Side-Stepping Squares

In your first solo using stepping squares, you ran out of strings on the 12th fret of the high E string. Your only option was to turn around and retrace your steps. With side-stepping you can jump from one group of stepping squares to another and never run out of strings or squares.

You can side-step from any gray corner note.

Moving to the right with side stepping you are always moving from the bottom of one square to the top of another one

You can't side-step from orange corner notes, but you can always move over a narrow interval to the left or right and side-step from those gray corner notes.

Check notation.

Starting from the 12th fret of the high E string, we can side-step to row 3 of a new square. Rows 1 and 2 of the new square are shifted back one fret because we're moving from the B string to the G string.

(Notation: E12, B13, B string shift, G14-12, D14-12)

Check notation.

The sequence above ends on the 12th fret of the D string. It's an orange corner note. We can't side step from that note, but we can move a narrow interval to the left or right and side-step from those gray corner notes.

Check notation.

The orange note (D12) overlaps another square. You can play the notes in that square and eventually side-step your way back to the start.

Check notation.

This next exercise demonstrates stepping squares, side-stepping, B string shifts and the use of open strings. Notice when you side-step from the G to B string the note on the B string is right below the one on the G string. That's the B string shift again.

(Notation: E5, A3-5-7, D5-7, G5, B shift, B5, E5-3, B3-1, B shift, G2-0, D0-2, A3-5, E3-E5)

Check notation and description

Tablature (Tabs)

Here is the same sequence expressed in tabs. The numbers are the frets, the lines are the strings and zeros are open strings.

Same as previous notation.

Tabs are easier to follow and less complicated than my illustrations, but they don't give you a picture of the underlying structure. In a later section I'll show you how to convert tabs to Freedom Block pictures. You'll need this because most guitar licks are written in tabs.

Chartoon chacter congratulatingMilestone

You're now able to play every note in any minor pentatonic scale while moving over the entire fretboard. Side-stepping allows you to jump between groups of Stepping Squares and never run of strings to play. In the next section, you'll learn how to use rectangles to jump between squares, but don't forget side-steping. It's one more way to add variety to your soloing.

"To play without passion is inexcusable!" — Ludwig van Beethoven

Here are some variations you can use to add more passion to your soloing:

  • Slide from one note to another
  • Pause or change the duration of notes
  • Emphasize the root which is the red note
  • Bend the string when playing a note
  • Play soft and loud
  • Add the blues note (always next to an orange note)
  • Play a note multiple times before continuing
  • Repeat a two or three note sequence multiple times
“When the band plays fast, you play slow; when the band plays slow, you play fast.”— Miles Davis explaining soloing

So far we've relied on stepping squares and side-steps to move around the fretboard. Right in the middle of the squares are rectangles. They provide a bridge between squares. They add variety with their wide intervals and they contain the two notes that we removed from the natural minor scale to get our pentatonic scale.

Showing rectangle that overlap squares. More about rectangle in later chapter.

More about rectangles in the next section. Right now, let's review what we've learned about Freedom Block squares.

Summary of Square Properties

Here is everything you've learned so far about Freedom Block squares. Give yourself a high five!

A review of what we have learned so far.

"The only thing that makes one scale different from another is not the starting note, it's the separation of intervals." — Allan Holdsworth


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