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The Major Scale - The Five Patterns

Justinguitar.com on Scales

The Major Scale Patterns all over the guitar neck!

The most common system for learning the Major Scale (and the one I believe to be bar far the best) is the Five Pattern system shown on this page.

Please remember though that it's really important to learn how to USE a scale pattern before learning more patterns! Much better to be able to use Pattern 1 to MAKE MUSIC than it is to be able to play all 5 patterns up and down!

Video Guitar Lesson

*note this video will be updated shortly! I now have a separate video for each patterm in HD and much better!

 

Fingering

With each scale I have discussed my preferences for fingering the scale. There are many approaches and so long as you have a logical one, it will be fine. I have a 'system' that works for me, and might work well for you too, but you need to experiment and find out what works best for you!

I also added notes on alternative shapes and fingerings that I know are in common usage and my reasons for choosing the ones I do. There is no right and wrong.


17 Note Patterns

All these Patterns have 17 notes (3 notes on each string, except for one string which will have only 2 notes). This gives you the perfect number for practicing scales with a metronome because if done correctly with 4 notes between each metronome click (16th notes, semi quavers) you will always arrive back on the root note on the beat :)


Tips for learning scales quickly, easily and perfectly

• DO IT SLOWLY AND GET IT RIGHT
Don't make any mistakes. Play it 10 times perfectly at a very slow speed and you will find you can speed it up without making mistakes and developing bad habits you will have to correct later.

• USE YOUR FINGER TIPS
Do not let your fingers "fold", use the tips the whole time, and definitely NO barres at any point. Ever.

• ALWAYS START AND END ON THE LOWEST ROOT NOTE
This will help train your ears into hearing the sound of the scale, very important. So start on the lowest (in pitch) root note, play up as far as you can, then go back down as low as you can, and then back up to the root note.

• LEARN THE PATTERNS (SHAPES) ONE AT A TIME
It is very important that you learn all five of these patterns... eventually, but please learn to make music with them. Much much better to be able to use one scale shape and play a solo than play five up and down and not be able to do make music with any them :)


Root Notes

A root note gives the scale it's name. Look at any of the scales and arpeggios (and most chords) on this site and you will see an R on some notes. This is note that gives the scale it's note name.

For example
Look at Pattern 1 below and notice that the R is on the 6th string (played with the second finger). Whatever note you put that one becomes the name of the scale. So place your second finger at the 3rd fret and you will play the G Major Scale (because the note on the 3rd fret of the 6th string is the note G). Place the second finger on the 8th fret and you will play the C Major Scale (because the note at the 8th fret of the 6th string is the note C).


And if you are really serious...

DVD: Master The Major Scale
In this DVD I guide you through a whole system to help you make music from the Major Scales - all five positions, all over the guitar neck! This course will help you structure your learning of The Major Scale and give you many tools to make music with it. In this practical and fun journey we'll be exploring various fingering options, sequence studies, linking patterns and practice routines for each lesson.

Available in The Justinguitar Store.

 

The Scale Shapes

Major Scale Pattern 1

Pattern 1 (CAGED: E shape)

This is the most commonly learnt Major scale pattern. It is pretty easy to play. You should learn and get really good with this scale before you start to learn any more. Please.

When you practice make sure you start and end on the lowest root note (the red one with the R in it) because it will help you hear the true sound of the scale. When you play, play the notes in whatever order you like!

Alternatives
None that I know of. This is it.

Major Scale Pattern 2

Pattern 2 (CAGED: D shape)

This is sometimes referred to as the Dorian pattern because the lowest note is the second scale degree - but you're going to start on the root note and hear it as the Major scale, aren't you? :).

3/4 - this note should use the 4th finger when the scale is descending and the 3rd finger when it is ascending. I believe this is the best fingering and keeps you hand in the best position.

Alternatives
The most common alternative is to move the two notes behind the root (strings 3/4, played with first finger) to strings 5/4 and playing them with the little finger. I don't see this as a bad way of doing it but this way the third of the chord is closer to the chord shape (which is how I see scales).

Major Scale Pattern 3

Pattern 3 (CAGED: C shape)

This is sometimes referred to as the Phrygian pattern because the lowest note is the third scale degree - but you're going to start on the root note and hear it as the Major scale, aren't you? :).

Alternatives
None that I know of. This is it.

 

* MISTAKE on G string, should be Finger 3 not 4. Will get fixed asap - no matter how many times you check there's always a mistake or two!! doh.

Major Scale Pattern 4

Pattern 4 (CAGED: A shape)

Don't forget to start on the root note, not the lowest note...

Alternatives
The most common alternative is to move the last note on the second string (played with 4th finger) to the first string (then played with 1st finger). I prefer this position because it is very common to add that note (it is the 4th degree of the scale) to make a suspended sound and this is the place where you would add it.

Other alternative is to add a high B note to the top of the scale, but then it becomes a 3NPS (Notes Per String) scale which is another system that we are not doing here...

Major Scale Pattern 5

Pattern 5 (CAGED: G shape)

This is sometimes referred to as the Aeolian pattern because the lowest note is the sixth scale degree - but you're going to start on the root note and hear it as the Major scale, aren't you? :).

* - this note should use the 4th finger when the scale is descending and the 3rd finger when it is ascending. I believe this is the best fingering and keeps you hand in the best position.

Alternatives
The most common alternative is to move the note behind the root (strings 3, played with first finger) to strings 4 and playing it with the 4th finger. I don't see this as a bad way of doing it but this way there is a consistent method to fingering the scales - in relation to the other shapes above.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson ID: SC-204