In this guitar lesson we’ll be exploring a concept that I call horizontal expansion, which is a great way of improving your fretboard knowledge and soloing vocabulary.

So, what exactly is horizontal expansion?

Horizontal expansion is where you take a short guitar lick or melodic idea and move it up and down the fretboard, while staying on the same strings. In other words, you focus on moving up and down the length of the strings, rather than changing strings.

Here’s a diagram that I made that should make it easier to visualise what I’m talking about…

Horizontal Expansion: Example One

All of the musical examples in this lesson use the A minor pentatonic scale. Because of this, we should quickly look at the notes and scale degrees of this scale…

It’s a really good idea to memorise this table, as the information will help you to understand the examples that we’ll be looking at.

OK, let’s now look at a specific example. Please check out the lick below…

Lick 1: Four Note Repeating Idea [A-C-D-E]

This lick is based on a simple four note idea in the A minor pentatonic scale that’s played repeatedly. Notice that the lick is played exclusively on the D-string and G-string and is played using alternate picking.

Here’s a recording of me playing the lick at 120 BPM

And here you can listen to the lick played at 60 BPM

Now that you’ve listened to the lick a couple of times, I highly recommend learning to play it now. (Reading alone won’t do much to improve your guitar playing!). Don’t worry about playing it fast. For now, just get the notes under your fingers.

All done? Great! Let’s now check out an example of horizontal expansion…

Horizontal Expansion Of Lick 1

As you might be able to see, this new lick takes the four note idea from the first lick and plays it in different positions of the A minor pentatonic scale. If you know your A minor pentatonic scale positions fluently, then this will be pretty easy to see. If you don’t know them, then I would recommend adding them into your weekly practice schedule asap.

I also recommend analysing the notes of the new lick, just to double-check that I have indeed stuck to the A minor pentatonic scale—you wouldn’t want me to sneak in non-scale notes would you? 🙂

Let’s now listen to the lick played at 120 BPM

Here’s the lick played at 60 BPM

Once you can play the horizontal expansion lick fluently, you’re ready for the next example…

Horizontal Expansion: Example Two

We’re going to move a lot quicker with the next example, so let’s jump right in with the lick we’ll be using…

Lick 2: Four Note Repeating Idea [E-D-C-A]

Like the first lick, this one uses the A minor pentatonic scale. It uses a descending four note idea that’s repeated six times in a row.

Listen to the lick played at 120 BPM

And finally, listen to the lick played at 60 BPM

Once you can play this lick reasonably fluently, then you can check out the horizontal expansion of it below…

Horizontal Expansion Of Lick 2

Here’s the lick played at 120 BPM

And finally, here’s the lick played at 60 BPM

A Few Important Points

Now that we’ve looked at a couple of examples of horizontal expansion, here are a few things that I need to mention…

  • Horizontal expansion is a great way to expand your fretboard knowledge. As you create new variations of licks, your knowledge of scales will improve a lot. You’ll also become more confident shifting through the various scale positions that you know.
  • Make sure that you understand the examples that I’ve given you. Don’t just read the TAB—make sure that you work out what notes and scale degrees you’re playing.
  • Come up with your own variations. Experiment with moving the four note ideas through the scale in different ways. There are almost countless new licks that can be created using the two note ideas we covered in this lesson!

A Few Last Words

Hope you enjoyed this short introduction to horizontal expansion. I regularly use it to come up with new licks, so I’m sure you’ll find it useful too. 🙂

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