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.

I could watch this everyday over and over again. The amount of info Tom gives is unreal!

I found exactly what I was looking for in this course- an overview and map to navigate the way forward. Not just the overall but also the very useful specifics, these lessons will save me a lot of time and make my practice very efficient.

What I've taken from it is some practical advices, ideas and a sort of demistification of that famous rock-star image. That realy encourages to keep working and believe in success. Also now I'm practicinge using Tom's scheme.

This has been totally different to all of the other guitar courses that i've seen. Rather than focussing on the small details, like play this scale, it was much more looking at the big picture of what can I do with what I can do and make it great. Excellent, a refreshingly different approach and Tom's style and delivery is perfect.



If only I had known this 20 years ago. What an amazing lesson. Thank you Tom for sharing this knowledge with us. Many music teachers don’t give away this type of information.


This is one of my favorite lessons so far! Similar to Tom, I've picked up a lot of the fret board over the years by just listening to notes that worked well together, and adding this new sense of clarity allows me to really "see" the notes on my board as I play. Great video!

Paul F.

In unlocking the fretboard in the downloaded pdf guide, I expected to find the 7 positions but I cannot find them in this chapter. I guess I’ll return to the video to memorize them. Also there are position charts on the web. Not sure if they sync with Tom’s charts.

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*