Advanced Improvisation Technique Influenced by Wayne Krantz
In case you need an introduction to Wayne Krantz, here are some videos of him performing live.
As you can tell, Wayne has an incredibly unique style and personality as a guitarist.
While I was in Berklee, I had the good fortune to study private instruction for a semester with Wayne. The way he organizes and thinks about scale fingerings is one of the stylistic elements that contribute to his unique sound.
Wayne doesn’t base his whole playing on the in-position fingerings or 3-note per string scales as taught in music schools.
Instead; Wayne organizes his guitar neck in twelve sections of four adjacent frets, not reaching out of position for missing scale notes.
This organizational approach of scale fingerings, adds a certain openness to solos because there will always be a couple of scale notes missing when only working in 4-fret ranges.
The only two fingerings where you get a complete scale within a four-fret range are the Phrygian and the Locrian fingerings.
The other five fingerings require that you stretch outside of a 4-fret range. If you solo adhering to strict four-fret ranges without stretching to catch the scale notes that fall outside of the 4-fret range, you will have intervallic gaps there, which adds openness to the solo.
Not only that: with the seven in-position fingerings, you’re bound by seven positions that are dictated by the note locations on the low E string, but that limitation is gone when you work in four-fret ranges. You can play any scale from any of the twelve frets.
When you start from a fret that you normally wouldn’t play from, like for example a C major scale from the 4th fret, you will have more missing scale notes in that position soloing with the strict four-fret-only approach.
As you can imagine: Wayne’s unique approach requires that you know your fretboard really well. You REALLY have to think notes.
No longer having the safety net of memorized in-position scale fingerings that you use to navigate, all you can go by is your knowledge of the note locations on the fretboard.
When you think you know your fretboard well enough to try this out; here’s how to get started.
- Play a backing track in the key of C. You will solo over that track.
- Pick an easier location to start with, for example, the 5th fret. For the key of C, you would normally play the A Aeolian fingering in that position. The only note you have to reach out for in that fingering is the B note on the 9th fret of the D string. You will no longer play that note since we’re only soloing within four frets.
- Solo having your four fingers positioned on the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th fret, four adjacent fingers covering four adjacent frets. Only play notes on those 4 frets, don’t reach for the missing B note on the 9th fret. That note is skipped.
- When this gets easier, try another location, for example, the 2nd fret. This is basically the F Lydian fingering minus the F notes that you’ll skip on the 1st fret of both E strings.
- Once you get the hang of this, experiment with positions where you don’t normally play a C major scale or that start on a note you need to reach out for with the index, like for example the 1st fret, 3rd fret, 8th fret, 11th fret, etc. Even better: approach this very organized, by soloing for 1 minute starting from each of the twelve frets, going up to the next fret after each minute of soloing. After twelve minutes, you will have improvised in the key of C from each position.
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