Exploring The Guitar Neck In 6ths – Simple & Beautiful


Sixths are just one way of harmonising notes
across our instrument. Let’s jump right in and establish a starting
point. Here I’m in the open E major position. If we isolate the notes on the 3rd and 5th
strings, we can use this string pairing as our first sixth voicing. Why is it called a sixth? One way to understand it is if we play the
E major scale from the tone on the 5th string to the tone on the 3rd string, they are separated
by six tones. So the two tones form what is known as a sixth
interval, because they represent the distance between six scale degrees. However, as we’ll soon learn, we don’t need
to know scales to make effective use of these voicings. Simply think of this 3rd to 5th string formation
as something we can take up and down the neck. As we’re starting in the open E major position,
I’m going to leave the low E string open as a drone bass note. Now, we might want to strum this interval
for more rhythmic attack. To get a clean voicing of this interval, you’ll
need to mute the strings around it as best you can. To mute the 2nd string, collapse back your
index finger so it touches the 2nd string. To mute the 4th string sandwiched in between,
collapse back your middle finger so it touches the 4th string. To mute the 6th string, there are two options. You could wrap your thumb around the neck
so it touches and mutes the string. Or you could mute it with the tip of your
second finger, still ensuring that same finger is collapsed back to mute the 4th string. This will take some time and practice. But
it will allow you to strum the interval cleanly wherever you are on the neck. We’ll be using similar muting techniques on
the other strings. Now, each string pairing we’re going to look
at has two forms. We’ve already established our first form on
the 3rd and 5th strings. Here’s the other. We can also take this form across the neck. Although like with the first form, you’ll find it sounds better at some frets than others,
depending on the chord or bass you’re playing over. Here I’m playing over an E bass note again,
but we’ll look at applying these forms to other notes and chords later. The same process applies for muting adjacent
strings. In this form, our ring and index finger are
collapsed back, and the low E is muted either by our thumb or ring finger tip. Now we have our two forms for this string
pairing, we can try combining them in a sequence. This is where knowledge of scales can help,
but it’s not necessary. For example, we could sequence the two shapes
based on the E major scale. Each position represents a degree of the scale
played in sixths. Or we could improvise something that doesn’t
conform to one specific scale. You can also use these forms to practice a
simple string skipping technique. Simply use alternate picking. Pick down on the 5th string and then up on
the 3rd string, so you’re picking in the direction of travel, making sure not to hit the string
in between. Now let’s move to our next string pairing,
on the 4th and 2nd strings, where we can build two additional 6th forms. Since we’re in E major for this example, we
could visualise a starting point around an A form chord at the 7th fret. So that’s our first form for this string pairing. Again, practice collapsing back fingers to
touch and mute adjacent strings. On to our second formation on these strings. Again, for E major, I could visualise a starting
point around this C shape chord form. Like before, let’s try combining the two forms
across this string pairing and see what we come up with. We now have two string pairings, giving us
a number of positions to harmonise in 6ths. For example, here I’m playing the same movement
around E major in different positions. On to our final string pairing, on the 1st
and 3rd strings. Since we’re in E major for this example, we
can again use that as a starting point. Here I’m visualising the first form around
a D shape on the 2nd fret. You could also see this as built around a
C shape. So if you’ve learned the neck using the CAGED
method, extracting 6ths from these positions is another way of using it. And the second form on this string pairing. We can use the top part of the E shape for
this one. In E major, we’d play this in the open position. Again, let’s try combining the forms in a
harmonised sequence. What we now have are 3 string pairings, each
with two forms we can use to play across the neck in 6ths. Now, we can apply these forms to any chord
we want to play around. For example, in A major, I might visualise
reference points based on shapes for that chord. D major. And these 6th forms we’ve learned also work for
targeting minor chords. Take B minor as an example. So all we’re doing is extracting the 6th forms
we’ve learned from relative chord shapes, which you may have already learned through
the CAGED method, to get our bearings on the neck. This doesn’t mean we literally have to begin
our movements on those chord positions. But having those reference points will give
you a center around which to build your harmonised movements. At first you’ll want to practice these movements
over single chords, and on the lesson page there are backing tracks to help with this. But as you become confident with playing over
single chords, you can try playing them through chord changes, such as the example in the
outro clip of this video. For more help with this concept, visit the lesson page linked in the description. Cheers!