Watch the Focus Scales online guitar lesson by Johnny Hiland from Ten Gallon Guitar
When you are playing on the fret board make sure you have a focal point to look at. I was born in a small town in rural Main, called Baileyville. I was born with an eye disease called Nystagmus and I am actually legally blind. When I started playing guitar, I learned by playing off the CD deck in my bedroom or off my tape deck. I had to figure out how I was able to maintain a focal point on the fret board so I wasn’t scared of the fret board as a whole. I came up with a scale pattern that I use in most cases and I would like to teach that to you. I don’t really show a lot of students this, so it’s something just for you guys and really will benefit you in the long run.
I like to just pick a key, and I don’t care which one, but for an example let’s pick D because it is midway down the fret board. I like to use my D, G and B string to focus my attention on in D, because if I slide that then that is my D position on the D, G and B string and a bar chord formation. So how did I find that? Well, here is the D chord and slide down and there is my D, 7th fret just the bar chord. Now, what I found was it was important that I learn my major scales in D around that bar chord. And what I’ve done is come up with a focal point scale that sounds like this. This can be a lick that you use or you can look at it like a scale. I like to use it in my pile of licks. The other important thing about this scale is the fact that it can be a lick or a scale. There are chords all around this and as a lead guitar player you don’t want to play the same cowboy chords that the rhythm guitar player is playing. So it’s important to find chords about that bar. I was able to do that this way. First in the D position, I have a four chord right next to that, so that’s my G chord. Now I can slide that up two frets and have an A. Or I have my A position right here, which is right next to that D bar chord. I also have some cool chords in a D pattern: bvii, vi, vim, V, vim, bvii, IV. Then I have different triads. I have a V triad. A V chord is actually an A in a D format or D configuration. A IV chord would be the G. I explain it this way because this is what we refer to as the Nashville number system. Let’s get back to the D bar chord. Here is what we can do with all these different chords. I can play some Doobie Brothers style rhythm all within this bar chord. I’m just dropping my 3rd finger from the 2nd note of the major scale (which is the E note) and then up to the F#. Then I have my vim right underneath that. Here is my D sus2. There is a chord, I’ve used a lot. I don’t know the name of it but it sounds good and it works. I have a sus IV here, and dropping back to my Major third on my B string back to the 7th fret. Everything is right here and why I look at this as a focal point scale. People say, I don’t like to play in Eb or Bb or they have chords they are scared of. With this kind of thing there is no worry. All you have to know is where that bar chord is. For example, Eb would just be one half step up and you’d have the same scale. What I am doing to make that scale happen is stating on the 2nd note and chromatically walking to the 3rd. The rest of it is from the 5 note to the 6, avoiding the 7th note and playing the basic root again to the 2nd note of the scale, Major 3rd. When I go from the 3rd note, I chromatically walk up to the 5th… iii, IV, bV, V, vi, and walk up again bvii, Major vii, and root. That makes up the whole scale. I played that in Eb, but you can play that in an key you want. For example, you are scared of Bb. Play a Bb chord, find out where your bar is – on the 3rd fret, so you can use that same scale. You have all the chords available that I played in D, just in Bb. There is the IV, viiM, V. You have the availability and access to chords and thinking differently and sounding different then the acoustic guitar player or rhythm player in your band. This enables you to open your mind to think of what licks I want to play now. It’s very important to have a focal scale and I hope this helps you find yours.