I am primarily a self-taught guitarist, only using online resources to help me out. I feel like my technique is where I want it at for the moment, but I guess I'm kind of hung up on the whole scale thing. I like to work on lead/rhythm equally, but when I go to solo I just kind of get a headache. Let me describe why, and go into how I taught myself scales.

First off, I have learned the A, C, D, E, F, and G major scales all over the fretboard as well as their modes and relative pentatonic scales. Then I have learned the A, B, C, C#, D, E, F, and F# minor scales all over the fretboard as well as their modes and relative pentatonic scales. I realize that some of those are the same scales, but I thought I'd break it down into how I look at things in terms of either major or minor. I know how to play in the modes, as well as what notes bring out their sound.

When I went to learn scales and such I came up with my own way which is from what I've read called the "pentamodal method". For instance learn your F# minor pentatonic scale and then add in the rest to get the F# minor scale, as well as the b5 to get that bluesy sound or whatever else. Because I learned the F# minor scale over the top of the F# minor pentatonic scale (or any other for that matter) whenever I want to do that common rock solo sound of mixing the minor pentatonic/blues scale with the Dorian mode (natural 6) I start to get confused. I get confused because when I see the F# minor pentatonic scale I also see the rest of the F# minor scale. Not the F# Dorian scale which is what I'm wanting. What I've done to "combat" that is just try and move all of the b6's up a half-step to bring out that Dorian sound, while still seeing all the minor pentatonic shapes to help me get that sound. I just find myself confused. I'd find it easier just to play F# Dorian and experiment with it to bring out any pentatonic sounds than to try and raise and lower pitches on the fly and confuse myself and maybe miss notes. However, when I go to play F# Dorian all I can really see is E major/C# minor and their pentatonic scales because that's how I learned them. Everything in terms of major or minor I suppose.

I find myself even more confused when I have a major pentatonic thing going and try to do some Mixolydian (b7) stuff as well as any other "out" notes. Again, if I'm playing D major pentatonic, and want that Mixolydian sound the way I do things now is to try and flat all the 7s on the fly because I am "seeing" the D major scale. Then it's even more confusing when you add in the b3 and all you can do with it. I guess that's called going to the parallel minor. Again, I could just play in D Mixolydian and try to get some pentatonic sounds out of it because you can find the D major pentatonic scale within D mixolydian, but when I'm playing in D Mixolydian I am thinking in terms of G major/E minor and their pentatonic scales. NOT in terms of D like I should be. See what I mean?

I'm sure I haven't necessarily tought myself wrong, I just need some advice. The whole "pentamodal method" was really helpful to me in learning the scales I wanted and how to blend them with pentatonics. I'm probably just looking at things the wrong way. I like to think that I'm somewhat educated on things when it comes to stuff like this, but I just am kind of at a loss for what to do. I have learned all the scales/notes I have wanted to for the time being. I realize I haven't learned all the scales out there, but B major just isn't that common nor is D# minor. They seem to be tougher scales to work with, and I'd just as soon tune my guitar different or capo than learn a scale that doesn't necessarily work as well on the guitar. Meaning you can't always take advantage of the open strings.

I'm trying to better myself as a player and feel like I have a handle on things. Trying to raise and lower notes on the fly just doesn't seem the right way to go about things. I've worked on doing that a while though and can do fine, but if things start to speed up, or there is a key change, or I just decide to jam to a different song, again I find myself wholly confused. Then also if I'm trying to keep up with chord progressions or use arpeggios it gets even more confusing.

Anyways, I think that's all I have for now. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
really, it is just practice. you can think of it has sharpening or flattening notes, or just knowing the notes in a certain mode, or something like that, don't exactly know how to word that.
even for someone like me who loves helping people with theory, this is just a wall of text. put a tl;dr on it.

but to be helpful from what i did read: it seems you have the same problem i have/had. you know the shapes, you know the scales, you know how they relate to each other. most importantly, you know how to build them, but are having difficulties sticking with certain modes. this is completely natural. modes are one of the hardest concepts for a musician to master. just keep practicing, there is no easy way out.
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They seem to be tougher scales to work with, and I'd just as soon tune my guitar different or capo than learn a scale that doesn't necessarily work as well on the guitar. Meaning you can't always take advantage of the open strings.

though it's true you can't take advantage of the open strings all the time, this is a bad attitude, quite frankly. it shouldn't have to do with what's common, but rather with your ability and fluency on the instrument (and with music in general). if you concern yourself only with that which is common, you're going to be a common guitarist. don't take that route.

first off, i can tell you this - you're using the wrong organ. you shouldn't be too concerned with what you see, but rather with what you hear.

instead of worrying about seeing shapes and patterns and scales on the fretboard, concern yourself more with notes. instead of thinking "i can play the notes in this scale", think "i can play these notes". if you limit yourself to notes in a scale, you'll only have those notes. if you think of the notes individually, you'll be able to include chromatics and non-diatonic notes with ease.

this type of thinking is generally more effective in all scenarios - particularly over chord changes, and especially over non-diatonic chord changes therein. ideally, you should know the notes in every scale (by which i mean major or minor, i'm not talking B phrygian dominant - comparatively few people would know the notes in that, particularly among the people who *claim* to use it).

seems to me that your current method isn't too far from what i'm suggesting, considering that you're able to flatten 7ths on the fly.
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You built yourself a system of visual shifting patterns that while useful to see things, it becomes really clunky as you've noticed. Now that you know how the scales go all over the neck, learn how to read music and like Aeolian said, start focusing on notes instead of frets. Learning how to read sheet music will force you to find practical positions on the guitar to play certain stuff. Tab doesn't give you that, since you're given the exact frets to hit.

If you're only looking at notes, maybe a certain song in Cmajor is uncomfortable for you to play from the C in the A string and you would rather play it in another position. You'll start getting used to things like that and in a short time you'll be looking at the notes rather than the patterns.
You learned everything as it related to the Pentatonic, and now you're worked into a corner, understandable.

Believe me, I think it took about 10 years before my system finally came together. You'll have to just sit down and keep working it out. When you develop youre own system, you pretty much got to keep going, if thats all you have, and work it out for yourself. In the end you may end up with something like I did, or you may find that the DIY method really did more harm than good, or else you'll work the bugs out yourself. I honestly cant see any help for you if you are building your system, other than taking what you know and figuring out how to work the bugs out.

When you are someone that does it your own way you get the good and the bad with it, and hey, thats how we learn. Experience is the best teacher. Ive been refining my original 10 year conclusions for close to 15 years now....it always poses new challenges or else envelops new ways of understanding thing that werent there to begin with.

Welcome to the wild frontier, friend.

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I am primarily a self-taught guitarist, only using online resources to help me out.

IMO, thats what's holding you back. I mean there is alot of information on the internet, but you really have to sift through the shit and without a guide thats pretty tough. What you often end up with is bits and pieces of information.... some correct some not...... lots of misconceptions and myths mixed in. Lots of the information is given by people that shouldn't be giving advice in the 1st place.... and they just read it on some other website..... from another person that may or may not be qualified to give advice.

it can leave a person pretty confused....
Based on your post Id say the evidence of this is obvious.

I would suggest getting a teacher and/or taking a class....

learn to read music
build up a repertoire
study theory with a teacher (privately or in a class)

guidance.... organization..... good info given by a credible source. THATS what you need.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Jun 22, 2010,