This lesson will show you the
various types of scale patterns
you'll be using when learning individual scales. The scales section
on this site provides you with all the tools to learn scales across the
entire fretboard, but you need to be able to break these down for more
A good guitarist will make sure they not only learn guitar scale
patterns but also understand the positioning of certain tones within
the scale (e.g. the root, 3rd and 5th for major scales). This ensures
you have a safe reference point wherever you are on the fretboard,
allowing you to move fluidly
and musically through your solo.
guitar scale patterns
When first getting to know a scale, you just need a pattern that will
let you explore the tones of that scale. Box scale patterns typically
span 4 or 5 frets wide, providing you with an economical arrangement of
the scale's tones in one convenient place.
As you can see, these types of box scale pattern are conveniently
accessible and memorable for those initial stages. I encourage my
students to use these box guitar scale patterns to get to know the
of the scale they're learning. So don't worry in those
about being able to play right across the fretboard, because you want
to first focus on tonality and the kind of flavour the scale offers
The lowest root note for these box patterns are on the low E string.
However, I also encourage students to learn the basic box pattern
the A string, like below for the natural minor scale...
Learning both the E string and A string box patterns provides you
with a reference point around the two most common chord positions - E
and A form chords, which use the same low root note strings - E
This is why I provide both these guitar
scale patterns in my scales
allows you to conveniently play the scales around the same chord
positions, or vice versa.
scale positions to form larger scale patterns
Scale positions are about building
patterns on each degree of a scale.
For example, if we were learning the major
scale, we'd know it has 7 tones. These become degrees on
which we can
build a pattern before connecting them all together to form one large
major scale pattern.
To do this, we need to first lay out the intervals of the scale in
question along the low E string. I'll stick with the major scale as an
example, but this process applies to any scale you might learn. Change
the interval pattern accordingly...
This particular example is in the key of G,
because that's the note on
which the root
note lies. However, you need to keep in mind all the
patterns we build are movable,
and key independent. So if you want to
play the scale in a different key, you just need to reposition the
pattern relative to the new root
Once we have our base intervals, we build a new 4-5 fret wide boxed
each degree. I go through this process with you for each scale in their
Once we have built patterns on all 7 degrees, we're left with a large
scale pattern divided into 7 positions as follows...
Now, what you'll find is that, within this larger pattern, you can
locate the root note positions
for both the E and A form box patterns you learned initially. If
you've spent time learning each degree's pattern, you'll know how the
tones of the scale are laid out in each one.
A good test of how well you've learned these positions is to try and
identify specific interval relationships, such as root-3rd...
Again, I help you out with this in the individual scale lessons.
The benefit of this process is that you don't have to repeat it for
every scale, because scales share certain intervals (known as common
intervals/tones). For example, all
major scales share that root-3rd interval. All minor scales share the
root-minor 3rd interval. Most major and minor scales share the root-5th
Master this concept and you'll be in a very advantageous position as
far as being able to identify key interval relationships in any given
scale and move fluidly between them over the entire fretboard.
you'll be down at those first few frets, for a lower register of the
scale you're playing. In this position, you'll need to know how the
open strings work as part of the scale. These can be referred
to as open position
Each open (unfretted) string provides a
note. In standard tuning, that's E A D G B and a higher E. If any of
these notes are part of your scale, you can use the open strings in
For example, if we're playing the E
scale (also known as the Phrygian Dominant scale), we could use the following
The open low and high E strings provide the root.
The open A string provides the 4.
The open D string provides the b7.
The open G string is not
used because the note G is not part of the E phrygian
The open B string provides the 5
of the scale.
make sure you spend time learning scales in different keys so you can
make use of open strings confidently. Remember that the notes provided
on the open strings are the same as the 12th fret notes, so if you
learn the pattern across the entire fretboard, you should be able to
see how the pattern continues from the open strings in the same way it
does from the 12th fret.
Learning scales across the entire fretboard is a large (but very
rewarding) task, but it's also important to be able to isolate
particular patterns within this larger pattern to give you a good
framework for techniques such as scale
For example, using our knowledge of the large major scale pattern from
above, and merging together a couple of positions, we
could create an extended version of the boxed pattern we learned in the
Patterns such as the above can be referred to as 3 notes per
This will allow you to improve your confidence with wider fingerings.
It's also a useful technique for when you're further up the fretboard
and the fret spacings are narrower, allowing you to play across wider
intervals on each string.
So while it's important to learn a scale across the entire fretboard
for fluid and unrestricted soloing, it's also beneficial to be able to
pull out sections within
this large pattern for more enclosed runs and
The idea is to ensure you have all the options you need to keep your
soloing free flowing and intuitive.