In the introductory lesson: major
scale on guitar, we learned the basic intervals of the scale
and some basic
patterns on the guitar fretboard. These patterns are fine for getting
your bearings, but eventually you'll want to free up your soloing and
play the major scale across the entire fretboard.
This lesson is about unboxing
the major scale by visualising seven positions.
The easiest way
to do this is by building patterns around each degree of the scale in
question. In this case, the major scale, that's 7 degrees, with 1
being its root
note. A degree is a scale tone relative to that root note
- 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th.
Want a printable chart of the concept we're about to look at? See the
below "poster" version of this lesson (click the image to enlarge in a
The 7 major scale positions
So where do we start? The most practical
first step is to make sure
you've learned both the core intervals of the major scale and the box
patterns from the first
part. You'll see why this is
helpful by connecting these same patterns within the large pattern
about to learn (it's all about identifying the root note
As mentioned before, the major scale's degrees are relative to its root
note. The position of the root note defines the key you're playing the
scale in. For this example, we're going to map out the major scale's
degrees based on a G root note.
Therefore, we'll be playing the G
scale. But keep in mind that this large pattern we're
building is movable and relative to your chosen root.
First, let's lay out the intervals of the G major scale along the low E
Now, we've already established that the root note
is the 1st
degree of the scale, and from this degree we can build
it's first position pattern (one of the patterns we learned in the
This pattern also appears an octave higher at the 15th fret for G major.
3rd Fret 15th Fret
Let's now move along to the 2nd degree position.
We can now build another pattern from this note. Try and especially
memorise the root note positions in these patterns as this will give
you the reference you need to find your bearings. For example, if you
wanted to play D major, you should be able to find D
on all strings.
Because the 3rd and 4th tones of the major scale are only a semitone
apart, we can merge these two positions together into one pattern...
marked this at the 2nd fret because we know that the 7th degree/tone of
major scale lies one semitone (fret) below the 1st degree. Therefore,
as the first degree was, in this example, at the 3rd fret, the 7th
degree will be
one semitone lower, at the 2nd fret!
14th Fret 2nd
Stringing it all together
What we've done here is start a new box pattern at each degree of the
G major scale, creating one large G major scale pattern across the
So, your task here is to learn the box patterns for each degree of
the major scale.
Don't just learn it in G
- these patterns are movable, and therefore the large
pattern becomes movable as well. When the root (1) note gets
repositioned, the rest of the pattern moves accordingly and the major
scale adopts a new key center.
The great thing about this method is you can apply it to any scale.
Simply lay out the scale's intervals across the low E string and map
out the scale tones from each degree. Connect these patterns together
and you're well on your way to navigating scales in an unrestricted
Once you're confident with each of the degree patterns, we can
delve a little deeper into the theory...
out of boxed think
Box scale patterns are useful for three main reasons:
They help you see convenient chord shapes that can be built around the
scale you're playing (since chords essentially use the same intervals).
We looked at this in part
one, pulling related chord shapes out of the scale patterns.
They allow you to create scale runs in a confined area which is useful
for quick legato playing and sweep arpeggios (more on these in the lead
At first, they help you break down the large scale pattern into
"bite sized" chunks. You can move between the boxes and keep your
bearings (since you now know each scale degree's boxed pattern and
where it lies in relation to the next/last!)
However, when soloing, you'll eventually want to have the option to
play across larger fretboard areas seamlessly. This is about smooth,
fluid movements right across the fretboard and wider interval movements
across each string. Sliding is one way to utilise these wider
movements, but also regular picking higher up the fretboard where the
fret spacings are narrower (e.g. you may be able to span 8 frets
index and pinky finger rather than just 4 or 5).
To help connect these boxes in your mind, we need to work on the interval relationships
scale in various positions on the fretboard. We touched on this in the
major scale lesson, but now we know
across a much larger area, these interval relationships can now be
visualised across the entire fretboard.
Let's look at some examples, still using that large G major scale
pattern. Don't worry, you won't have to do this for every scale you
learn since many scales share the same core intervals...
Root - 3rd interval
Don't forget about how the open
strings may be part of this. For
example, the G string played open will be the root note G,
so that counts as a root note position (also, therefore, at the 12th
and 24th frets).
Root - 3rd - 5th intervals
These three intervals make up a major triad/arpeggio.
Root - 3rd - 5th - 7th intervals
We can see the root
is a semitone (1 fret) above the 7th.
Therefore, you'll know wherever the root appears, the 7th will be right
behind it. These four intervals make up a major 7th chord/arpeggio.
So, you get the idea - explore different interval relationships across
the wide scale patterns and relate them to the degree patterns
from earlier - this allows you to effectively "connect the boxes".
example, you could play a wide run, ending up inside the 6th position
where you could then play around just in that box pattern for a few
bars. This gives your soloing a dynamic edge, because both styles of
playing - boxed and wide movements - produce different sounds, even
though you're still playing the same scale!
To learn how to use this scale pattern musically and fluidly in your solos, I
highly recommend the Guitar Scale Mastery
that crucial next step.