Chapter 4:
Skate around the fretboard

Ranging freely over the entire instrument.

The electric ice-skating rink

Once we can play a melody on both a single string and across strings, it’s natural to combine approaches and play all over the fretboard. We can follow a melody up and down a string, and then turn a corner and play across strings for awhile.

This free ability to range all over the fretboard can be liberating and fun. It feels like we have unlocked the complete tonal reach of the instrument.

The eloquent Mick Goodrick called it “the realm of the electric ice-skating rink” (1987, p. 30).

Orientation and landmarks

When skating around the fretboard, orientation becomes important. It’s useful to have landmarks to locate where we are on the fretboard and where we want to go.

Look at the dots on the fretboard to identify the location of a fret. Sometimes it helps to think of the coordinates of the string number and fret number, to focus the mind.

Try to remember meaningful locations while playing. Remembering fretboard locations lets us return to where we were, and recognize where we arrive.

Notes on the fretboard

Orientation can be helped by knowing the names of some of the notes on the fretboard. See Appendix A: Notes on the fretboard.