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Fingerboard Organization

Organizing Music On The Guitar Fingerboard

Having an organized approach to triads, 7th chords, pentatonic scales and modes will help you to better utilize these structures in your own playing. All of the theory that you could possibly learn will never so you a bit of good, unless you can turn that theory into music. Music is what it is really all about.


My own approach to organizing the fingerboard is based on the triad. I consider the triad to be the most fundamental musical element, because it is the triad that defines tonality, especially in popular music.

Let’s take a look at the four possible triads:

major: R – 3 – 5
minor: R – b3 – 5
augmented: R – 3 – #5
diminished: R – b3 – b5


Most people view these as four unrelated entities, but each of these chords belongs to only one of two different categories – major or minor. This is determined by the 3rd interval: 3 = major, b3 = minor.

The 3rd interval has so much personality that it overshadows any alterations or additions made to a chord. Alterations and additions help to influence the character of a chord, but the chords true nature is dictated by the 3rd.

Seen in this light, practically any piece of music can be said to be a simple matter of playing major things, minor things, or a combination of the two. I used the word practically, because there are things that some people play that do not fit easily within this structure. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you think that sort of thing qualifies as “music” or not.

So, the first stop on our journey across the fingerboard is to take a look at triads.

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