The Ultimate Guide To Guitar. Chapter II: 2 Scales - Diatonic Scales In Practice

author: ZeGuitarist date: 12/08/2008 category: the guide to

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"Scales - Diatonic Scales In Practice"

Welcome back all! More music theory is upon us! Last week, we took a deep plunge into scales theory, and we have learned very much already! You now all know how to construct scales, both Major and Minor, using the correct intervals. We learned that both Major and Minor scales are defined by the intervals between the notes used, and that every Major scale is "related" to a certain Minor scale because they are constructed of the same notes. What you don't know yet, though, is how to convert all this theoretical information into practice... How do you play a scale on the guitar? What are the fretboard shapes for Major scales, and for Minor? And how do you use scales to improvise over songs? You know all the theory already, so it's time to answer all of the above questions is this article, and put our scales to practice! So, a little overview of what we're going to learn today: 1. The scale shapes: the 7 positions of the Major (and relative Minor) scales! 2. The caged shapes: memorizing the scale positions made easier: the CAGED system! 3. Improvisation: how to play solos in Major and Minor songs! So let's get started! You've got a lot of memorizing to do...

The Scale Shapes

We learned last time how scales are formed out of notes with certain distances between them, or "intervals". Today, we are going to localize those notes on the fretboard. You will find that intervals will, again, play a very important role in the scale shapes! I'll start off with showing you the entire fretboard, and indicating the positions of the notes in the Major scale. Take a look at the image below! This image shows all the notes in the F Major scale (and relative D Minor scale) all over the fretboard. However, the title of the image says "Major and Minor Scale Shapes"... That's right, the shape provided can be used for every Major and related Minor scale! How does that work? Well, like we learned in the previous chapter, scales are defined by the intervals between the notes in it. So, we take a certain root, and from there we can construct the entire scale using the intervals we learned... In the picture, the root is F: you can see that the note on the 6th string at the 1st fret, which is F, is used as the root. The positions of all the other notes are then found relative to the chosen root. But, suppose we just moved the root note from the 1st fret to the 3rd fret? The root would now be G... If you just move all other notes up 2 frets as well, you have all the notes in the G Major scale: you'd be playing in G Major! So, if you memorize this shape you'll be able to play both the Major and the Minor scales of every single root note! Just move the entire shape up and down the fretboard, depending on the root you choose... For example, in the picture the key is F (root at the 1st fret on the 6th string), but we can move the entire shape up 7 frets to the key of C (root at the 8th fret on the 6th string). Remember that when you do this, every note past the 12th fret can be found 12 frets lower as well. So, if a note is located at the 13th fret, it will be on the 1st fret as well. A note on the 14th fret can be found at the 2nd fret too, and so on... Of course, you're all looking at this scheme right now and thinking: holy crap, how the hell am I going to memorize all these positions? The answer: divide and conquer! The scheme I provided can be divided into 7 separate shapes or "positions": one for every note in the scale. It's much easier to memorize the positions of the notes using these shapes, than memorizing the whole fretboard at once! Below, I'll summarize the 7 positions for you. A. Position I: the Ionian position The first position is a very useful position: the first note in it is the Major root note. Here's the shape of Position I, also called the "Ionian position"... As you can see from the picture, the first note is the Major root... This makes the Ionian shape a very useful one! You can choose any root, locate it on the 6th string, and voila, you know where the Ionian shape is located... And therefore, all other shapes too! The Ionian shape can also be called the "Major" position, because it defines where the root is. Let's move on... B. Position II: the Dorian position The second position is 2 frets higher than the first. It's called the "Dorian" shape and it starts from the second note in the scale (that's why it's the second position!). Here it is: As you can see, some of the notes from the previous position are in this one as well, and some of the notes from the next position too. All the positions overlap! On to the next... C. Position III: the Phrygian position The third position is called the "Phrygian" position and starts with the 3rd note in the Major scale. It's 2 frets up from the Dorian position, and 4 frets from the Ionian (root) position. The shape: D. Position IV: the Lydian position The "Lydian" position is the 4th position and it starts with the 4th note of the Major scale. It's only 1 fret up from the Phrygian position, because the 4th note in the Major scale is only 1 semitone up from the 3rd note. It's 5 frets up from the Ionian (root) position. Here is the shape: E. Position V: the Mixolydian position The fifth position or "Mixolydian" position, starting on the 5th note of the Major scale, is positioned 2 frets higher than the Lydian position (7 frets from the Ionian). The shape: Two to go still... F. Position VI: the Aeolian position The Aeolian shape is 2 frets up from the Mixolydian shape, and 9 frets from the Ionian shape. This position is, along with the Ionian position, a very important one. You may have noticed (read: should have noticed) by now, that in every scale the root notes for both Major and Minor keys are indicated. The Ionian shape was the one that started with the Major root... Well, the Aeolian shape is the one that starts on the 6th note of the Major scale: the Minor root! So, you can use the Aeolian position just like the Ionian position, as an orientation point: choose a Minor root note, find it on the 6th string, and you know the position of the Aeolian shape, and therefore all the other shapes too! Note: Notice how this shape resembles a shape that is already very familiar to you: the Minor Pentatonic shape! That's right, the shape of the A Minor Pentatonic is based on this shape... If you take A, which is at the 5th fret on the 6th string, as a Minor root, you are playing in A Minor. If you then leave the 2nd and 6th notes of the Minor scale out of the shape, you have the A Minor Pentatonic! G. Position VII: the Locrian position The last of the 7 positions is called the "Locrian" position, and starts from the 7th note in the Major scale. It's 2 frets up from the Aeolian position and 11 frets from the Ionian position. And voila! You now know all 7 positions in which you can play solos! For some practical tips on how to use them for soloing, see the last paragraph of this article... But first, a second method of memorizing the positions of all the scales' notes on the fretboard. This method uses 5 "boxes", based on the position of 5 important chord shapes...

The CAGED Shapes

• Try and memorize the separate positions first. It doesn't matter if you want to use the 7 scale shapes, or the 5 CAGED boxes, because both cover all the notes on the fretboard. I do, however, recommend you to learn all 7 scale shapes, because you will be needing them later on in the Advanced section of this guide! You can relate the 7 scale shapes to the CAGED chord shape positions as well, because the 5 CAGED boxes are, in fact, part of the 7 scale shapes...
• After you successfully memorized all the shapes, just pick a root note and play the Major scale of that root in every shape. For example, you take root note F, and play the first position (Ionian) up and down, then go 2 frets up to the Dorian position and play it up and down, and so on... This will help you memorize the sequence of the shapes. It's ok if you learn this for one root note first, e.g. you only learn where all the shapes are located for the F Major scale. Then, when you can blindly find all the notes in every shape, just move everything up or down the fretboard when you want to play in a different key.
• Try to say the names of the notes you are playing. This will help you remember the notes used in the scale. This isn't necessary or vital, but it may prove very helpful once you get it down! Note, however, that learning all the notes on the fretboard takes a LOT of time...
• Once you practiced this enough and are able to find all the positions of the notes in the scale for yourself, it's time to put our knowledge of scales to use: we are going to play our own solos in Major and Minor!