Fretless 6-String Guitar Technique – Tim Donahue

IVa. Scales

Two octave scales in one position with stretches of only the 1st and 4th fingers are good practice, because of no position shifts, intonation is easier to maintain.

A common 2 octave major scale from root to root may be fingered like this:


But there are 2 more fingerings of the same scale (with either 1st or 4th finger stretches) :


The scale built from any degree (dorian, phrygian, etc.) of a major scale can be played in 2 octaves without a shift in position. There are also 3 fingerings for each, so it follows that there are 21 different fingerings for a major scale (and its degrees) without a shift in position.

It is recommended that all scalar exercises be first taped on cassette with a fretted guitar and then played along with on fretless guitar. This helps maintain good intonation.

A digital delay with a “hold” function can be useful by providing a “drone” chord to play these exercises to. On a fretted guitar, in this case any chord diatonic to G major would work.




Drone notes can be used in one position single octave scale studies:


With the scale played in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc.:


Tuning the drone bass string to other pitches and practicing scales or phrases over it can be fun. The following is played with the 6th string tuned to a low C.

The phrase is fingered in the VIIth position, and requires no stretches or position shifts:


Once again, the possibilities are endless for playing any scale or phrase against a drone diatonic to it. 6th string tuned to D:


Or with the 6th string tuned to F:


Or tuned to Eb:


…section ends

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