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Learning 5 Advanced Guitar Patterns For Blues and Rock

May 3, 2008
Here is how to discover the 5 approach patterns in the keys of A and E, the keys most utilized by rock and blues guitarists:


Pattern 2 - Open 5th string to 2nd fret 3rd string

Pattern 3 - 2nd fret 3rd string to 5th fret 1st & 6th strings

Pattern 4 - 5th fret 1st & 6th strings to 7th fret 4th string

Pattern 5 - 7th fret 4th string to 10th fret 2nd string

Pattern 1 - 10th fret 2nd string to 12th fret 5th string


Pattern 4 - Open 1st and 6th strings to 2nd fret 4th string

Pattern 5 - 2nd fret 4th string to 5th fret 2nd string

Pattern 1 - 5th fret 2nd string to 7th fret 5th string

Pattern 2 - 7th fret 5th string to 9th fret 3rd string

Pattern 3 - 9th fret 3rd string to 12th fret 1st & 6th strings

Unbelievably, I've seen books on lead guitar improvisation that diagram scores of scales yet make no mention of these patterns at all. I do understand that the guitar book methods published by most authors that do mention these patterns are inclined to number them differently. For example, what I call Pattern 4 is numbered by other books as Pattern 2, and so on. However, guitar instruction books published by faculty members of Musician's Institute in Hollywood number the patterns as they are listed here. Even although I am tempted to be one-sided since I did go to school there myself, I do agree with the MI numbering system. MI numbers the patterns 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 based on the key of C, the starting point for all the other keys in music. It is the key of C that has no sharps and no flats; it is the key of C that appears at the very top of the Circle of Fifths and Fourths (more about this circle later on). The sharps and flats found for every other key has its cornerstone around the key of C, so it would appear that the MI approach seems to make the most sense.

The way I would like to practise these patterns is to play them classical style; that is, to pluck the notes in the pattern at the same time by employing the thumb and other fingers of my right hand rather than utilising a guitar pick. For instance, I'd begin rehearsing in the key of A by plucking the open A string with my thumb and the A on the 2nd fret 3rd string with my index finger, both concurrently. Then I proceed to go up the neck, playing each of the patterns using the classical fingerings for the right hand (i.e. the thumb covering the 4th, 5th & 6th strings, the index on the 3rd, the middle on the 2nd, and the ring on the 1st), picking off the strings in the same style. After completing one key, I'll commence to go through the same exercise in every other key. For those who play with a guitar pick, this example will still work and be effective, only you will have to play the strings and the notes on those strings one by one. One thing is sure, though: increased acquaintance with these patterns (in all the keys) will lead to increased speed with the patterns to the point where playing them will call for very little effort at all.

In learning the patterns in every key, the student will also learn all the single notes on the guitar by default. Thus, the pattern technique and the movable chord technique become reasonably simple and instinctive methods of learning the notes on the guitar. Using these two techniques (or any other methods that will work) is by all odds better than the theoretical method of learning the notes one at a time, a method that would seem less effective as well as being unnecessarily tiresome and tedious.

This easy approach outlined here is conceptually simple, but not easy. Mastering great things sometimes take time. It takes a few more words and a bit more endeavor to explain concepts understandably. My hope is that the information in this article will assist make your musical experience less cryptic and more pleasurable, and that the next time you go into a music store or on the internet searching guitar books and techniques, you'll know exactly what to look for.
About the Author
Z Roberts is the founder of 50 Blues. He has recorded 50 of the best professional blues backing tracks.
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