Music & Entertainment

Theory: Unlocking the Fretboard

Tom Morello

Lesson time 16:43 min

In the next step on your soloing journey, Tom teaches you his methods for soloing in any key, anywhere on the neck.

Tom Morello
Teaches Electric Guitar
In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.
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And now the time has come at last to unlock the neck, to unlock the fretboard, to learn how to solo all over the fretboard in any key. The way that I came to it was this. We've learned how to solo in A pentatonic. We've learned how to solo with an A blues scale. So now, let's do the first step to unlocking the neck-- let's learn how to solo with an A minor scale, what I call first position. Here it is here. I'm going to play it. It should be up on the screen. You play it along with me. It's going to play the-- it's also the Aeolian mode. We're not going to worry about modes right now. We're just going to call it the first position for now, the A minor scale. [PLAYING NOTES] And then back to the root note of A. [PLAYING NOTES] What we're going to do now is learn those notes all over the neck. So it starts here. We've already played it. [PLAYING NOTES] They begin again. [PLAYING NOTES] All right. So check it out. Here's the first position of the A minor scale. It says Aeolian there, which is the mode, but don't worry about that right now. That will all come later. These are the notes. The notes that are circled are the root note, in this case A. So everywhere you see the circle, that is a note that's A. That's the scale. We play it across and back. These are the notes. When we start at A and we hear A minor with a chord progression, play these notes, and they should fit snugly and sound like you're soloing like a fledgling genius on the guitar. All right? We're going to now play the second position of the A minor scale. [PLAYING NOTES] And now the third position. Again, these are the same notes, just we're moving up the neck. In the third position, the identical notes, just a little bit higher in pitch. [PLAYING NOTES] The fourth position. [PLAYING NOTES] The fifth position. [PLAYING NOTES] Sixth position. [PLAYING NOTES] Seventh position. [PLAYING NOTES] And what would be eighth position is back to first position, one octave higher than we began. First position, again, one octave up. [PLAYING NOTES] So just as we used the notes in first position to solo along with our chord progression, and it fits snugly, those are the same notes up and down the neck. So what I've done is I've memorized those seven positions. So I know where each of those positions and each of those note groupings are of the same notes are all over the neck. So we're going to use the notes of the A minor scale, no longer just in first position, but using all the positions to play a solo over the same chord progression. Let's go. [METRONOME TICKING] [MUSIC PLAYING] So what you're seeing is the same sequence of notes all the way up and down the neck, starting at different points. Each of the positions teaches us where they are at that particular part of the neck. The relative positions always remain the same. That's how you solo up and down the...

Strike a Chord

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner and one of Rolling Stone’s "greatest guitarists of all time." In his first online guitar class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo and teach you how to create your own musical style.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Tom, You magnificent bastard, You made me fall in love with my old Digitech RP-12 all over again. the Poor Switch on your rig. Brutal.. Thumbs Up Sir!

Tom is a wonderful teacher! Inspiring and supportive of risk-taking as an artist and as a student.

I loved learning Tom's songwriting concepts and his practice habits and techniques.

Tom is brilliant. Wow. Very articulate, engaging and off-the-charts knowledgeable.


A fellow student

After reviewing this a few times, charting out the mode positions myself, and a few hours of practice I see loads of potential.

A fellow student

I’m really liking the progression of this lesson. However, it would be much more useful if the 7 positions where shown for the minor scale in the workbook. The previous lesson shows the seven positions of the pentatonic scale but going to this lesson we’re now left guessing how to form these 7 positions for the minor scale. Thanks

Sergio A.


A fellow student

The scales shown on the screen are being identified incorrectly. It's not correct musical notation to have a scale with an A & an A# labeled in the scale, theory dictates it should be labeled as it's "B" accidental equivalent, B flat. Same goes for most of those minor scales that are shown on screen.

Michael S.

Hi dear masterclass , you have a mistake showing in the tab on the screen which Tom calls the " A minor sixth position". The 17th note on the higher e-string is an A not an E !

Matthew T.

Hi, The workbooks won't seem to download. Error message:ccessDeniedRequest has expired36002019-03-11T18:13:24Z2019-03-11T22:10:35Z5A75FDF02C836091zQZFzJX3z2kDwumFpYQ06O1sy0viDLhhLQLxgET/qdVVZrWr4+jw0tsSAnNyVDoz9pv6J9qONHs=

Simon G.

Tom Morello: They'll post the Phrygian scale on the video for you. Video: *Phrygian scale shows on frets 1-5* Tom Morello: *solos really high on frets, nowhere near the frets shown on screen*


Well done! A lot of information explained in a very simple way. Master the fretboard takes months of practice and I have seen several methods. I recommend to complement with the CAGED system to quickly find same note across the fretboard , no matter which string or fret you are at.

Tom B.

It was said of Abraham Lincoln that his greatest talent was to bring the most complex of situations to the simplest of terms so all could understand. So.....should we call you Abe? This was well done and can accelerate a lot of people forward in their understanding and playing!!! Well done Sir!

Tory H.

This is a tricky one, however I don't think I've ever seen someone who has ever been able to make theory so accessible to people. It took me a few watches and research in the workbook to get the jist of it but now that I do it's like the blinders have been taken off my guitar playing. I never understood theory or could find a way to wrap my head around it. This made it so simple and comprehensive. Thanks Professor Morello!