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I’ll get straight to the point; I wrote this book as a quick and dirty method for learning a ton of chords.

For most guitarists there is nothing more tedious than sitting down to learn a bunch of chords from a dry chord book, only to find that after hours of going through them, very few of them actually stick.

A good knowledge of chords will make you a far more rounded player, and allow you to be much more versatile in many playing situations. In truth, you’re more likely to be asked to come up with a rhythm part than a scorching lead break, and if you are you’ll need to know what chords you’re attempting to wail over anyway.

I won’t go into chord theory here, there are plenty of other books that do that very well. What I’ll deal with here is how to memorize chords so that you can start, or expand, your chord vocabulary; what’s more you’ll develop a way to access chords quickly as if you need to hunt and peck for them, they’re pretty much useless.

The idea of this method is to build up a vocabulary of chords by organizing them in a memorable way. New chords are more likely to stick in your brain if they’re connected or related to chords you already know. We'll combine this idea with another simple yet powerful memory technique to make those chords really stick in your head, and be available on demand.

The book takes on the form of a private lesson, or conversation with the author where he seamlessly weaves together chord shapes and helps you actually remember them. There’s no heavy theory work here, just a simply method to learn and remember chords on guitar quickly and easily.
Ever since my first guitar teacher introduced me to the music of Allan Holdsworth in the late 90s, it has been an ongoing apprenticeship. I became fascinated, not only with his music, but with his approach to music itself, and the way he thinks about chords, scales and improvisation. Allan’s REH video was a blessing for me as I was able to glean enough insight into his playing to understand the way the great man thinks, and more importantly to begin to apply those concepts to my own playing. I struggled with music theory and orthodox approaches, so when Allan’s beautifully simple way of thinking about chords and scales clicked for me, I knew I had found something that finally made sense. I must admit, I couldn’t play you a single Allan Holdsworth lick, and I wouldn’t want to as the thought of dissecting his music in that way was always unappealing to me. What I wanted to do was get inside his head, grasp his way of thinking about music, and find out exactly how he was able to come up with such intricate yet outrageous lines and compositions. And that is precisely what this book is about. Allan’s playing looks incredibly complicated, and then some, to the innocent bystander, but the approach behind it is incredibly simple and easy to grasp. It’s so straightforward in fact that most players who have attempted to describe what he does completely miss the point. Once you do understand his approach, however, you’ll have a new appreciation for how far he’s taken it, and how far it can go. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but you shouldn’t be put off by thinking that you’ll be getting to grips with a lot of tricky concepts, because you won’t; Allan’s way of thinking is almost childlike in its simplicity, and when you glimpse it I can assure you that you'll be intrigued.
If you ask anyone who's been playing guitar for a while how to turn scales into solos, you'll likely get a variety of answers. They'll tell you to learn licks, work on your arpeggios, even learn your favorite players' solos note for note. While this is all good advice, I've had some particularly stubborn students that wanted to go beyond that; they wanted to be able to improvise using any scale up and down the fretboard, but at the same time break free from those deeply-ingrained scalar lines and patterns. It was then that I suggested the zonal approach to improvisation; by working in reduced areas of the neck with specifically designed patterns, they were soon able to create melodic, flowing lines that didn't sound at all like scales--they sounded like real music!

This is the approach you'll find in this book. We dissect 15 of the most common scales, beyond the pentatonics, and break them down into zones which can be practiced either by scale, or for any particular scale across the fretboard.

The objective of this book then is to provide a structured reference to make the transition from playing scales to playing, improvising and creating musical lines when soloing. It’s aimed at the intermediate to advanced guitarist looking to be able to improvise confidently and freely on the instrument in a wide variety of styles. It is also aimed at guitarists that want to move beyond rote pentatonic/blues soloing and incorporate other scales and modes into their playing, as well as building up a vocabulary to solo fluently over chord changes.
I was watching a YouTube video a while back where Lee Anderton (of Anderton’s fame) gets a guitar lesson from Ariel Posen. Ariel tries his best to teach him a few things in a very thorough and well-meaning way, but about half-way through Lee says something along the lines of, ‘Just teach me the quick and dirty way to do things, I’m a middle-aged man who doesn’t have the time (or the patience) to practice scales for 8 hours a day’, which is both totally valid and completely doable on guitar as it’s one of the few instruments that lends itself well to a wide range of methodologies, be they theory-based or the other extreme.

This book was also inspired by many students of a variety of ages who came to me saying they just wanted to play and not be bogged down by theory and scales and whatnot. They weren’t looking for shortcuts, they just genuinely wanted to solo and sound good without having to learn theory in order to do it. Admittedly, I was discouraged at first but I put myself in their shoes and came up with this method to get to the good stuff faster, and sound good.

I won’t deal with pentatonic scales here as you’re probably already well-versed in those and are looking to be able to solo over simple and common chord progressions or add more variety to your improvisations. If you’re looking for a system to learn pentatonic scales (and modes), which is also theory-lite, check out another of my books: Beyond Pentatonics.

All the music theory terms you’ll find in this book are for labeling purposes only and will help you recognize these concepts in songs or pieces you already know; they’ll also help you find the information on the fretboard when you need it instead of fumbling around. What’s more, due to the simplicity of this approach, you’ll be able to reduce your thinking to a minimum and concentrate on making a musical contribution to whatever situation you find yourself in and making jamming/playing out a far more enjoyable experience.

I love this approach and often teach it to people who don’t want to practice 10 hours a day, are not interested in theory or knowing the whys and wherefores of everything. They just want a straightforward, “if you learn this and play it here, it’ll sound good”, method so that they can express themselves in a jam session, solo with more than just a pentatonic scale, or play out on the weekends.

If you have even half an hour a day to play/practice guitar, you can make a world of progress with your soloing by using this method.
The Hacking the CAGED System series was inspired by my own,and other guitarist’s frustrations with the infamous CAGED System for learning guitar.

It all started back in Music College in the early 2000s, at the ACM in Guildford (UK) to be precise, where we were handed, by none other than Guthrie Govan, an inch-thick binder containing all manner of shapes and patterns for the CAGED system, including chords and arpeggios. I duly slaved over the book while burning the midnight oil for an entire semester and while my technique improved no end, I just couldn’t turn those patterns into music,or connect them to what I was learning in music theory class.Fast forward to 2016, and with the benefit of hindsight from more than 20 years of playing, I’ve been able to look at the CAGED system from a different perspective, and one that will hopefully make it a useful system for anyone wishing to learn it. The CAGED system has many flaws, but these can be hacked and rectified to turn it into a powerful system for understanding how the guitar fretboard works, leading to a versatile, and above all, functional knowledge of chords, arpeggios, scales and modes, and key signatures.

What’s in Book 1?

Book 1 teaches you the basic major scale forms, shows you where to find the basic diatonic chords as well as seventh chords.We then venture into intervals which are the key to making your solos sound like you know what you’re doing. Next we bring out the arpeggios,and finally the modes. Everything is tied together using key signatures as a framework to build up a practical knowledge of chords, scales,arpeggios and modes on the guitar.

 

 When it comes to scales and improvising, the guitar fretboard is a maze, and this is both good and bad… Well, instead of bad, let’s say it’s ‘challenging’ because like any maze it’s easy to get lost, familiar routes can often lead to dead-ends, and it can be overwhelming to find your way out. On the other hand, we have countless routes (possibilities) to choose from, all of which provide different creative opportunities; what I’m basically saying is that by learning one or two scale systems to ‘get through the maze’, we stop seeing (or even avoid) the many other ways there are to navigate the fretboard. This is where 25 Guitar Scale Hacks comes in.

This book is about exploring the fretboard using those other routes to create motion, fluidity and bring the music out of any static pattern. Here, we dispense with the standard patterns such as 3NPS scales or the CAGED system in order to explore the many other patterns, nuances and hacks the guitar fretboard has to offer.

Who is this book for?
This book is for the intermediate to advancing students who really want to make their playing stand out from the crowd, feel stuck in a rut, or want to move away from rote pattern playing and predictable-sounding solos.

25 Guitar Scale Hacks looks at improvisation based on the guitar fretboard; in other words, we’re putting the guitar and all its nuances first, rather than working from generic patterns that are traditionally taught in scale and arpeggio books. The concept of 25 Guitar Scale Hacks then is a collection of mini-lessons or hacks for a deeper exploration of scales and how to make music with them. Feel free to work through the book in the order it’s written or choose the hacks that interest you the most.
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