Pattern Concepts

Ok, first of all, let’s get something straight. Patterns are NOT scales. They CAN be scales, or in other words a scale can be thought of as a pattern, but let’s think of patterns a little differently than the traditional idea of scales.

Let’s start with the idea of patterns as a visual map of a series of positions on the fingerboard. A pattern could be a representation of a scale, or an extended scale, or it could be a representation of a mathematical sequence, or it could even be something representing visual shapes.

Here’s an example of a simple pattern based on fret positions with no regard to the resulting sound:


As you can see this pattern is based solely on playing three consecutive fret positions on each string across the neck. This may or may not have pleasing possibilities from a musical standpoint, but as an exercise to develop the basic skills necessary to work with patterns of any complexity it is a great exercise.

First, let’s develop a basic sequence to apply to this “1,2,3 Across-3,2,1 Back” pattern. How about “Linear Up & Down”?

The “Linear Up & Down” Sequence

Perhaps the best way to begin working with any pattern is to simply play the notes represented by the fret positions in the pattern in order, starting from the lowest pitch and ascending continuously through the pattern until the highest pitch is reached, then reverse the process to descend through the pattern until the lowest pitch is reached again. In other words, play 1, 2, 3, on each successive string, from the lowest string to the highest, then reversing to 3, 2, 1, on each successive string from the highest to the lowest.

So, we’ve applied the sequence “Linear Up & Down” to the pattern “1,2,3 Across-3,2,1 Back”. The names could be anything that reminds you of the concept to be applied. The names used here work for our purposes.

Universal Conceptualization

There are a couple of really powerful advantages to using this method of applying a sequence to a pattern.

1 The underlying methodology can be applied very literally to most all other patterns, with some exceptions being when certain concepts and patterns require impossibilities to execute. These exceptions are by no means a concern since there is such universality in the essence of the application of patterns and concepts.

2 The technical and ergonomic aspects that increase ease of playing and quality of sound can be focused on that much more effectively with the “simplified” thought processes afforded by a purely mathematical approach to speed up the process of being able to use complex note systems to create music without the added complexity of thinking of the names of the notes and other aspects of theory while still navigating the appropriate keys and/or note systems to enhance the quality of the music to which all is being applied.

3 The ability to creatively and impulsively move through the appropriate keys and/or note systems appropriate for a given song and being able to find a balance between knowing what to hear and expect as you play while also being able to surprise yourself with what you play and hear is an amazing and fulfilling experience.

4 Balancing your intellect and visualization skills with ear-training through developing each aspect equally is wonderful for similar reasons. For discovering ideas for new songs, licks, etc.

5 Playing in different tunings is fun and readily approached using pattern concepts!

6 The focus can shift from a numerical to a visual to a musical analysis and mental approach as the pattern and concept are practiced on various occasions.

Pattern Sequencing

A fundamental and powerful skill to develop is the ability to conceptualize patterns in a variety of ways and then to conceptualize and apply a variety of sequences to those patterns.

Patterns can be any series of notes you can think of. A pattern may be based on fret positions alone with no regard to the sound or theoretical connection. It could be totally random, or it could be carefully organized by one of a vast variety of organizing principles. It could be based on a scale. It could be based on shapes. Anything goes.

Reminder: This page, and this entire site is a work in progress. So, although the thread on this page ends rather abruptly for the moment, there is always more to come, so STAY TUNED FOR MORE SOON.


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