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Learn the Neck

A Positional Analysis of the Guitar Fret Board

Part Two Position Number Five
by Ed Shaw

Guitar for Geeks

" Learn the Neck" is part of the " Guitar for Geeks" series of music
instruction. The content in this e-Book, unless otherwise noted, is the
original work of Ed Shaw. Rights to copy, distribute, and use have all
been assigned to Creative Commons, with restrictions of the Fair Use
clause; meaning, do what you want with it, provided source is
creditied. Contact author at inbox. com. User name is writersblock

Introduction to Part Two -- The Fifth Position

I am not in favor of dumbing down education to the lowest
common denominator. My philosophy says the need in education and
music education is not material geared to the casual maj ority, but, rather,
to the serious student.

This series is titled " Guitar for Geeks. " The material is written for

higher end of the interest and achievement spectrum. It does no good
to have the ability if the interest is not there, and vice versa. Discussions
in this book, quite frankly, can soon grow tedious and try both the
patience and the academic skills of many a talented musician. My guess
is that maybe one out of fifty will give this a second look.
This is self published work, a different type on publishing from
mainstream work. There is no editor or publisher looking over the
writer' s shoulder, directing the work to the fattest part of the market.

Part Two is both a continuation of and a repetiton of Part One.

The book will not simply lay down a formula and repeat . However,
it will stick to a few basic principles. They are:

1) The guitar fret board may be seen as having six positions, roughly
equivalent to the dots on the neck.
2) A position is effectively covers four frets, with one step moves either
in the upward or downward direction to pick up the occasional stray that
is not contained in the four frets of the position.
3) Each position has assets. The assets include but are not limited to
the following:
a. Scales . Each position lends itself to certain more compatible scales.
b. Chords. To the usual open or barre chords that we know are added three
note harmonic combinations called triads, and two note duplex chords, played
in different orders and moveable to different frets.
c) Progressions. Neck position and chord progressions are tied together
like love and marriage.
d) Bass lines. Played on the top three strings, and especially on
positions one and two.
These are the common assets we will be discussing in each position of
the neck. They may be considered the foundation. This is knowledge the
student will take to the practice studio, as he or she practices playing
simplified melodies in all six positions. Let us now move on to a discussion
of Position Five, frets nine through twelve.


Third Position C Scales

Readers will certainly remember these two C maj or scales in position

three from Part One of Learn the Neck, Guitar for Geeks, by Ed Shaw.
Later in this Part Two when the three scales we have discussed are
mentioned, these are the two from the third position, frets 5 - 9 or
sometimes frets 5 - 10. Positions are a little flexible. I like to
refer to them as four frets because that is the number of fingers we have
on the board.
Most guitar players doing this kind of music usually find that the middle
range is the most useful. I find most of my solo work is on strings 2 ,
3, 4 , and 5, the A, D, G, and B strings, saving both the high and low
ends for effect. Everyone finds their own preferences.
Bit by bit, as we work with this scale, the string and fret position
becomes second nature. For example, the yellow circles above ( or below,
depending upon how we want tolook at it) are each F notes.
That is
something that is pointed out later in this lesson. It goes to show how
this method gradually instills a mastery of the neck.

- 1-

The C Maj or Scale at Fifth Position

Here it is, the position that is the subj ect of this part of
the series. It is frets 9 - 13 with finger one, the index finger, on
fret 10. The hand has to shift up a half to play the C note, and down a
half to play the E note. In the key of C Maj or, the 10th fret C note is
every bit the home base as the 5th fret C note. It is one octave lower.
Look at what is on the 10th fret. From string 6 to string 1
are the notes D, G, C, F, A, and D again. What is more, up two frets,
under finger three, the notes are E, A, D, G. B, and E again. What that
means is that when playing the C Maj or Key, which has no flats or
sharps, all the common notes are readily available.
The same could be said for the Key of G Maj or, which has one
sharp, the key of F Maj or which has one flat and the A Minor
Pentatonic, which has no sharps or flats. On top of that,
the relative minor pentatonics for G Maj or and F Maj or which happen to
be E Minor Pentatonic ( for F maj or) and D Minor Pentotonic ( for G
Maj or) have no sharps or flats, either.
A scale pattern such as this, with strong parallels, is the Holy
Grail of guitar players. These are the speed positions for soloing.
In addtion, when we study the sixth position, we will find that the
combination of positions five and six produces a powerful treble range
for solos. We will find that positions three and four, combined,
comprises the bread and butter guitar solo position, and that the
five/six combination is used when the music wants to go treble. We can
get into that at a later date.
- 2 -

Position Five of the Guitar Neck

Showing Pattern (left) and Notes (right)
This fifth position C Maj or Scale is a great place to begin your
mastery of sight reading sheet music. In playing from the staffs, the
musician slowly but surely ingrains the notes and their places on the neck.
When combined with the third position, as a starting point, the results can
be nothing short of magical. I will continue to offer insight into practice
techniques come across and trust you will discover many techniques on your
Since we are discussing and working with the C maj or scale, that
will be the readers' focus in practicing the scale and learning to associate
the notes on the guitar with notes on the printed sheet. Still, always
remember that the ultimate goal will have all the positions blended into one.
So, when that scale noted by the red stars has become comfortable, then
branch out beyond it in either direction, higher or lower. The quicker eye
recognition and hand coordination becomes, the more fluid and accurate
playing will become.
Those enj oying the process and having fun with it will be the ones more
likely stay with it through the sometimes tedious learning process.

There is an urban legend, I don' t know if it is true or not, that

folk singer Bob Dylan stuck his finger with a G string tip while
restringing his guitar, and a drop of red landed on the 11th fret G
position, right between the two rails. According to the legend, that
was when a title occurred to Bob, " Blood on the Tracks. " Who knows,
might be true. What is true for sure, though, is that those rails are
well known to guitar players, and especially to blues " pattern"
players around the world.
Here it is again (above) leaving nothing out.

- 3 -

This is the perfect opportunity for me to point out a

relationship that is so obvious once it is seen, one
wonders how on earth he could have so long without
noticing it. This is the chord progression map referred
to in Part One of this series.
On strings 4, and 5, which are the A and D strings, the root, the
4th degree and the 5th degree always follow the same pattern. The
3rd is directly below the Root, and the 5th is directly above it.
Those familiar with the 1 - 4 - 5 chord progressions, something
all musicians certainly must be pay attention to, will notice this
formula on the D string in three places.
The C - F - G is the 1 - 4 -5 of the Key of C Maj or, of which C
natural is the root note.
The 1 - 4 - 5 of the D Maj or Scale is D - G - A.
The 1- 4 - 5 of the B Maj or Scale is B - E - F#.

There are two more things to notice:

1) Since there is no string above the 6th string E String, the five
must be found by going up a full step from the three on the 5th
string A.
2) In a like manner, because of the detuned B string, while the
four is directly below the root on the B string, the five is found
one half step lower than what the formula calls for.
Note the C - F - G pattern at the upper right in the diagram.
- 4 -

Looking Ahead:

Fourth Position C Scale: Frets 8 through 10

We will hit the fourth position hard in Part Three. These are very dense
and complex patterns which, especially when combined with position three,
form the basis of both our solo and rhythm guitar work. Those two
positions ( 3 & 4) are really the heart of the neck. If you reach too
high on the neck for repetitive rhythm strums, you' ll wind up sounding
like you are playing a mandolin. Some players can get away with it (I' m
thinking of Wilson Pickett, ) but most wind up annoying the audience.

Position Six

This is when the player goes " up top" as the j azz men say, for the
solo, the chicken picking for country folk, or the piercing strum.
It includes the double dot octave fret (12) and above. It starts the
repeat of the bottom end of the neck.
- 5 -

Second Position

Position two, like position one, has

limited applications in solo or melody,
for most players. Exactly the opposite is
true for rhythm or bass work, be it rhythm
strumming, playing the first position
chords or playing, landing on, or sliding
down to any of the triads or their
inversions. The 3 - 5 -1 at the F or G
frets receive maximum attention. Often, C
backed melodies and chords want to resolve
down to the first, third, and fifth frets.

Last but not least, the First, or Open,

Position at frets 1 - 4. Most books
cover this in the begininng, but I wait
until the end. I consider this position
to be least useful in soloing Unless,
that is, you happen to be Creedance
Clearwater Revival. Most of us aren' t.

First Position

Always remember that from the root (first degree) or any other degree
of the scale, the option to follow the melody or shred either up or
down the string is always there. In fact, in tradtional guitar
instruction, one of the first lesson is " Notes on the E String. " That
kind of instruction has more or less faded away, as guitar has become
the rhythm, blues, and rock instrument of choice. Too bad, because it
is such fundamental knowledge.
- 6 -

An exercise in associating
fret diagrams with neck
Here are the six neck positions we are working with in this series.
Can you pick out the third position, the position we discussed at
length in Part One of this manual? I' m sure you can. Position Three
has the C note on the top, or lowest tone, E string, at the eighth
fret. In that third position, we can see that the 1-3-5 have been
circled. Those are the C - E - G notes of the scale. Those with good
memory and particular discernment, will also be able to pick out the
first and second inversions of the C chord.

2 3

Position One
Frets 1 - 4

5 6

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Position Three Position Five

Frets 5 - 8
Frets 9 - 13

Position Two
Frets 3 - 6

Position Four
Frets 7 - 10

Position Six
Frets 12 - 15

Let this picture on the left refresh your memory.

Remember the caution to block out those
C Scale notes that are not in the 1 - 3 - 5
triad we a concentrating on. Is it getting
easier to now see the pattern of the second
inversion of the C chord triad? It should be
As soon the C note on the top string is
recognized, recognition of fret eight is
- 7 -

The A Minor Pentatonic at the Fifth Position

I can' t get away without charting and posting the fifth position
Minor pentatonic scale, not that I would want to.
The A Minor pentatonic consists of notes A - C - D - E - G - A.
Note the C note is the flatted third of the A Maj or scale.

- 8 -

A more detailed look at the A Minor

pentatonic, including a unmarked version.

- 9

Breaking into sight reading,

a great way to learn the
Here is the part you have been waiting for. Your own Ed Shaw arrangement
of John Newton' s classic, at the risk of sounding irreverent, you might
even call it a Golden Oldie, penned in 17 7 2 , the timeless classic,
" Amazing Grace. " In writing this arrangement, I worked from a reprint
of John Newton' s hymn that was published in 192 2 by Hall- Mack of
Philadelphiain a collection called " New Songs of Praise and Worship. "
The verse is as originally written by John Newton. The original
arrangement was by R. M. McIntosh.
First, the hymn will be posted. Following that, some information on the
art of sight reading and playing to backing tracks.

1) Download the backing track and load it to a
playlist or folder on a Walkman or other MP3 player.
2) Practice counting along with the track until the
rhythm and chord changes are clearly recognized.
3) Use first position strums.
4) Practice playing the melody from the lead sheet
using your knowledge of the three C maj or scales we
have so far discussed: two at the third position, one
at the fifth.
5) Take your time and enj oy learning to play melodies
ffrom the lead sheet with the help of an MP3 backing track.

- 10 -

The Amazing Grace lead sheet is posted here.

It is available on Wiki Commons at the address attached.
A computer generated rhythm and chord accompany track
is available on Soundcloud at the address attached.
Both can be downloaded.
Soundcloud posted backing track is in 3/4 time.
The key is C maj or, and tempo is 90 bpm.
Four Bar intro plays once:


Line One: CC CC FF CC
Line Two: CC CC GG GG
Line Three: CC CC FF CC
Line Four: CC GG CC G7G7
(Repeat four lines. )
https: //commons. wikimedia. org/wiki/File: Amazing_Grace_Cmaj _Lead_Sheet. pdf
https: //soundcloud. com/ed_shaw/amazing-grace-back
Source for Amazing Grace, by John Newton, 1772 is
New Songs of Praise and Worship. Hall Mack-Philadelphia 1922.
Reprint is in the Public Domain.
Ed Shaw Lead Sheet Assigned by Ed Shaw to Creative Commons Fair Use 2013.
Creative Commons Lead Sheet search Amazing Grace Lead Sheet
- 11 -

When this begins to make sense, you are getting somewhere. Do you
find the fifth position? Do you see the C note on the fat E string,
the number six string at on the top? Is it at the 8th fret, where
it belongs? Can you easily locate the 12 th fret? Do you see those
nice railroad tracks on frets 10th and 12 th?
Do you see the first
inversion C chord on frets 8th through 12 th?
Do you see why it is designated the 3 - 5 - 1 ?
That is E - G - C,
isn' t it?
Have you started to work these inversions into your
music ? When I first discovered them, online, it was like, Holy Cow,
there are 4 8 more chord positions that I didn' t know about. Try
arpegiating these chords. Chord arpegiation is as old as the hills.
Bach and Mozart arpegiated chords in their sonatas and symphonies.
Are you above that?
One of the most useful things about that
pattern is that you can put a finger on the bottom two strings,
slide to the desired root, and it will harmonize. Plus, one of the
( C - E - G)
( F - A - C) ( G - B - D) bass line is right there.

This concludes Part Two of " Learn the Neck. "

See you in Part Three, the Fourth Position.
- 12 -