I've been doing some reading on 'music theory' (albeit very basic) and have a few questions. I feel like I'm close to finally understanding it all but can't put the final pieces together.

Anyways, I know the pentatonic shape (boxes is what I was taught) which would be 0-3, 0-2, 0-2, 0-2, 1-3, 0-3 for the first box in standard tuning (and 5-8, 5-7, 5-7, 5-7, 5-8, 5-8 for the second box). This is the scale for the key of a?

Now, assuming my above logic was correct, if you were to move those boxes up two frets (closer to the pickups) would those same shapes be the scale for the key of b?

How do you determine what the key of a given scale is? I know it has to do with the root note, which seems to stay in the same position of a relative scale. (ie. the root of the scale in A is on 5th fret of the low E string, so in the key of B, it would be on the 7th fret of the low E). Does the root note only mean that the note will be the note of the key?

Does the same basic shape apply in different tunings (not drop tunings, but D-standard or C-standard)?

Sorry if my thoughts were confusing but that's how I've been making sense of it so far. It's really like trying to learn a different language, but not an easy one like Spanish or French (more like Russian).

thanks
...first off, this is not music theory. this is just learning your instrument.

yes, what you've given is based off of A. if you shift it up two frets, it would be based off of B. don't say key. scales do not have keys. they're just collections of pitches. we speak of scales as having root notes, not keys.

does the same shape apply in other tunings? yes, in other standard tunings. but you would do well to learn notes and not just fret numbers. that's touching on what music theory really is (and that's the first thing there is to it -- notes).

you should read up more on theory before you can really understand the answer to "how do you determine what the key of a given scale is?", because for now, all you can do is move shapes around.
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Your first "box shape", the 0-3 0-2 etc. one isn't a pentatonic scale. The only scale I can think of that it fits in is the chromatic scale. One number is off. It should be either this:
``````
e|---------------------0-3-
B|-----------------1-3-----
G|-------------0-2---------
D|---------0-2-------------
A|-----0-[U][B]3[/B][/U]-----------------
E|-0-3---------------------
``````

Which is C Major pentatonic or A Minor pentatonic.

Or else this:
``````
e|---------------------0-3-
B|-----------------[U][B]0[/B][/U]-3-----
G|-------------0-2---------
D|---------0-2-------------
A|-----0-2-----------------
E|-0-3---------------------
``````

Which is G Major pentatonic or E Minor pentatonic.

Your second shape is C Major/A Minor

And you're also missing a shape between the two:
``````
e|---------------------3-5-
B|-----------------3-5-----
G|-------------2-5---------
D|---------2-5-------------
A|-----3-5-----------------
E|-3-5---------------------
``````

Now, before I go any further, you should forget about the boxed shapes. Learn the notes of the fretboard and learn scales as a series of notes and intervals. It helps immensely.

With that said, the shapes are moveable. If you play your second shape starting on the 10th fret of the E string for instance, it would be F Major/D Minor pentatonic. And that also applies to alternate tunings as long as the relationship between the strings is unchanged (major 3rd between the G and B strings, perfect 4th between the rest).

The root note will determine part of the name of the key. If the root note is C, you know you are playing C something. What determines whether it's major or minor or diminished etc, is the notes and intervals that follow it. For instance, if it's major, the interval pattern is W W H W W W H where W is a whole step (2 frets) and H is a half step (1 fret). Minor on the other hand is W H W W H W W.

However, the root note will not always be the note you start on. It's always the tonal center. It's the note that the song naturally want to reside to. As a result, looking at the last note or chord of a song will usually help you find the key.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
Last edited by Junior#1 at Feb 20, 2012,
I guess you're right I just didn't know what else to call it.

Sorry, but I got a little more confused...
So when someone refers to a song that is in the key of C, what does that mean exactly? How do you determine what the root note of a given scale is? How would you go about choosing a scale for a song?

As far as notes are concerned, this is what has been confusing me. The E string on the 3rd fret is G. Since that is only 1.5 steps up, why is it two whole notes higher? Because then, on the 7th fret it is A (which makes perfect sense to me).

thanks again
Quote by infraredz
I guess you're right I just didn't know what else to call it.

Sorry, but I got a little more confused...
So when someone refers to a song that is in the key of C, what does that mean exactly? How do you determine what the root note of a given scale is? How would you go about choosing a scale for a song?

As far as notes are concerned, this is what has been confusing me. The E string on the 3rd fret is G. Since that is only 1.5 steps up, why is it two whole notes higher? Because then, on the 7th fret it is A (which makes perfect sense to me).

thanks again

Since E# and F are enharmonically the same (for beginner purposes they are the same note) there are only 3 tones in between. Don't ask why, that's just the way it is.

As for what determines the key of a song, it's where the harmony resolves to; which note or chord feels like the most stable. If you're playing a pretty standard set of chords you can go C-D-G (all open major chords) and the G will feel very 'final' and you won't feel like there needs to be any more movement when you land on it. If you do that once through and then go C-D again when you land on the D it should feel like there's something missing, something you need to do to make it feel finished - it's unresolved.

It can get a bit complicated but for someone who's only just starting to learn theory that's the really important part.

Choosing the scale for a song is very simple for most purposes; you look at the chords and notes that are already in the song and pick a scale that has those in them. Going by the above example (chords C-D-G) you'd go with G major because all the chords come from that scale. Change the chords and you'd have a different harmony so you may need a different scale, if you use Cm-Dm-Gm that's all from the G minor scale. If you start getting in to more complex forms of music it gets a lot harder and you start needing to look at changing scale as the chords change but for now you really don't need to worry about that - some people play for decades and still never get that idea down.
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Quote by infraredz

As far as notes are concerned, this is what has been confusing me. The E string on the 3rd fret is G. Since that is only 1.5 steps up, why is it two whole notes higher? Because then, on the 7th fret it is A (which makes perfect sense to me).

thanks again

E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E

That's how notes are laid out on any instrument. There's only a half step between E and F, and B and C. To find out why, you'd have to go back in time. I imagine that it was probably written how it is to use as few letters as possible. It could have potentially once been:
A A# B B# C C# D D# E E# F F#
Using only the first 6 notes. But at the same time, if there was a sharp or flat for ever letter, it would be impossible to know where you were on a piano as there would be no breaks between the black keys. It would just be black and white alternating with no irregularities to tell you what note you were on. But, all of that is just speculation. I don't know for sure why it is how it is.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
I don't really like the music theory.