Learning to move between frets is like learning to dribble in basketball. You have to learn it or you can't play. It's a skill that requires mental and motor coordination. You can't look at it like a math problem and say, "I get it."

Practice this first exercise starting on the 5th fret of the A string. Play in both directions. Use your first and third fingers to play the notes. If that's difficult try using only your first finger to play all the notes. (My 10-year-old grandson found that helpful in his first lesson.)

(Notation: A5-7, D5-7, G5-7, reverse and play G7-5, D7-5, A7-5)

Check notation.


The A minor pentatonic scale has only five notes but you can play those five notes in multiple places on the guitar neck. Below, I've added another square starting on the 10th fret of the low E string. Play both squares and compare the sound of the notes.

Notation: (First square: A5-7, D5-7, G5-7)
(Second square: E10-12, A10-12, D10-12)

Check notation.

Practice playing the notes in the squares in both directions. Even though the corresponding notes are the same frequency, they do not sound exactly the same. The different string widths give the notes unique overtones. Later when you create your own licks and chord progressions, you can use this concept to add more variety to your playing.

Best Time to Practice

A scientifically proven best time to practice a new motor skill is right before bedtime. Your brain won't remember the split pea soup you ate for lunch, but it will remember these finger gymnastics. When you wake up in the morning, you'll be surprised how much practicing your brain did while you were asleep.

"You're never too old to become the person [or guitar player] you might have been." — John Lennon

Squares can overlap other square's orange corner notes and sometimes one or two rows of a square are off the fretboard. Try playing this next sequence starting on the 5th fret of the low E string.

(Notation: E5, A3-5-7, D5-7, G5-7)

Check notation.

More about overlapping squares in the next section.

Finger Pressure

Go easy on your fingers. Position your finger just behind the fret. Place your finger on the string but don't press down. Now strum that string. The sound is muted. The string can't vibrate because your finger is applying just enough pressure to stop the vibrations. Strum and gradually add more pressure. Stop adding pressure when you hear a note. That's the right amount of pressure.

"I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."— Tom Waits


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