Q&A2: Think of 'Scale Position' / Sing it!

Fret coverage in a position

Why do all of the teaching sources I've seen specify a 'position' as covering six frets, not five? Why the double notes? It seems to me to add a confusing element of choice to where your fingers should go, with each scale having several possible patterns within the position. Wouldn't the logical way to learn the fretboard be to start with the open position, then the 5th, then the 10th, and so on? Thus covering maximum area with the fewest number of positions, only then moving on to the interlying ones. I guess it's an issue of maximum coverage vs. smooth transitions between positions - but which is best to learn first?

I'm not sure what sources you have been reading, but it sounds like classical guitar technique -- especially the Segovia scale positions and materials influenced by them. In most jazz methods I know (and the one I teach) a position covers only 4 frets (on for each finger). Not only that but they are taught as moveable from the beginning. Wherever your first left hand finger is oriented, that is the position. So if you play a G major scale starting with your 4th finger on the A string 10th fret, you're automatically in "7th Position" (Your 4th finger on 10th fret, your 3rd on 9th and so on). Actually I tend to bypass the concept of positions at first, touching on it only when discussing sightreading. I like to think in "scale positions" instead.


Improving sight reading

I was wondering if you have any suggestions on improving my sight reading. I know, I know... practice. It's frustrating though. I play through something and then something new will come up and I either start over or lose the pulse. I fear if I take the pieces any slower I will fall asleep. I truly want to improve. I think it will help my self-esteem as far as being a 'musician' a lot, as well as give me a lot more flexibility.

Speaking of sightreading...;-) Let me give you a quick overview of my sightreading technique: 1. Look at the overall shape of the melody line, noting where it's high and low, where it's busy or sparse. 2. Look for difficult rhythms and concentrate on trying to sing them to yourself. Then try to sing all the rhythms. 3. Now look at the pitches, watching out for accidentals. Try to visualise scale positions on the neck that will make the fingerings easy. Sing the part. Get it into your ear a little bit. 4. Now, take your guitar and PLAY. See if that helps.

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