Last night was Wednesday, my playing-out night. First two songs were in F, then three in C. We all know that F isn't a guitarists' favorite key, but I've played them before, so the chords went by OK and the points where I played melodically, I didn't fail hard but I didn't succeed overwhelmingly. I played notes that were probably in the melody somewhere, but I could not capture the melody.
Then we moved on to C.
Night and day, folks. Night and day.
C is one of the first scales I learned, and when I'm trying to do flatpicky, crosspicky stuff, I always do it in C. Besides, anyone who has ever seen The Sound of Music has had the C scale permanently rammed into their heads. So I had it down.
But I had it down in open and at fret 12. Because I have it down, but I have it down in one position.
Man, that sucks.
You may have heard of the CAGED system. In essence, for a scale on the guitar fretboard, you can distill everything to five patterns which can be then moved around the fretboard. They are C in first position, A in first position, G in first position, E in first position, and D in first position. Yeah, there's other ways of doing it, but we're sticking with these for now. The thing about it is, they connect. If you start out with C in first position, really in C, the next scale up the neck is the A pattern, starting at the third fret, then the G pattern, then the E, then the D. Thus CAGED. I have made neck images with my cool fretboard tool. Yellow is C, D is orange, E is red, F is maroon, G is purple, A is blue and B is green.
C in the C Pattern — I'm presenting it here from the 12th fret rather than the first because this way it's independent from the nut.
C in the A Pattern
C in the G Pattern
C in the E Pattern
C in the D Pattern
Be sure to learn this for all scales. The point, the key thing to take from this, is that when you know the scale — not just say "Yeah, I can noodle up in there" but actually know it — you can pick out melodies in that scale much much easier. I sure know I need to learn this, so this is mostly my lesson plan.