Mickylee - jazz guitar expert

Guitar Positions Explained

How to Define a Position on Guitar

In this video, Mickylee talks about positions (and scales) on the guitar.

Released on January 6, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, my name is Mickylee, and in this video, I'd like to define a position on the guitar. There are a couple of philosophies in this regard, but this one that I'm going to show you is, in my opinion, the best one, because it's the most complete.

If we place all of our fingers, we have four fingers with which we play guitar, first, second, third, fourth, if we place all these fingers on one fret, respectively, we get something like this. This would be the first finger which lays on the first fret. This is the second finger, it's on the second fret. Third finger is on the third fret, and fourth finger is on the fourth fret. We say that this is the first position because the first finger lays on the first fret. This would be the second position because first finger is in the second fret. Second finger is on the third fret, and so on. This will be of course the third position, because first finger is on the third fret.

We have 12 different positions because we have 12 notes. So this would be the first. This would be the 12th, on the 12th fret where we have E. So basically we started with F, and here, we close our circle with the last note in the chromatic scale from F to E. Of course, we don't say for this position first position plus one octave or something. We say it's the 13th position. We say this is the 14th position, but these are merely the repetition of the positions that we already had. So the first position and the 13th position is absolutely the same because the notes are the same. Everything is the same.

Second position in 14th position are also the same. So basically, as I said, we have 12 positions on every guitar. What I want to say by that is the number of positions doesn't depend on the number of the frets your guitar might have. If you have 21 frets, 22, 24, whatever, the number of positions is always the same, 12.

We may do something that we call finger stretch. If we, for example, play fifth position, that will be this, my first finger is on the fifth fret. I can stretch my first finger one step, one fret below, and I can stretch my fourth finger, one fret above. So basically, I go down with my index finger one fret, and I go up with my pinky, also one fret. The middle two fingers always stay on their respective frets. If you remember, we said the definition of position would be regarding on where the first finger is. But if we have these finger stretches, we can have situations like this. We place our first finger on the fourth fret, but we are still in the fifth position. So basically, I would rather say that these two, the middle two fingers, define a position because they never move. If we are in fifth position, these two are always going to be on sixth and on seventh fret.

It's very important to notice that if we want to do finger stretch and we are here and we want to go here, this is not the right way to do it. This would be position shift. So only one finger, this or this one, move. So it looks like this. This will be finger stretch. Only my finger is moving, and my other fingers and my hand, my wrist, they stay put. Oh my goodness. This is position shift.

Also very important thing is to know that in each and every position, when we take these four or even extended six frets in one position, we have all the notes of the chromatic scale. So we have all the notes that we need to our music. This is very cool to use because basically you can play everything. If you're here, if you're here, here, here, and all around the neck, you can play everything all the time. You can find all the notes, you can find all the chords, all the scales, all the melodies.

Let's try to find all the notes in one position so that you see what I mean. Let's start with C, and we are going to go in cycle of fifths. So if I'm, for example, in fifth position, I can find my C here, here and here. If I take G as next note, I can find it here and here. Next note would it be D. I have it here and here. Then comes A here, here, and here. E would be here and here. B would be here, here, and, watch out, finger stretch here, and also here, another finger stretch.

F sharp or G flat would be here, finger stretch here, and also fingers stretch here. C sharp or D flat would be here, finger stretch here, and here fingers stretch, and if it's on this, on the first string, then of course, it is going to be on sixth string as well, finger stretch. A flat would be here, finger stretch, and then of course here, here, and one more finger stretch here. E flat or D sharp is here, here, and finger stretch. B flat we find here, here, and there. And we have one more left, F, here, and here.

One of the good ways to learn this would be to play your scales or your arpeggios all across the neck. You can take one position and play, let's say, all 12 major scales, major scales in all 12 keys, or all the, let's say, major seven arpeggios. Or you can take only one scale and you play it in every single position. Let's take third position, for example, and I can play the C major scale.

Then let's say we take F major Scale.

Then we have B flat major scale.

E flat.

A flat.

B flat.

G flat, now I have to stretch, to start with a stretch.

B, also stretch.




And we finish off with G.

So that would be all for me for this video. I hope you got something out of it. Thank you very much, and see you next time.
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User Comments and Questions

Comments, Questions, Requests:

Daniel on January 6, 2021 @4:01 pm PST
Where can I obtain the scales and tabs for all the keys
in the circle?
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on January 6, 2021 @6:27 pm PST
Good question Daniel... we don't have published such a book of scales yet here on VSM, but we must definitively do it! We'll work with Mickylee to make it happen.

In the meantime, I am sure Mickylee will suggest an actual book you can use right now.

Thanks again for your inquiry, and please, let us know if you have any further questions.

Please, stand for Mickylee's answer coming soon.

All the best,
Micky - host, on January 8, 2021 @12:29 am PST
Hi Daniel, thank you for your question!

I have only the positions for C Major Scale, but you can easily derive all the other keys from that. Just play the same fingerings starting on a different note (fret). Here you can download the .pdf file:


If I remember correctly, William G. Leavitt covered this topic in one of his three volumes of "A Modern Method for Guitar".

Hopefully, this information can help you further.

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