The Frank Gambale interview is here!


Not to belabor the point, but beyond religion, I think there are important reasons to keep it specific in the same way we we do with the discoveries about picking. If one looks to the kind of chord shapes one uses in comping, be it rock, folk, jazz, or something else, one may learn a lot about an approach. The principle goes beyond the Gambale interview, and since CAGED gets thrown around in religious discussions as a “religious” term, I appreciate “practical description,” thanks. :slight_smile:


Wokka wokka wokka!

:raised_hand: -----------> :tomato::man:


Are you saying there are specific chord shapes specified by CAGED and others that are not? Not arguing, just asking. I have not delved and if that’s the case then perhaps “CAGED” is the wrong way of describing what Frank is doing. For damn sure I especially have no interest in the religious war aspect.

I will say that fussing over precisely which scale fingerings are used to do the mapping seems to massively miss the point. I know you are not saying this, but I have seen “3nps vs CAGED” arguments on the intertubes that seem almost flat earther-level stupid to me. The big insight here as far as I’m concerned is the modularity of fretboard shapes that is in no way, shape (ha) or form properly conveyed by the old “learn all scales in all positions” teaching advice. Great, now I know E minor all over the neck. I had that in 9th grade. I still couldn’t play through the changes.

Learning to construct lines that move through underlying chord shapes, no matter the shape and no matter the line, is a really big deal and unless someone has a better idea, everyone should be taught some form of this. CAGED, whatever, choose your ideology, doesn’t matter to me. Getting the concept across in any fashion would have shaved decades of ignorance off my personal journey for sure.


There is a flat earther that lives in my neighborhood, and I’m a bit scared of them. :slight_smile:

We are so on the same page of not being religious about this. And I think we both share a deep interest in science. So with that out of the way, and in answer to your question… Yes, “there are specific chord shapes specified by CAGED and others that are not.”

The more voicings one knows, the more linear considerations and harmonic structures tend to blend together and/or scaffold each other. Where dyads and triads are concerned–and even with drop-three and drop-two voicings–the thought process can be pretty remote from what the particular system uses as a meta-scaffolding.

I do not teach first position chord shapes to my students first unless they specifically need them for a song they want to learn. I do not want them associating triadic harmony with what I refer to as “grips.” I see a lot of people struggling, and have struggled enough myself, to not want them hung up on hurt fingers and six-note structures that hide the simplicity of the triadic harmony that underlies them.


I have totally no idea what you are talking about! I can only see that as a positive for my future potential learning.

I’ve always known more harmony than I could actually use. But in plain English, the thing nobody ever told me was how you’re supposed to know where the next note on the fretboard is when the chord changes. Like, am I literally supposed to think, ok the new key signature is XYZ, and now I find those notes on the board, and now I can only play those? I think that’s what people think. Because that’s how sightreading works and that’s what most people have experience with from school.

Except sightreading is a totally different system. You know the note name on the staff and can connect it to a memorized location on the fretboard. But that location is absolute. It is different based on which position you are in on a violin, for example. But for that note name, its location never changes. So it’s lightning fast when you get good at it. If I’m in 2nd position and someone says F#, my ring finger rockets to that location with no thinking.

But now you tell a violinist, ok we’re transposing everything up one half step. Now all the note names are different and exist in totally different places. You need to rewrite all the notation to work. The fingerboard shapes all change. In fact there really is no “shape”. There is no concept of taking the same set of finger movements and sliding them around. At least not in classical music.

The idea that the shape travels with the chord, and the shape matches the chord family, really changes everything. You tell me the chord type and general location and you can just start playing. Wait, new chord type? Ok, new shape.

I get that the voicings matter to come up with cool ideas and so on. But if you never tell me any of the above first I’m just fundamentally not understanding how improvisation works on this instrument.


We talk about this specifically in the interview, and I tried to drill down as far as I could in the limited time. I think it’s essentially shape-based, like a type of CAGED.

Yes, i supossed that, a kind of weird caged with overlapped shapes, like the “improvising” chords…
but I could never fully decipher the puzzle, the way he uses them even for the more "visual " licks. ( like “lick that slurped etc”).


Eschew obfuscation.

That’s my motto, and clearly I don’t follow it very closely. :wink:

I feel I owe you a longer response, @Troy, and I want to make sure I understand what you wrote as well before responding. I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people are bewildered by some of this stuff (and not just the jargon). More later. Thank you.


“I wanted the whole fretboard to be a safe zone.”


At 27:42 or so he spells it out.


When he said things like that in the interview, it made me think he had/has the “rage to master” quality Ellen Winner talks about.


Ok @Troy, so I rewatched the interview thoroughly tonight and have read your post enough times to have a sense of where you might be coming from. We’ll see if I’m anywhere close?

So this is where the idea of “CAGEs” comes in, no? The chord being one thing and “the shape” being the associated scale?

Gambale makes the point about the chords coming from the scales. This is the language of “chordscales,” where there is not really a clear distinction between the harmony and the line. When thinking chord tones and passing tones as he speaks of doing, it’s odd to think of a scale following a chord. The scale is defined by the chord and vice versa. There is no meta-thought tying a scale shape to a chord shape.

He speaks of running scales into each other, and he plays some guitaristic ninth chords that probably arise in his mind regarding his original struggle to get things working. Chords that provide a backdrop, a sound, but not necessarily an anchor point. He’s pretty explicit about not wishing to be boxed in, and watching how he fingers sus chords with a nod to Message in a Bottle, that looks to me like he’s playing what he’s hearing, not reciting the patterns more familiar to those of us that learned the tune from tab. That’s where ear training is king, and the local landscape of the moment provides a means to an end, intervallically (thinking about your discussion with Martin Miller here).

I think we need to distinguish between two types of shape, physical structures and melodic structures. There absolutely are “shapes” in classical music, as that’s at the root of motivic development. A given motif may be expressed differently on each instrument in the orchestra, and possibly several ways on a given instrument, with arguably, not a lot of useful physical commonality. However, while the physical shapes differ, the musical commonality remains, the shape of the motif abstracted away from how it’s played.

One interesting takeaway from that is that melodic patterns played on piano are transferable to guitar and vice versa. The black and white keys are incidental and relate to the structure of the hand, and otherwise, for most practical purposes, the piano is a chromatic transposing instrument as well.

I’ve my FordScales (a play on “chord-scales” using my last name) systems that helped me to organize my thinking about the fretboard. The original FordScales stuff lives within the 3nps concept, but in fact is not positional, and more about organizing the intervals within a given space. The two patterns may connect to form the six string, three note per string patterns, but they don’t have to connect that way. They anchor relative to chord tones, but they don’t reference any chord shape. We don’t usually associate the 3nps stuff with anything “CAGED-y,” so no surprise there…

“FordScales,” Open and Closed Patterns

4   5   6
1   2   3
5   6   7


2   3 4
6   7 1
3 4   5
7 1   2

The later system that answered my original observation is a six note per string chromatic approach using the note A (for a variety of reasons) as an anchor point. This affords me a pianistic view of the fretboard where the melodic patterns lay within the physical structure, but everything is within that structure, the chord tones, the scales… (It’s what I later learned Barry Harris would refer to as the “God” scale.)

“FordScales Chromatic Approach”

               Eb E  F  Gb G  Ab
            A  Bb B  C  Db D
         Eb E  F  Gb G  Ab
      A  Bb B  C  Db D
   Eb E  F  Gb G  Ab
A  Bb B  C  Db D

When actually playing, not practicing or working out the fingering to a tune, I’m not restricted to this framework. Having practiced all of the scales in all of the possible keys, within the system, I’ve covered most of the physical shapes, and the dominant thought process is linear melodic structure, not physical structure. I’m playing dozens of physical patterns within each two-string cell, but it doesn’t guide my primary thought process, merely adding granularity to the different keys akin to the benefit of black and white keys on a piano.

So these systems, in addition to the Berklee scale patterns, Segovia scales, single string playing, pentatonic boxes, and my classical guitar roots in position playing, all inform my improvisation and general sense of fretboard organization.

When I see Gambale playing, I don’t see him relying on meta CAGED reference or three-note per string patterns. His physical shapes are determined by the lay of melodic shapes on the fretboard, and the “waves” are a product of things under hand and musical choice. I’d refer folks to the Fretboard Visualization thread for lists of possible approaches beyond the ones most common in today’s online debates.

So perhaps I am arguing for a religious syncretism from my atheistic perspective? Many of these approaches lead to the similar conclusions in their advanced application, but it would be weird to ascribe the conclusions to any particular system without specifically knowing the creative process. Gambale was successful with blues progressions early on, and he developed his sweeping at a young age… I’m glad I have CtC so I stand a snowball’s chance of getting anywhere near his abilities.

Time for bed! I hope someone gets something from what I’ve written here. As @Troy has invested much in “Cracking the Code,” so have I in “FordScales” research. Portions of that conception are public here for the first time in all these decades. May whatever piece of it serve someone well.

With kind regards,
Daniel I. Ford
Denver, Colorado

FordScales - What the heck is "FordScales?"

More video for analysis!


I think Pat Martino’s way of mapping the fretboard is worth considering. He calls the diminished seventh chord one of the “automatic” mechanisms of the guitar, because it repeats on every fourth fret. There are 3 different diminished seventh chords, which repeat as inversions every fourth fret.
A diminished seventh chord divides the entire 12-note chromatic collection (an octave) into 4 parts; the chord is made of all minor thirds. This quantity/pitch distance in intervals is 3 half-steps, so 3 x 4 = 12. This is purely music/conceptual.
…but map this onto the fretboard, which is conveniently linear up to the 12th fret, and it also divides the guitar neck. Think of one string, open E: 0 - 3rd fret is area one, 3rd - 6th fret is area two, 6th - 9th fret is area three, and 9th- 12th is area four.
Notice that this divides the 12-note octave exactly in the middle, on the 6th fret, known as the tritone.
So we have this “in between” chord which we can use as a reference for dominant sevenths. Lower any note of it, and it becomes a dominant seventh. This happens 4 times on each chord, and each chord moves up 3 frets before it inverts and repeats, so that’s 4 x 3 = all 12 dominants, in the space of three frets!
Maybe this partial mapping of one aspect (dominant sevenths) can be morphed in other modal ways, to give dorian minors, etc.


Sold out. Did CTC do that?


Haha, wondered about that. I had to go for the larger quantity. :slight_smile:


For sure! I’m sure he doesn’t think about being boxed in. The more you know, and the more automatic things become, the less it feels like you’re doing something systematic. But you can have the greatest ear in the world, and you still need some basis for deciding where to actually go on the fretboard to find those notes.

The solutions to this might very well be varied and complicated. But there’s a lot of fancy theorizing in improv circles and yet, because I am dense and slow on the uptake, I don’t always get the sense that the core problem itself - not the solutions, but the problem - is really being acknowledged and explained like my internal seventh grader needs to hear.

And people wonder why we do cartoons for everything. If my overly literal paint-by-numbers brain can be made to understand something, then anyone can!


Haha, right on. Thanks @Troy. :slight_smile:

It’s the common question. “So, I know some chords and a riff or two and I notice that my guitar hero is playing a ripping solo that I’m told they’ve improvised. I want to do that. Now what?” So yeah, I totally agree with the need to answer that. Nobody wants to see folks lose time to confusion.

I think where it gets challenging then, is when different folks are asking different questions, and in answer to those questions, solutions get projected around that may or may not be compellingly applicable. I guess that’s a great impetus to ask the question, “What questions and challenges arose for you in developing as an improviser, and how did you overcome those challenges?” Folks like Frank, or say, Bill Frisell and Mike Stern (who I’m acquainted via introductions by people they work with), are excellent resources in that they all have a foot in the rock world and can really bridge gaps in language and understanding.

Sure do, and sometimes many different mental models at once. And I think that when talking to another teacher, as is the case when you are talking to Frank, they may be tuning into one’s questions with answers that reinforce and build off of what one is grasping correctly. For example…

Sure. And at that point there is a commonality in solutions. I’d say a Ven diagram at least, of solution spaces. Meanwhile from the perspective of someone that rarely plays in strict positions or ever references a voicing that resembles what is accepted as common in some of the uber-method books of which many guitarists are familiar, one may be attempting to answer very different questions, and the awareness of an apparent disconnect looms large. In particular, the nomenclature of the pop guitar book world applied when interviewing famous jazz musicians can very quickly yield frustration if not a, “Oh, hell no.” Lol. :slight_smile:

Jazz is a weird beast with plenty of its own “religious” debates (let alone anthropological racism), pedagogical deserts, bad information, competition, and folks saying one should do this or that… Let’s just say it’s wonderful that guitarists of all different stripes find common ground here on the Masters in Mechanics forums.

Did Jimi Hendrix reference open position chord shapes when embellishing pentatonics in his R&B style? Did he actively think about chord tones and passing tones? I don’t know, but again there is some overlap.

Jazz throws a big old wrench in things because the folks that play it successfully are in large part other instrumentalists that think very linearly, talk about creating melodies, and aren’t referencing chord shapes on their instruments in the way that’s familiar to guitarists. When one examines things for commonality, even Michael Brecker, who I saw play with Gambale in 1986 was “playing over chord shapes” on his instrument. The chord shapes just don’t exist in the same way they do for polyphonic instruments. As we examine the barriers to entry into that improvisational world, it’s no wonder folks might step on each other’s toes.

Thanks again @Troy. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


I was wondering, are the transcriptions for the ballad (intro, outro) part of the downloadable files? I didn’t see them.


Yes! We didn’t upload them in the initial zips because they weren’t done yet, but they should be up there now if you re-download. Sorry for the delay.


I agree… Martin Miller uses a system like this for improvisation.

This is the best s*** ever!!! End of message.