Connect with us

Jazz Guitar Lessons

What You Need To Know About ‘In Position Vertical Cycles’



In part one of this Jazz Guitar Today lesson, jazz guitarist Leon Rodriguez begins to explain ‘in position vertical cycles‘.

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B B King

In the last couple of visits, we posited observations for a Fretboard Vision to benefit we guitarists with a similar visual advantage for note identity that keyboard players easily enjoy. Although we do work a bit harder for it.

The place we do have a huge advantage is our ability to move shapes around the fretboard. Our first bar chord launched each of us horizontally like a slide rule over a chromatic race track. Right? Today, however, we’re going to work vertically in triads taking advantage of the fact that our instrument is built in 4ths. The strings themselves are the cycle. If you haven’t memorized the cycle of 4ths, don’t delay, just do it. The strings!

Any place we lay our hand on the instrument is about two and a half octaves of harmonic and melodic potential. Let’s look at one way the fretboard presents us with symmetry and order. We illustrate in 5th position beginning in root position with the root note in the bass.

 Root Position – Root in Bass 

Our horizontal instincts may want to slide over to 1st position to continue the cycle with Ab in root position on the same {654} stringset. Don’t. Let’s stay in 5th position. This is about what the fretboard presents in position; In this case 5th position. So, we’re gonna hang out here for a minute. Let’s go to 1st inversion. 

I always tell my students that 1st inversion is like putting a period at the end of a sentence. Tonic chord triad in first inversion brings it home. Tonic on top; ka-ping! So long as we’re here, I gotta add that. Just sayin’.

As we begin across the stringsets in 1st inversion, notice that the bass notes are the same as the root notes in root position! C, F, Bb, and Eb are the major 3rds of Ab, Db, F#, and B in 1st inversion although the root note is on top. Pedals, passing chords or just something new and yours; I leave to your creative endeavor. Common tones are so often the impetus for creative guitaring. It’s good to know that it’s there, well, just because it’s there.

1st Inversion- 3rd in Bass 

In the same way that that common tone at the low end of the triad between root position and 1st inversion put our cycle into focus, let’s take a minute to look at the other end of the triad.

The top notes of the 1st inversion triads are just the enharmonic equivalents of the top notes of the 2nd inversion triads! Ab =G#, Db-C#, Gb=F#, and B is simply B (1st string, 7th fret).

2nd Inversion -5th in the Bass 

So let’s summarize our current adventure: Three ‘columns’ of triads that give us the entire cycle of 4ths all in 5th position! Each ‘column’ is neatly organized in a unique inversion. Common tones minimize our memory work by sharing bass notes between root position and 1st inversion. Common tones share top notes between 1st inversion and 2nd inversion for pedals, passing, or melody work. All this without leaving 5th position! It’s been my observation that we learn deeper by limiting our range of focus.

Hang on to these, we’re going to use them on the next go-around. We’re going to expand by limiting again. See you then. Enjoy.

Books and On-Line Private Lessons available at

Volume VIII Video & Book: Leon lectures and demonstrates the relationship between Diminished 7th chord to Dominant 7th chord demonstrating how to arrive at all 12 chromatic Dominant 7th’s chord in any position to give you 144 Dominant 7th’s chords across the 12 positions.

Understanding the symmetry within music theory and relaying it to the 6 X 12 matrix that is the fretboard, will give you a totally controllable vision of the fretboard. Notice the notes that touch the corners of these two “diamonds”. Four equidistant pointsaminor third apart is where it begins. Don’t miss this adventure into fretboard control. It’s a separate vision!

More Jazz Lessons

Subscribe to Jazz Guitar Today – it’s FREE!

Continue Reading

Featured Luthiers