These have got me really confused, I can't really grasp how they work because all the online resources I can find are helpless and don't really say much. Firstly, i can only find 5 positions for the diatonic scales, which is weird, since each position is based off a mode and there are seven modes that are commonly used, (excluding hypo- modes). Secondly, the positions I can find confuse me. They don't to follow the parent scale. Also, I would like to throw in the question of if the 5 or 7 or whatever forms are dynamic, meaning they can be used on any part of the fretboard. Ex. E Ionian on the 0th fret and use that same Ionian shape for G on the third

Forget modes...they will only confuse you at this point..which it appears they already have !

Ok...the first thing is..the guitar is an illogical instrument..the tuning makes little sense -- compared to a keyboard..where you can see the logic without even playing it

I would start with just the Key of C..as being there are no accidentals..sharps or flats..this will make it easier to locate notes in all positions

yes learning the positions is for many a confusing task..be patient and go slow

keep in mind...the notes do not move-that is the A note on the 6th string 5th fret is going to stay there,,this will make a lot more sense as you learn more about positions..

think of positions as training wheels at first..the purpose is to give you a guide post to locate the notes..

there are quite a few different ways to play a diatonic scale..the 5 positions are just a common accepted way to begin learning them and at the same time learning the fretboard

you will see at a certain point how the positions relate to each other..that is some of them use the same notes in the same locations but in different positions

so.. C scale C D E F G A B C

A string 3rd fret-C note- 5th fret D note--fingers 2 & 4
D string 2nd fret-E note-3rd fret F note- 5th fret G note--fingers 1 2 4
G string 2nd fret-A note-4th fret B note-5th fret C note--fingers 1 3 4

the C scale !!...note the finger pattern-- 2 4 / 1 2 4 / 1 3 4

go to the 8th fret 6th string-place your 2nd finger on the C note and use the same finger pattern and play the C scale there see if that makes sense

it it dosent--STOP and find out why

If it does..

place your 4th finger on the C note 8th fret

A string-5th fret D note-7th fret E note-8th fret F note-fingers 1 3 4
D string-5th fret G note-7th fret A note-fingers 1 3
G string-4th fret B note-5th fret C note -fingers 1 2

again note the finger pattern

notice how you are using some of the same note locations in this position as in the first scale .. in the first scale position you used your 2nd finger to play the D note .. in this position you are using your first finger to play the D note..and others

now there are ways to play this kind of stuff using 3 notes per string but don't try that unless you really know your positions and note locations first

stay with one octave until your very comfortable with the position then expand it into 2 octaves

see if you can find other positions for just a one octave C scale on different string sets

see if you can play a two octave scale using the scale positions I wrote out..

and..Ascending and; Descending..

hope this helps a bit...
play well

Last edited by wolflen at Jul 21, 2016,
Here's the thing about scales, the shapes aren't important, the NOTES are. In that it's the notes and intervals of a scale that determine where it's played and what it's called - NOT the shape, that's just an arbitrary quirk of the arrangement of notes on the guitar. Ultimately a scale is just a collection of pitches, and those pitches are exactly the same regardless of whether or not you're playing them on a guitar, an accordion, a trumpet or a kazoo.

If you know the notes on the guitar fretboard and know the notes of a particular scale then you'll understand the logic behind the shapes - if you don't then you'll struggle.
Actually called Mark!

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If you learn interval shapes (and grdually their sound), everything becomes clearer and simpler. Music is all about relationships BETWEEN pitches, but not the absolute pitches involved. For example, if you play a tune in pitch shifting software, and shift it up or down a few semitones while maintaining the speed, then the song is clearly the same song, just higher or lower ... all the pitches involved got shifted up or down the same amount, so the distances beween the picthes used in the tune stay the same, and hence the relationships were maintained, and hence the sound flavour of the tune was maintained.

An interval is always made from a pair of pitches. The distance apart in semitones determines the sound. A scale is a collection of intervals, where each pitch is found at some distance from the chosen start pitch for the scale. The guitar tuning determines how to locate pitches that form these intervals.

e.g. the major scale can be represented as (0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11), where each number represents the number of semitones away from the choice of start note. So, if you chose E (fret 0, open string) as the start, then, you can make E major by chosing the pitches at frets (0+0, 0+2, 0+4, 0+5 , 0+7, 0+9, 0+11 ). If you started at G (3rd fret, 6th string, say), then you make G major by chosing the pitches at frets (3+0. 3+2. 3+4, 3+5, 3+7. 3+9, 3+11). And so on.

Blues scale, similar: the pattern is (0,3,5,6,7,10). So, F blues , if we start at fret 8 on 5th string, is found at frets (8+0, 8+3, 8+5, 8+6, 8+7, 8+10).

(Formally, the patterm, written using correct musical symbols for intervals, is written as (1,b3,4,b5,5, b7) ... for example "b7" always means 10 semitones.

So, any scale that has a b7 in it (e.g. 1,2,b3,4,5,6,b7) will always have a pitch found 10 semitones above your choice of start note (the "tonic").

And so on. But there are other ways these same pitches can be found by crossing strings.

This is why intervals are very useful ... you learn them once, you apply them forever. Learning scales by note names is the hardest way to do it ... I certainly never ever think of note names, other than getting myself initially located. The problem magnifies hugely if you learn chords by name of pitches involved.

Suggest you read my lesson https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/a_deep_look_at_guitar_shapes.html

As for interval shapes, there are very few to learn,

But the really important point is learning how to use the intervals in the scale in a way that both makes it obvious what the start note is, and also what the scale is. If you play these in any old random order, you are very unlikeley to achieve either of these goals. For example, using E major, if I mostly play the pitches F# A and C#, and play E very infrequenltly, the music will sound like it centres around F#, and will have a strong minor feel to it. Whereas if I emphasise E G# and B, then E becomes obvious, as does the major'ness.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jul 8, 2016,
It's simple enough to do the "math" and figure out the scales without diagrams or tabs. You know the major scale interval pattern, you know the open strings on your guitar, and that's all you need. Do three notes per string and you'll have all the "positions" down. Start with C major.
The way I wrapped my head around scale shapes was to print out a fretboard diagram of scale in question, like the C Major scale - and then use a highlighter marker to fill in the notes going from one octave to the next only, such as the C note on the A string 3rd fret to the C note on the G string 5th fret - so that you have a clear visual map of a small 7 note pattern rather than a confusing mega map of every note on the scale all over the fretboard. Then print another diagram and fill in a different pattern starting on a different C note, like the C note on the E string to the C on the D string. Wolf above posted some great starter patterns, but feel free to organize your own - it makes it funner if you have some creative input in the shapes you use. As long as you're playing the right notes in the right order you have some flexibility.

It simplifies things a lot to only think of small 7 note clusters from root note to octave rather than learn large scale patterns than have are all over the place.

Start focusing immediately on naming the intervals of the major scale as you play them - 2nd, major 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th etc. since this is the key information for naming chords and distinguishing other scales and modes.