Watch the Lesson 1 online guitar lesson by Howard Morgen from Fingerboard Breakthrough

As guitarists, I think we've all experienced that sense of frustration and helplessness that occurs when, while playing, the fingerboard starts to shut down, dissolving into an elusive maze of strings and frets. Just what is it that makes viewing musical relationships on guitar so difficult? Actually, there are a number of factors that are responsible and during this course we are going to address and hopefully remedy all of them.

One obstacle is the result of a misconception and habit of thought acquired during the earliest stages of learning to play that is carried over into later playing situations. That misconception is that chord symbols represent isolated, unrelated finger “grips”. For example, when playing a simple folk song, each chord symbol is treated as representing a finger grip to be strummed until the next chord symbol is spotted above the lyric. (This is an example of vertical thinking.) While this is a fine and necessary approach for a beginner, later on, encountering more harmonically complex material, thinking of chord symbols as isolated and unrelated finger grips tends to obscure the closely interdependent horizontal flow and function of chords within a progression. Let me give you some examples.

Progression for Danny Boy, Loch Lomond

D Dmaj7 D6 D G Gmaj7 Em7 A7 D
(Above progression with isolated finger grips.)
(Above Progression with good voice leading showing the descending moving bass line on the 6th string.)

Notice how the beautiful moving line implied by these chord symbols was obscured when I approached each chord symbol as an isolated and unrelated finger grip. Try to keep lines moving in the same direction as long as possible.

Now, to acquire the skills necessary to interpret chord symbols as a guide to accessing moving lines, you'll need to become thoroughly familiar with triads which are the building blocks of chords, chord construction formulas and chord voicings in all inversions and locations along and across the fingerboard.

Part One of this course will introduce you to all these topics. Part Two will cover the application of chord symbols to the process of finding moving lines for accompaniment and solo playing, and Part Three features an in depth discussion of chord substitution.

But first, in preparation for these insights, we'll need to look closely at why and how chord shapes appear as they do on the fingerboard. This is directly related to another built in obstacle to the visualization of musical relationships that we... > Continued in manual (click Chart button above).