This question is going to seem weird, so I will do my best to describe the problem. Are musicians able to jump to any arbitrary note without giving it much thought and not go out of key?
Assume for this entire post that we stay in one key.
My problem is this: I've played the guitar for so long that I can rifle up and down any scale, arpeggio, exotic weird shape, you name it, and it always sounds fine. I see in patterns and shapes, and I know how every pattern stitches itself together. This means when I'm coming down a major arpeggio and want to transition into a scale, I know the shape that I want to play based on the melody in my head. I'm also at the point where I can map the melody in my head onto the nearby notes without any problems. This is very nice, but I can only do this in the current region of where I am.
However, the patterns thing is a bit painful in one area. If I'm going down some scale and need to do a large note shift (like dropping down at least an octave and then some), unless it's exactly a full octave or something with a tangible marker, there's a chance I will screw up and land on the wrong note. This is not a technical problem, it's a "oh crap I don't know what note to play" and since it's done while I'm letting the melody play out in my head, I have to make a split second decision. Mostly it works well, but this is unacceptable if I were to improvise live because a wrong note is bad.
Things I've done to work around this are to bend if out of tune, or vibrato if landing on the note correctly (like a preemptive bend just in case, but vibrato if it's correct). This is only masking the problem.
While I can figure out what any note I'm on within a few seconds due to various reference points, I really need it to be much faster.
This made me think "properly learn all the notes this time instead of only knowing a few strings off by heart" because then I would go to a note I require to land in key... however this doesn't solve the problem either. I would need to know all the notes ahead of time, since knowing every note on the fretboard, while useful, does not solve the problem entirely.
Suppose I'm playing C minor, and I know the place I want to shift to because after decades of playing my instrument, the sound I want is within an area of 3 notes. By three notes, I mean I have my "target note" that I feel it is, and then the notes that are immediately beside it. For example, I'm about to shift down to an F. Next to it are E and F#.
Problem is... which of the three are in C minor? I feel like it's F based on many years of experience, and I could figure this out if needed given a few seconds, but I cannot solve this in the 200 milliseconds or so that I have. It feels like it almost has to be reflexive that I know which of those three notes it is. I would need to instantly know on the fly that F is the note that I want, and to not touch the other two adjacent notes or else it will sound quite bad. Sure, in this instance I guessed the right note, but I could just have easily shifted down one too far and end up on the wrong one, and this happens.
As such, this problem can be stated with: How can I learn to pick a random set of three contiguous notes on the fretboard, and select the proper one in key?
The only way I could see this being done is to know every single note instantly, know every single note in the target scale instantly, and then use this information to pick the right note, all in the span of a few hundred milliseconds at most.
Is this how musicians do this? Or what is the best way of doing this? Or is this not possible? How would you do it?
I want to be able to say "I'm going to freestyle in C minor today" and never hit the wrong note. When I stay in my local area, this is no problem and I will stay in key all the time without question. However, when I do a large shift like, say, 17 "notes" down, that is when I run into problems.