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Jazz Guitar Lessons

Learn The Second-String ‘Shift’

Leon Rodriguez

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In thisJGT lesson,jazz guitarist Leon Rodriguez explains the Second-String Shift in this music theory lesson specifically for guitarists.

Notice that the octaves that stayed entirely within the {6543} string set have one angle and theoctaves that included either member of the{21} string sethave a slightly different angle. Theydiffer by one fret.The line crossed the 2nd string! The line must SHIFT UP 1 fret! It is an exceptionto our symmetry.

The interval between most of the strings is a Perfect 4th(5 frets)EXCEPTfor the interval between the2ndand 3rdstring. That interval is a Major 3rd(4 frets)so the F octave in the diagramthat includes anote of the {21} string setdisplaces the angle by one fretto compensate for that one fret differencebetween aMajor 3rd(4 frets) and a Perfect 4th(5 frets). Think of it as anangle of incidencein opticsfor an easy visual you can intuitively trust. This defends the visualshift from our trusted symmetry of4ths. Our lines and shapes must integrate this.

This isnota burden in our visuals, it will become yourtool! Once we are used to the 1 fret shift, wecan use that difference of interval tocreate symmetry inour fingerings. Below are the twomostcommon progressions in music. Theii -Vand theV7 I. Play the next two bars. Same fingerings butdifferent chordtypes.

When we place a straw in a clear, half-full glass of water,we know the straw is still straight but itlooksa bit bentwhere the medium changes viscosity. The2ndto 3rdstringinterval of a major3rdvisually‘bends’the symmetry of ourlines and shapes as it interrupts the perfect 4thintervals ofthe {6543} string set.Accepting this‘shift’as natural lawjustifies our further visuals. The 6F’s below occur first oneventhenoddstrings, first a3 fretthen4 fretdifference.

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In measure 1, the D minor7 to G7 sequence is the ii-Vprogression in the key of C.Both spell Root,7th ,3rd, 5th . (We spell low note to high note) Thehalf step difference between the major 3rdand the minor 3rdinthe progression is naturally there. Use it. Working thissemitone shift is like having a‘Bbender’on a Tele. No tellingwhereyou’re gonna use it; it’s just there! Have fun with it!

In measure 2, the G7 to C Major 7 sequence is called acadence.It’s the V-I progression in the key of C. The half step differencethis time affects the 7thto 3rd*(F to B notes) because it falls acrossthe 2 and 3 string. The chord spells Root, 7th, 5th, 3rd. We’vechanged Dominant7 to Major7 with our 1 fret difference. BTW,We call thatvoice leading. *Moreon 3rd/ 7thgood stuff to come!

Let’s do an exercise with a wider scope. These are allRoot Position Triads.They all spell in order; Root,3rd, 5th(no 7th). We are playingdescending ii-Vprogressionsacross the range of the two string sets:{321}, {432}. A major 3rdinterval above a minor 3rdis a minor triad; a minor 3rdover a major 3rdintervalis amajor triad. We get a quality change by alternating string sets with the same fingering.

As we do so notice how that middle note of each triad is changing its relationship to the other twonotes, the Root and the 5th. The interval from the root to the 3 is shifting from a minor 3 to a major3. The Root and 5 are each moving along theCycle of 4ths.Alternating the string sets lets us use the2ndstring interval difference tokeep the fingeringwhile alternating chord types! Hybrid picker heaven!
Your hands will appreciate the break. Incidentally, the ii-V progression is one of the most importantprogressions we must absolutely have under yourfingers. Notice the roots are thecycle of 4ths.

Naturally we can get creative with this tool. Here is a rootless ii V I you might like to try with a trustedbassist. Let’s dive into this one. In this case we havethreedifferent chord types, same fingering.

There aretwodiagonal linesalong the cycle of 4ths. C, F, B, E{4321) string set (green); thenA, D, G on the {654} string set(red dotted).More on intervallines to come.

To be continued…Books and On-Line Private Lessons available atwww.LeonRodriguezGuitar.com/shop

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