Tip: New chord, new position

This has to do with playing in position, versus at different positions along the fretboard. This is really a topic concerned with improvisation, but also with straight melodies.

Here’s the gist: Do take the time and trouble to break out of staying within a single position. We’ll get to the reason in a moment.

You could be playing a melody for a tune, and maybe it stays completely within the key, or maybe is has some chromatics (notes outside the key). And you might be able to play it completely at fret/position V, for example. And it might sound great, too.

But don’t be satisfied with this. Instead, do the following: For each change of the tune’s chord’s, play the melody at a different position.

You’ll start by learning the tune’s chords: for each change in the tune’s chords, play a pattern for that chord in a different position from the last chord pattern.

Example, super simple: Louie, Louie, three chord tune. Say it’s in E: Chords E, A, B. You could play the E at position IV and the A at position V. Don’t. Play the A at position II.

Why? Why pick a new position for each chord change? Because when your hand stays in the same position, your lazy guitarist’s brain (don’t get angry, all our brains are lazy, mine especially) tends to think “Same position, therefore, same sound, same chord, same key, same, same, same…”

But when we move our hands to a new position, Lazy Brain turns into Thinking Brain: “Ah! new position! New sound.” And you will thus become sensitive to the tune’s chord changes instead of thinking in terms of one, monotonic set of sounds that probably sounds like the tonic chord.

I’m not saying use this exclusively. It’s an exercise. Try it.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – January 15, 2006 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.