think this actually offends some people, like hey man you’re taking the art out it, stop all the teaching. It’s as though some people would actually prefer that fewer people ever be great at something, because it makes it more special. It’s freaking weird.


Killer stuff!

I’d argue this is indeed the highest level of improv there is. Since a scale is simply “a collection of sounds” and you can access those immediately… you’re ending up in the same place (as in being able to make choices over chord changes) but saving “your bandwith” to throw some feeling in the mix instead of trying to become a quantum computer hehehe.

I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what most great players do as well, great!


Yes, it’s all about “sound” and the ear. We are such a visually biased culture that we ignore the realm of the ear.


I’m kind of an Ear Training nerd myself hehe, I sometimes tell my students it’s “the topic that unites all other topics” in music.

Maybe we should create a new post (if there isn’t one already) and put our proverbial collective two cents in there… :thinking:


I’m answering late I see, but the Segovia scales and Mick Goodrick’s mini positions point to very flexible approaches dodged by the Berklee positions, 3nps, and CAGED, etc. Bump to anyone else encouraging more focus on training the ear, no matter what approach one takes.


It blew me away two decades ago and I’m astonished that this is the first time I’ve seen someone charting it out.

FordScales - What the heck is "FordScales?"

In fact, I decided I was going to write a book about the approach and my journey with the same, during a sabbatical from my day job circa 2000. @patternblue, I’d be curious what lineage this came to you through. Not having seen anyone teaching that way at the time (and I have a HUGE music library and followed all the magazines), I incorporated it into my concept as the FordScales I, patterns A and B, open and closed. Ultimately playing was more important to me than book writing though, and I’ve moved on to an approach that’s ironically somewhat opposite that, but stems from the open hand position possibilities.

FordScales I is great for free form improvisation and learning major scale patterns ultra quickly. FordScales II deals with chromatic symmetry, six notes per string with a fixed starting point, covering the whole neck.

Now that I’ve let that out of the bag, I feel a bit sad, but in the age of the innerwebs and the tendency of ideas to be “discovered” by multiple folks at once in synchronicity, it was bound to happen. Such is life. May still write a book someday.

Um, my last name is Ford, so FordScales is a play on ChordScales… Peace all.


I’m sure anyone who tunes in fourths noticed these patterns when playing 3nps these days. (Caveat, I never tuned in fourths.) My FordScales concept has always been tied to the frustrations I faced while wrestling with the Berklee boxes and trying to play transcriptions out of the Charlie Parker omnibook. And as I mentioned last night, in my own playing I’ve ultimately solved that with further developments. For many folks though, the simple observation of the two original patterns can take them many miles in their playing.

I’ve got to get to work, but more to say about that later. Cheers, Daniel

The discussion and presentation of the same and more is the reason for this site…


For what it’s worth, if you view them as two patterns, open-hand and closed, they connect in all kinds of interesting ways, each by itself, or together, thus taking one out of strict box, position, and 3nps thinking. :slight_smile:

In my analysis, I think I borrowed from Goodrick’s idea of moveable mini positions, these being slightly larger.


@Troy, I prefer everyone to feel empowered, which is why I love your site, and that you present much value that doesn’t come with a price tag. The tricky part is where folks spend a lot of time developing ideas but don’t have a way to monetize and sustain those explorations. And we know how brutal plagiarism can get in the world of academia where folks are pressured to publish.

You’ve mentioned how in the eighties how frustrating the competitive nature of the playing was*. I totally get that, having met folks in college who kept everything close to their vest, or would leave out key pieces of information offhand, similar to when Yngwie says he just alternate picks. :slight_smile:

Kudos to the community of folks here, sharing their own “code cracking” stories and findings.

*EVH playing with his back to audience during club days was one you shared with me, I think.


Honestly, of all the people we’ve interviewed, not a single one was guarded or protective about anything. I now have to wonder if that’s just an attitude copped by lesser players, or maybe players who aren’t making a steady living at guitar and feel they have something to lose. Or maybe nobody has that attitude any more. All I can say is we haven’t encountered it.

There was that moment on the old REH tape where he says something about how he uses alternate picking and sweeping and doesn’t really think much about it. At the time I thought he was being coy. But now I’ve come full circle - I actually think it’s unusual for any great player to even know about their mechanics at all.


That doesn’t surprise me. You’re giving folks a platform to shine.

Definitely seems the norm.


Personally I’ve mapped the fretboard mentally in the form of solfege syllables. This allows me to treat it like a computer keyboard, except instead of letters it’s sounds within a key.


Do you think of the entire neck chromatically relative to a particular root, or more in terms of the notes of the diatonic scale (for a given root), or some other answer?


Notes of the diatonic scale for a given tonic (which you’ve referred to as root) in a given key.

IOW the chromatic notes are there and I can use them, but I don’t see them in my mind’s eye or focus on them.



I “see” the numbers yet sing the syllables, they mean the exact same thing. Works for any instrument since you can sing them in your head but the less bandwidth use you can get away with the better.


By numbers do you mean scale degrees?

If that’s the case, for a minor tonality do you treat the tonic as 1 or 6?


Yeah as in 1 = Do, b3 = Me, 7 = Ti, #5 = Si, etc.

I always treat the Root as Do, no matter the mode, which can get pretty tough with the more uncommon ones like Prometheus (Lydian Dom no 5), Enigmatic (changes depending on direction a la “classical” harmonic minor) or Messiaen’s Modes of Limited Transposition for ex.

I’ve done the tonality ear training for years but lately I’ve been working on intervallic things that are atonal so you really have to know the sounds of each of them, very cool stuff but obviously not for everybody.



For minor tonalities I’ve tried do as the tonic but it just doesn’t fit my ear - I know it does for some though. When I hear minor music (or the minor sounding modes like dorian for example), my ear automatically latches onto the tonic as la. Treating it as do is almost impossible for me.

That said, if I’m going to work on an atonal solo, I’ll switch to fixed do. Even tonal stuff I try and figure out in fixed do occasionally just for a workout. I know what I’m good at though and try to focus on that - Jazz is pretty much a mystery to me, as is chord tone theory but I’m sure this is a very important area especially for improvisation and composition, aspects that I’ll focus on when the time comes. I guess I’m hoping I’ll learn these things by osmosis, and learning the music that interests me by ear.



The La tonic is fine by me, whatever works is valid, there’s no cheating in music really.

You sure have the foundation to get into any style you want.
For jazz, you can start playing around with the basic triad of the chord and play over one chord or drone to begin with, rhythm will become your focus and that’s maybe the biggest thing in jazz.
Then try moving from one chord to another in a key, then in different keys, and finding connections between them, you’ll find it’s not only chord tones that work but they’re a safe bet.

Good luck!