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joegrant413

Comparing Fretboard fingerings of Leavitt, Jon Finn, CAGED

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As a eternally-struggling lead electric guitarist, every now and then I grapple with the fundamental question of how best to know the fretboard. At least 12 years ago I read a Jon Finn article revealing his 5 pentatonic shapes, and then I bought his book on Advanced Modern Rock Guitar. Using the pentatonic shapes, my ability to cover the fretboard immediately took off. I also learned the 3-notes-per-string modal fingerings in the book, and that, too, made a a lot of sense to me, although at that time the whole modal topic was pretty unfamiliar.

 

 

Over the last several years, I’ve had a couple of guitar teachers. Neither one seemed to know or understand the value of the 5 Finn shapes. Instead, they have been teaching me the 6 or 7 standard 2-notes-per-string patterns that run across the strings. That always felt like too much memorization, and not enough quick and intuitive application. Also, both teachers basically like the CAGED system.

 

My current teacher has really been emphasizing teaching me the fretboard by drawing his own fingerboard charts for chord progression exercises he assigns. Basically they show one isolated octave, highlighting the triad with each small chart. Rather than have me drink from the fretboard fire hose entirely, he figures this will eventually teach me the fretboard. Maybe so, though it's taking awhile.

 

 

Very recently, I got together with a long-time buddy that is a jazz guitar instructor at a college. After I showed him how I played and thought of the fretboard, he said the Finn pentatonic shapes seemed interesting, though he hadn’t known them before. He did not advocate CAGED. And he didn’t like the 3-note-per string modal shapes, which he said required too much movement. Instead, he advocates the William Leavitt fingerings. Learn these well, he said, and you don’t need to bother with the others.

 

My intuition still tells what Jon Finn describes will work best for me. The 5 shapes allow for me to do pentatonics easily, only requiring I know the note I’m starting with and how to apply the shape. The modal shapes also make sense to me, although I see they require some movement others systems don't. But it doesn’t require a ton of memorization of all scales and fingerings, like the other systems do. Just playing and not thinking seems to me to be the top priority. For someone doing improv and covering lead parts — and not sight reading — the Finn systems seems to make the most sense.

 

 

So here are my questions and comments to you folks:

 

- Should I just ignore my teachers and go with what Jon Finn says? If so, are there other Finn materials I really should check out?

 

- Would it be “good for me” anyway to learn the Leavitt system, and help me grow in some fundamental way I’ll always appreciate?

 

- One issue I have with Finn’s system: The pentatonic shapes correspond to the 2-notes-per-string systems, not the 3-notes-per-string system he advocates for modes. It’s an inconsistency, and but maybe “it’s not a bug but just a feature”.

 

- Should I not worry about any of all this fingering stuff and just play ;) ?

 

 

Cheers,

- Joe

 

P.S. I've been googling "Jon Finn", "Leavitt", and Harmony Central forums to glean some answers. What I haven't seen is a thread directly comparing Mr. Finn's system vs. that of his teacher, Mr. Leavitt.

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I think melody presents so many challenges that you should be able to draw from the appropriate horizontal or vertical fingerings as required.

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at some point in your guitar playing you will start to see scales over the whole neck, not in boxes anymore. the down side of guitar is that you have to learn 5 7 12 what ever different fingerings for a scale, but it is still much easier to do that, then it wold be to learn the whole neck right away. at the end of the day there are only notes that sound in a certain way depends what's in the background, what chord or melody. try different fingering and learn how you favorite player do it.

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I think if you put in enough time drilling and dedicate major time to melodic improvising, you will develop an intervalic sense of your left hand environment. I liken this to singing; where there is no visual and only a vague almost mystic tactical sense of where the notes are.

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I've done a pretty exhaustive analysis of Leavitt vs CAGED vs 3-bps. Jon studied with Leavitt - so I suspect his 5-fingerings are a sub-set of Leavitt's. Can you post a link to the article? If so, I'll see if I can dig up my old info / posts.

 

Is your goal to learn fingering patterns and/or learn the fretboard. It may sound stupid but these are actually quite different things. The latter eventually leads to the former, but the former is what many starting out with theory and/or fretboard gymnastics choose.

 

Cheers,

Jed

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. . .

 

The 5 shapes allow for me to do pentatonics easily, only requiring I know the note I’m starting with and how to apply the shape. The modal shapes also make sense to me, although I see they require some movement others systems don't. But it doesn’t require a ton of memorization of all scales and fingerings, like the other systems do. Just playing and not thinking seems to me to be the top priority. For someone doing improv and covering lead parts — and not sight reading — the Finn systems seems to make the most sense.

. . .

 

 

As a piano player, I approach the guitar in a similar manner to the piano.

 

The names of the notes are easily seen and remembered on the piano, so by knowing what notes are in what chords, it's easy to play chords with inversions on the piano. Scales are also easy to visualize and remember. Playing arpeggios and improvising over chord changes is easy on the piano.

 

I read a book by Tommy Tedesco who was a world class studio guitarist heard on hundreds of hit records. Tedesco's approach to learning the notes on the fingerboard helped me a lot and it is something I've been passing on to my students. He recommends picking one note and playing it on every string in as many positions as possible. Once we learn the names of the open strings and the that the interval from E to F is a semi-tone as is the interval from B to C we can "count up" to the note we are trying to find. Every time we search for a specific note we end up finding it in the same place(s) and we can use them as a reference to find the ones we don't know. We can also count down from the twelfth fret and soon the names of the notes on the fifth and seventh frets become familiar etc… Since there are only twelve notes in our musical system we can pick a different note every day and get through them all in two weeks.

 

I still use patters on the fingerboard but I don't have to memorize a bunch of them or how to fit them together. I simply use the patterns that contain the notes I want to use in any given situation.

 

I recommend learning piano to all of my students regardless of what they choose for their main instrument.

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Most guitarists struggle to "see" the notes on the fretboard. If we thought more like you describe - like pianists - life with the freeboard would be much easier. The best advise I ever got about music (and the guitar) was something I overheard at a friend's piano lesson from a killer jazz pianist.

 

He told my friend to "know every note by name and sound - before you play it". The idea of course was to stop thinking in terms of patterns, instead think in terms of notes and sounds. It took some years to find a method that worked for me but eventually the fretboard became a collection of six mono-phonic keyboards stacked and offset from each other. And "seeing" chords and inversions along with passing notes / extensions on the fretboard is a trip!

 

What finally got the penny to drop for me was 2-octave triad arpeggios (later 7th chords) in all possible positions, inversions and fingerings - in all keys. It was a lot of work but the payoff has been immeasurable.

 

cheers,

Jed

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