How to navigate on your guitar fretboard: the Tom Bukovac method

One of the great things that came out of this pandemic is that the fabulous musician that is Tom Bukovac started to make videos on his YouTube channel. Don't worry if you don't know him yet, I personally discovered him on this occasion.

All these videos are really interesting. He often starts with an improvisation on the guitar alone or with a looper. Then he either answers questions or explains one of his playing tricks. Whatever he says is interesting.

Navigating around your guitar fretboard with Tom Bukovac

In his episode 93 he explains how he navigates the fretboard, how he visualizes the notes.

He groups the strings three by three and places the different shapes of the basic chords like E, A and D on them.

As you can see in the diagrams below, there are chord shapes. This is nothing more or less than a simplified version of the CAGED system.

That's what I think is so clever: instead of trying to encompass all six strings at once, it takes groups of three strings which are much easier to manipulate for melodic phrases and improvisation.

Tom Bukovac video episode #93

The explication of his method stars at 1min55s:

The 3 string group diagrams

To illustrate the Bukovac method, I have made a few diagrams that can be multiplied almost infinitely once you have understood the principle.

Here are a couple of diagrams on the top three strings:

The same can be done on the D, G and B strings:

Work on this approach by trying to build phrases by moving from one shape to another and you will see that your navigation on the neck will be more horizontal and much less vertical.

You'll finally get out of the 3 or 4 box where you play your usual licks without venturing too far away.

Until the next chronicle or interview, keep on playing the guitar!

Pierre Journel.

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