I started learning music theory not long ago, I've learnt how a major scale is constructed, you take a root note and then you choose next notes with this formula(?!) wwhwwwh where w is whole step and h is half step. now i'm on major pentatonic scales and all you have to do to "create" major pentatonic scale is to take 4th and 6th notes from a normal major scale and you get a maj. pentatonic scale... what I don't get is that finger movements are all the same, you just have to move up and down fretboard to play any scale? that's it? I thought it would take more work if that's it.
Last edited by luffy1999 at Nov 21, 2015,
well, for any specific position of a scale, yes, you can move the "shape" around to change key.

But a scale isn't just a finger pattern, it's a set of notes. You might notice that there are a lot more notes on the guitar than you play in any one or two octave run of a scale.

The most thorough way to practice scales is to play every scale note on the guitar, even if it means starting and ending on something other than the root. For example, when I practice C major, I start it like:
``````
e-------------------------------1-3-5-
B-------------------------1-3-5------
G-------------------0-2-4------------
D-------------0-2-3----------------
A-------0-2-3-----------------------
E-0-1-3----------------------------
``````

And then move up to the next position and descend, move up and ascend again, etc to the end of the fretboard and then turn around and go back down in a different key. That way you hit every C major note on the guitar instead and know where they are, even when you're not playing finger patterns.
Last edited by cdgraves at Nov 21, 2015,
thanks for the good tips cdgraves but i don't get one thing, how is that C major scale if it neither starts nor ends with C note?
Quote by luffy1999
thanks for the good tips cdgraves but i don't get one thing, how is that C major scale if it neither starts nor ends with C note?

Scales are typically taught in the Root-to-Root format, but in real-world settings, a scale can start and end on any note.

I would suggest taking a look at harmony, like what keys are and how chords are used to bolster your understanding of scales. A common pitfall for many self-taught guitarists is focus on scales instead of harmony. A good understanding of harmony gives you a solid foundation and a better idea of what scales actually are. They're not just patterns on a fretboard, that's just how a guitars work. Don't let the guitar limit your understanding of theory.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^

"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.

Last edited by rockingamer2 at Nov 21, 2015,
You're getting some good advice already, but to add to the understanding of "what scales actually are" I would highly recommend studying intervals and figuring out practical uses for them. After all, scales and chords are just sets of intervals.

For example, a very common way to finish a melody is to play the major 7th interval and then the tonic right next to it. In C Major, you'd be playing a B note and then the C note right next to it. It's also important to note the "distance" you're travelling note to note, as well as the note's position in a scale. Once you get the hang of that, you should start to notice that chords are basically doing the same thing just with more notes.
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Quote by cdgraves
well, for any specific position of a scale, yes, you can move the "shape" around to change key.

But a scale isn't just a finger pattern, it's a set of notes. You might notice that there are a lot more notes on the guitar than you play in any one or two octave run of a scale.

The most thorough way to practice scales is to play every scale note on the guitar, even if it means starting and ending on something other than the root. For example, when I practice C major, I start it like:
``e-------------------------------1-3-5-B-------------------------1-3-5------G-------------------0-2-4------------D-------------0-2-3----------------A-------0-2-3-----------------------E-0-1-3----------------------------``

And then move up to the next position and descend, move up and ascend again, etc to the end of the fretboard and then turn around and go back down in a different key. That way you hit every C major note on the guitar instead and know where they are, even when you're not playing finger patterns.

Since I've noodled around with C major quite a fair amount of time (don't HAVE to be C major in this example but..) I can confirm that,by going out of the scale patterns and actually forget about "E string-8-9" or "G string 8-10-11",try to instead think about the n otes when you play them. As the above example points out you'll start at a an E and end at a G,you're still in the major scale however you practice the notes so long as you're playing to a backing track in C major or if you play that backing track in your head (lol).

You can also start with E F G as the above example but you can end on the C or D at the high e strong, 8th and 10th fret respectively. It really doesn't matter (there might be something about modes but for the love of guitar god leave that be from this thread xD).

You can even "invent" your OWN fingering patterns that suit you! Or licks.

Bottom point is,don't get too hung up on numbers,focusing on what notes you play and how "diverse" your scale playing is will in the end yield better results imho. It'll be easier to orient yourself around the fretboard I believe.

I might be overstepping my boundaries as a newb but if anything's wrong up there ^ I feel positive the Overlords () of music theory will climb down from their high thrones and correct me

Happy practice!
A scale formula (like wwhwwwh), when applied from any pitch, selects all the other pitches involved at the various distances from the choice of the first pitch. As Jim says above, what's really happening is the formula identifies intervals from some arbitrary pitch ... major scale has the intervals (1,2,3,4,5,6,7), major blues scale has the intervals (1,2,b3,3,5,6) and so on.

(More about intervals here: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/columns/music_theory/drastically_cut_learning_time_with_intervals.html, then https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html)

So, your start choice combined with the scale formula selects a palette of pitches to (mostly) use for some section (or all) of a tune. Chords can be built up from these, and melody created from these. A scale is a hence just a source of notes to make music with, that has a particular "flavour" to it. Change the scale TYPE (the formula), the flavour changes. But just changing your choice of start pitch with the same scale type (e.g. sliding the scale up the neck) doesn't change the flavour ... just the overall effect is higher or lower.

From a mechanical, practise point of view, then scales are often practised up and down, but this is for familiarity, but not really for making music. Even when practising, it's much more important to be aware what intervals are present (each has its own sound contribution to the overall scale), and get to know the effect of using each of these as a landing point in a melody or solo.

The way the pitches are used in the chords and melody are done in a way to make the ear aware of that initial choice of pitch to start the scale at. This too occurs due to the interval interactions. For example, play a Db against a C major triad, and you are very likely to want to hear C pretty quickly. In a similar way, a song in C major is very likely to make you (knowingly or not) become aware of C in particular, and the pitches in the C major triad. How's that done ... stress those pitches (play them longer, louder, at points in time that stand out more (e.g. 1st beat of bar) ...)
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 22, 2015,
Quote by luffy1999
thanks for the good tips cdgraves but i don't get one thing, how is that C major scale if it neither starts nor ends with C note?

It's because a scale is just a set of notes regardless of order. You can start and end the scale on any scale tone and it stays the same scale.

Here's an illustrative example:

Re-order the following notes to make a major scale: A F# E G C D B
Quote by cdgraves
It's because a scale is just a set of notes regardless of order. You can start and end the scale on any scale tone and it stays the same scale.

Here's an illustrative example:

Re-order the following notes to make a major scale: A F# E G C D B

The order doesn't necessarily matter, but the emphasis of the notes from the scale does (otherwise, a different sound can be brought out. e.g. A minor versus C maj).
^ And also what the other instruments are playing. You can't make a C major backing track sound like A minor, no matter what notes you emphasize over it. Key is all about harmony, and if you play over chords, the chords are what dictate the key you are in. If you play alone, your melody creates the harmony.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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If you want you could start that shape cdgraves gave you on the third fret A string then descend through the scale to the open low E string then back up to the root C on the third fret A string, then ascend through the scale up an octave to the C on the first fret B string then continue ascending up to the G on the third fret E string then descend back down to the root C on the first fret of the B string.

That way you would be starting and ending the scale on the root note C.
Si
Quote by luffy1999
thanks for the good tips cdgraves but i don't get one thing, how is that C major scale if it neither starts nor ends with C note?

We have a problem with common terminology here. Mainly, that there is no common name for a scale that doesn't include one of the notes in its name (and therefore biases our thinking towards that note).

Ideally the bunch of notes (the "pitch set") normally known as the "C major scale" would be called something like the "natural notes", "white notes of the piano", or "the no-sharps and no-flats scale". Obviously those are all a little clumsy!
We could just spell them, as "ABCDEFG". But then some people would think we mean "the A minor scale" or "A aeolian mode", just because we started the list with A.

The problem is that those 7 notes might have any note (except one) as a keynote, "tonic" or tonal centre. In any piece of music, that might not be the first note, although it will usually be the last note. But mainly it will be the note that "feels like home", like a kind of gravitational centre of the tune.

With the pitch set ABCDEFG, it so happens the C is the note most commonly used as the keynote, which gives the whole set a "major key" sound: hence the common name for those 7 notes, "C major scale".
And because those notes have no sharps or flats, it's usually considered a beginner scale, at least when studying theory. (That's also true historically. Those 7 notes came first, and sharps and flats came later. The reason A was called "A" was nothing to do with which note was keynote; the major scale was invented later.)

As for "starting note", that's an unhelpful phrase. It can mean 3 different things:

1. The first note we write when writing out the scale (normally alphabetically upwards), or when learning and practising it for the first time. Commonly this is also the "keynote". We tend to learn a scale by starting and ending with its keynote in order to help us hear the governing effect of that note..
But once we know the scale, we can (and do) play the notes in any order we like.

2. The first note of the melody of a piece of music, or of any melodic or improvised phrase. This can be anything, but is usually linked to whatever chord is there at that moment. It probably won't be the keynote of the music, and it might not be the root of the chord.

3. The lowest note of a guitar fret pattern. This simply depends on where on the fretboard we choose to play. (All scales run all over the neck. Any scale can be played anywhere we like; we just need the right "pitch set".)

These can all be (and often are) three different notes. A piece of music in the key of C major might begin on a G note, and we might use a scale pattern with B as lowest note. C is definitely the "home note", however, which is an effect we will hear, regardless of what the other two notes are.
Last edited by jongtr at Nov 23, 2015,
When you're doing "whole instrument" scales, it may be more useful to think in terms of sharps/flats rather than the tonic, since you could change the imaginary tonic by humming a note while you play. You could be practicing all phrygian scales if you want, or all lydian, or whatever, and it'd be exactly the same on the instrument. I assume people don't practice scales with other music going on, but if you want to reinforce a particular mode, you can just hum the root note while you run the scale. Hum F over a scale with no sharps/flats, and you're doing F lydian. Hum a B over the same scale and it's B locrian. The point is that when you get away from practicing scales root-to-root, you don't need to think of all those things as separate scales.

The idea is to think of scales as the whole set of notes at once rather than a linear thing with a specific order and specific start/stop point. After a while, the fretboard becomes like a piano where you can just see all the scale tones laid out.

It's almost easier to say that you're practicing a Key rather than a scale.