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New JGT Lesson: In Position Vertical Cycles (Part 2) – Shift to Minor



In this Jazz Guitar Today lesson, jazz guitarist Leon Rodriguez provides a lesson that will help expand your knowledge of the fretboard.

Photo above by Roger Sadowsky

In our last fretboard adventure, we found the fretboard presented us with a well-organized, complete cycle of 4ths in position. We agreed to surrender ourselves to the discipline of remaining in position alternating between adjacent stringsets of three; i.e. {654},{543}, {432} and {321}, in order to explore the presentation of the major triads. 

We know from that exercise, that shifting from stringset to stringset while retaining the intervals within the stringset moves us along the cycle. The intervals we played on the {654} stringset are therefore moveable in fourths if we replicate the intervals on the adjacent stringset in any inversion. OK. Let’s expand by limiting even further. 

For this exercise we’re going to limit ourselves further to only the {654} stringset. OK, remember we’re still limiting ourselves to 5th position while mindful of all twelve triads, the whole cycle of 4ths, potentially under our fingers, since these are possible on all stringsets in all positions. However, we’re remaining static for now to shift to minor.

From any major triad there are three ways to shift to a minor since we only have to worry about three notes; the Root, the 3rd or the 5th. Seems simple enough, however, what’s important is; what is the relationship that minor has to the major from whence it came, in other words; what’s that minor’s direction of travel? For now, let’s make the major triad the root chord for a relationship reference. 

1) From the root position, you can flat the root one semitone for the 2nd inversion iii chord which is the Major 7 omitting the root. 

2) We can flat the 3rd one semitone for the parallel minor which, takes us out of the ‘key’ of the major triad and will smoothly take you to the IV chord of the root. (Cm-F) It’s also a rootless A diminished if you’re headed to Bb Major via that ii – IV. 

3) We can also raise the 5th a whole step to get smoothly to the 1st inversion vi chord, one of the most common chord changes. It is also a rootless IV major 7. 

Notice that each minor derived from the root position major triad is a different inversion. Every triad will give you this regardless of which inversion you begin with. As a rule-of-thumb, a minimum of note movement will give us a sweeter voice leading. The roman numerals here point out the relationship to the major triad. Notice that on all 3 inversions 5 of the 6 top-notes remain the same. Nice for pedal points. Only in the raised 5th is the top note a whole step above. 

 Major Triad in Root Position 

I remind us that: what we can do in the {654} stringset, we can do in any of the other stringsets regardless of inversion. Using Part 1 of this lesson, derive the 3 minors from the 4 stringset triads. Remember the relationship from each minor to the major triad it came from. What’s relative to this static major triad. Much more on this in my new, soon-to-be-released book Volume V- Voicings of my Fretboard Theory series. Triads are core. 

Let’s go to 1st inversion. Same thing – different string; lowered root, lowered 3rd raised 5th. We end up with three different inversions of our minor derivatives. Lower root or 5th degree of the major triad and you get a different inversion. Only in the case of the flatted 3rd do we retain the same inversion as the major triad. 

Major Triad in 1st Inversion 

Major Triad in 2nd Inversion 

From our 2nd inversion major, we see that relationships remain the same. 

Logically, each minor can inversely also be 3 majors. Simply reverse the direction of note required for target triad. 

I’ll leave the shift from 1st inversion minor to you. You’ll get 3 majors in 3 inversions. Next layer, name them. All this; in 5th position, on the vertically moveable {654} stringset. Put this in your hands before adding the adjacent stringset to this layer of your vertical vision. Good for your brain and hands both. We can’t underestimate the triad. In part 3 of this vision, we will expand from this point to new adventures beyond. See you next time. Enjoy! 

I’d like to add that the loss of Pat Martino was a loss for us all in this idiom.  He kept us all reaching for the infinite. His leadership will be sorely missed. – Leon Rodriguez

To be continued… 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!

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