Hi everyone,

I am a newish guitar player, in a nutshell can play a few songs and mess around here and there but recently got the idea to go back for a refresher and focus a bit on theory and the like since I never particularly dove into this important section.

My question pertains to scales and scale patterns. I have given myself a headache searching through tons of online material only to find that I keep coming up with seemingly different answers on the general "scale patterns."

As an example, some of the info I find starts a major scale pattern (let's say, G Major) like this, playing only two notes on the 6th string (at 3rd and 5th) then moving to the 5th string... http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-practice-major-scale-pattern-1-for-guitar.html

While others start like this http://www.guitarfriendly.net/major-guitar-scales-lesson-g-major-scale-positions/ and discuss 5 different patterns.

Let's just say I am wickedly confused at this point and would like some suggestions on how to conquer this mess of information in a constructive way.
Quote by RNFNRQueen
Hi everyone....

Hello!! Let me help you a bit here, scales are just set of musical notes ordered/arranged by fundamental frequency or pitch. Ascending scales are ordered by increasing pitch whereas descending scales are ordered by decreasing pitch.

So for any scale, the distance of one note from the other is important (which is called interval). Intervals can be Whole Step (from note A to B is an example of whole step interval) and Half Step (from note A to A# is an example of half step interval).

If you understand the idea of Whole Step and Half Step, then you will be able to construct scale with its interval sequence.

For major scale the sequence is W-W-H-W-W-W-H (W means Whole Step and H means Half Step). So the notes of G major scale is G A B C D E F# G.

Find the notes and construct the scale and you'll eventually come up with some handy scale pattern/shapes for the G major scale by your own. Learning and mastering the scales is important but composing something awesome with them will be the ultimate challenge.
Thanks for responding. I get the WWHWWWH idea, in which case the first link that I posted would seem accurate, and if so (as an example) if I wanted to play the A major scale then I would just start this same pattern on the 5th fret, or on the 8th fret for the C major - right?

Why do I keep seeing things about 5 different patterns?
Short answer is, because there's more than one place to play a note on the guitar.

Moved to MT
Actually called Mark!

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Quote by RNFNRQueen
Thanks for responding. I get the WWHWWWH idea, in which case the first link that I posted would seem accurate, and if so (as an example) if I wanted to play the A major scale then I would just start this same pattern on the 5th fret, or on the 8th fret for the C major - right?

Why do I keep seeing things about 5 different patterns?

In standard tuning, a block of the guitar neck covering 12 adjacent frets (e.g from fret 0 (open string, nut) to fret 11, from fret 1 to fret 12 etc.) can be broken into 5 regions based on octaves.

E.g if we look at the pitch E, it is created at the following pitch locations:

6th string, fret 0;
1st string, fret 0;
4th string, fret 2.
2nd string; fret 5;
5th string; fret 7;
3rd string; fret 9;

It all starts again at fret 12 in this case.

Region 1: scale root starts on 6th string or 1st string.
Region 2: scale root starts on 4th string
Region 3: scale root starts on 2nd string
Region 4: scale root starts on 5th string
Region 5: scale root starts on 3rd string.

In each case, the scale pattern mostly lies coincident and to the right (towards the guitar body) of its scale root. The right hand "edge" of a pattern is also the left hand "edge" of the neighbouring region. So, region 1's right edge shares with region 2's left edge.
Finally, region 5's right edge shares with the next occurence of region 1's left edge (which is 12 frets higher than the original region 1's left edge).

This is way more obvious with a diagram, but I can't upload it (too big).

Also, don't think of a scale as something that must be played in strict order up an down. It can be be, but that is absolutely not its main purpose. The main purpose is to give a palette of pitches to work with, based on intervals (as per the scale formula) made from the scale root. (e.g, blues scale = (1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7), so 0, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10 frets above your scale root if played on the SAME string)

From these pitches, chords can be constructed off each scale member, and put together into chord progressions designed to centre the listener's attention on the pitch of the scale root (so the piece sounds like its in the tonal centre of E or in G etc). Very simple formulae are used to make chords (e.g. choose every other scale member starting from a root, and stop choosing once you have made enough choices, say 3 or 4 pitches. e.g. choose every second other scale member, and so on. You can just make your own rules and if you're consistent the chords will sound like they have a structure. This is what theory is doing ... it's just a bunch of ideas invented / adopted commonly by well-known composers, that they found to work, to sound good, to allow a key to be established l... )

Melodies are constructed also from the scale, to go with the progression, again designed to centre the listener's attention on the pitch of the scale root.

Depending on scale choice (not scale root choice) this will create very different sounding music. (e.g blues versus natural minor).

The stuff about playing up and down a scale is purely for mechanical practise ... it gets mind-numbingly tedious to hear solos or melodies based on this way of playing scales ... that just sounds like exercises, which is what that is!

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Oct 10, 2014,
Quote by RNFNRQueen
Thanks for responding. I get the WWHWWWH idea, in which case the first link that I posted would seem accurate, and if so (as an example) if I wanted to play the A major scale then I would just start this same pattern on the 5th fret, or on the 8th fret for the C major - right?

Why do I keep seeing things about 5 different patterns?

You can play the A major scale (or any other scale) all over the neck. While I don't embrace idea of patterns (I prefer a more horizontal approach), it's useful for some people.

Anyway, you keep seeing stuff about 5 patterns because the guitar community decided at some point to organize various scales into 5 spots on the neck. There are so many places to play the A note that it's overwhelming to many new players. The idea of scale positions can help break it down for them.
I agree with the horizontal approach idea. It's much easier to visualise a scale if you choose a single string and learn the scale notes on it. You'll see and hear the WWHWWWH form directly.

Do the same with the other strings and you'll see where the 2-dimensional patterns you're struggling with now are coming from.
Quote by RNFNRQueen
Thanks for responding....

You are right about both A and C major. And as for the patterns, each note is repeated twice in every strings of the guitar and they are in different places on the fretboard (in standard tuning, notes of the 1st and 6th string remain same); thus notes of a scale is played in different ways on various positions of the fretboard and that's why different patterns are there for playing scales.

Download a fretboard diagram from Google image and see how the notes of a scale (take A or G major or whatever you like) can be played in different ways/patterns (they can be played on a single or multiple strings).
Quote by RNFNRQueen
Thanks for responding. I get the WWHWWWH idea, in which case the first link that I posted would seem accurate, and if so (as an example) if I wanted to play the A major scale then I would just start this same pattern on the 5th fret, or on the 8th fret for the C major - right?

Why do I keep seeing things about 5 different patterns?

Yes. Try saying the names of the notes outloud as you play them occasionally, especially when changing positions. You just want to make sure you get it in your head that C maj is C D E F G A B, NOT, 0 2 4 0 2 4 1 2

As for 5 patterns: correct me if Im wrong MT, but isnt this CAGED? I never learned CAGED because I learned what scales were on wind instruments and pianos, and didnt really need to learn them as "patterns" when I picked up fretted instruments.

Personally from what Ive seen, I am glad I never learned it.
Quote by bassalloverthe
Yes. Try saying the names of the notes outloud as you play them occasionally, especially when changing positions. You just want to make sure you get it in your head that C maj is C D E F G A B, NOT, 0 2 4 0 2 4 1 2

As for 5 patterns: correct me if Im wrong MT, but isnt this CAGED? I never learned CAGED because I learned what scales were on wind instruments and pianos, and didnt really need to learn them as "patterns" when I picked up fretted instruments.

Personally from what Ive seen, I am glad I never learned it.

The CAGED system is not the same as the 5 regions, at all. CAGED emphasises those particular chords (C, A ...). It's a very incomplete system

5 regions just gives you areas, based on scale root, for *any* chord or scale. So, you see all the related chords in a region to a scale in a region. You can see other scales related a scale in a region, and so on. If you join together 2 regions, you get 3 nps, but it's easier not to lose your way than learning 3 nps purely based on note names. Horizontal playing just traverses the regions, as you'd expect, but then when you want to break out into vertical legato, arpeggions etc, they can all be very easily visualised within whatver region you're in. If you want to make smooth connections between chord/key changes, playing the same *area* of the neck (which will contain 5 different regions, unrelated by octave), this is very simple visually also.

Personally, I don't believe in learning scales, chords etc by knowing the names of the pitches contained. I just think in terms of intervals and tensions and resolutions. I only use pitch names to find starting points on the guitar. That way I avoid cluttering my head with knowledge I'm not going to practically use (again, this is how *I* handle improvising, writing etc, and may not be for everyone). That gives me a lot more time to think on my feet when playing.
Quote by jerrykramskoy

Personally, I don't believe in learning scales, chords etc by knowing the names of the pitches contained. I just think in terms of intervals and tensions and resolutions. I only use pitch names to find starting points on the guitar. That way I avoid cluttering my head with knowledge I'm not going to practically use (again, this is how *I* handle improvising, writing etc, and may not be for everyone). That gives me a lot more time to think on my feet when playing.

Thanks for the input, everyone.

Do the patterns have to do with the strings they are played on? For example, I noticed that Pattern 1 starts on the root notes at the 6th string, all the way across for various notes.
the patterns here are starting from different notes in the scale. http://www.guitarfriendly.net/major-guitar-scales-lesson-g-major-scale-positions/

In general, for purposes of teaching etc, when someone says "G major scale," 99% of the time it implies the G major scale starting on the G note on the 3rd fret of the low E string. As the student learns more they might be taught all of the positions shown in the above link etc.

There are many different scale shapes for different purposes. The one that starts with 2 notes on the low E then 3 notes on the A string etc is just sort of based on it being convenient to finger and it stays in one position. (the 2nd finger doesnt really have to move from the 3rd fret etc)

A different approach would be a "3 note per string" pattern that uses 3 notes per string and therefore will involve more than one position.

Then of course you have scale shapes based on the starting note being on the 5th string or even 6th string etc.