Hi UG folks. So I am an untrained guitarist but I have been playing (consistently) for about four years now. I like to consider myself intermediate in the sense that I can move my fingers accurately and quickly on the neck, learn other "intermediate" ranked songs, and know a relatively large amount of chords just through experience.

My downfall is that I lack the knowledge of music. I have been trying to teach myself the basics of music theory, and although I understand them, I am having trouble applying them to the guitar (I.E. what scales to use when, what notes are where, etc.)

I have routed this downfall is in two reasons: (1) I don't have the major scale patterns memorized and (2) I don't have the notes of the guitar neck memorized.

Do you guys have any other tips that can help take me off of this plateau from meritocracy to expert? What's the best/most efficient way to memorize the finger patterns? What else should I learn?

By ear.

That is the one answer I have of which you can be certain it will give you the quickest way to properly put any scale down into your subconscious to the extent that you can effectively, musically, use it. You will automatically put identities and definitions to the notes, and learn to adjust that to context. A simple method would be to take a minor or a major chord, and learn to play those notes as an arpeggio. Then learn to add in notes between those three/four chordnotes and after that find out what scale coincides with the sounds you've tried to create.

I'm not often this brief, but unfortunately it is rather late, so perhaps I can elaborate tomorrow.

Good luck
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lucasroy37 start with C major scale and A minor scale- those two will show you where the basic notes are.

Then play the C major scale using chords ( harmonized major scale)

It all starts with that.
Remember that every major scale uses the same pattern (W W H W W W H - W = whole step = 2 frets, H = half step = 1 fret), so once you have learned one major scale, learning the others should be much easier.

And as FretboardToAsh said, remember to use your ears.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


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I started with the CAGED system. Had to memorise where the roots were and how to figure out what the key was.

Nowadays it's just by ear, but it was good to have shapes and guides at the start.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Well then, I've some time so I'll try to elaborate on that, somewhat crude, message I posted earlier.

The one thing I see in every guitarist I've taught, is that the moment they know a scale's pattern through visual memorization, they stop making music and start... well, doing the stepladder. They walk up, then down, and move on to the next staircase. If you want to make music, I've a few tricks for you that you can try. That path can however take a bit longer, and actually requires some personal effort instead of copy- and pasting what you're told. If you'd rather just know all the notes, then by all means, search the internet for 'scales+guitar' and you'll find all the patterns you could want.

As for what I'd advise you to do, is to play a chord, for example a C. Slowly strum it, or pick the strings separately. Next, pick the high e-string and play all the notes that 'match' the notes you've heard in the chord by just trying different frets up that string.



So like this. You can continue it further up by yourself.

The second step is that you go to any position where you've found notes that fit and try to play those same notes, along with the notes you'd normally have to stretch for, on the string that is below or above it. In this case, you'd normally not be able of reaching the 3rd fret in the 8th position, the following example would be one solution.


In the 12th position, you wouldn't be able to reach anything below it, so the same would apply here, just as it'd do in the 3rd position.



From here, try to expand the same notes so that you can play it on all the strings, in those positions that you find comfortable, so that you can play this over every string. The more perceptive of you have by now no doubt seen that we're actually just playing more chords.


From there, it is up to you to try adding notes in between that fit (as in, don't sound disruptive over the given chord) and that you can reach in those positions, and again try to find them and add them to your arsenal over all the strings in the positions that you prefer. That sounds perhaps a bit strange, but simply put this is what it comes down to. It teaches you to learn to understand music through your ears, rather than your eyes. And we generally don't use the latter for making music.

This is a small start, and I realize that my methods are somewhat odd compared to what is common, and not easily taught over the internet. But I can guarantee you without a doubt, that every note you learn this way, is one that becomes a part of your being and identity as a musician and you'll never forget it or use it improperly. It is also the one way to learn to play music that is EXACTLY at your level of playing because you're using your own level to gauge whether something is better played one way or another. Rather than requiring you to do technical feats you're not capable of, or would have to strain overly much for to the extent you'd not be able to apply it properly anyway. Which is good, because in the end it is you teaching yourself music. Not some bloody book that can't listen, or respond.

Good luck
Wise Man Says: The guitar is obviously female, she's got hips, breasts... and a hole.
UG's Flamenco Club
Last edited by FretboardToAsh at Nov 2, 2016,
I don't get the fascination with C major, nor the fascination of #s and bs ... that's just for music notation.

You can get a VERY long way with a knowledge of intervals, visual and aural recognition of these, and recoginising them in tab. (Unless you;re aiming for a situation where notation is put in front of you and you have to play it off the bat)

Major scale is major scale ... a specific set of intervals from a given starting pitch.

Music is all about relationships between pitches ... knowing the absolute pitches (C2, E5 ...) is necessary if you're arranging for different instruments, but on guitar, you don't need worry.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 3, 2016,
^ Agreed. I very rarely think of notes at all on guitar.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I don't get the fascination with C major, nor the fascination of #s and bs ... that's just for music notation.


The way I look at it, by learning C major/Aminor first, well, then you know where all the notes are on the fretboard, so you're not only learning patterns ( which are moveable and crucial), but also learning where the actual core notes are on guitar, killing two birds with one stone. If someone is going to bother learning any theory at all, they need to know where the G note is and how it shows up all over the fretboard. C major/Aminor is really the place to start for those reasons.
Thank you all for your answers - FretboardToAsh

Easier said than done. I'm following your structure. I guess I just want to be able to improv and get the results I want. I'll try this method. Thanks!
Quote by jerrykramskoy
I don't get the fascination with C major, nor the fascination of #s and bs ... that's just for music notation.

When you play them in circle of 5ths order, only one note changes each time, which makes learning them a lot easier.
I think that's still an application stuck to notation and relevant names

12-tone theory and tone clocks come to mind with labels from 0 to e (duodecimal, 12 numbers before returning to 0). This translates back to written music most easily.

Your program focuses on guitar without this in mind, so going from 1 to 12 based arbitrarily on a note on the fretboard (which is my understanding of your system) works for a transposing instrument such as the guitar; however, the 0 to e version centered around C is most useful when describing music mathematically (in sets, for example) and invariably (which notation in the context of Western classical music is without regard to tuning standards).
NeoMvsEu My program isn't limited to guitar. It's intended for explaining theory on any stringed instrument, or piano (etc). So, can create an interval, chord, scale (no time aspect) or create rhythm (tracks of percussion, melody, chord progression), and flip from say piano to violin or bass or guitar to see how these translate visually. Can't go into too much detail at moment, though will be filing patents in USA shortly.

Not sure what you mean by "0 to e", nor of describing music mathematically?
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Nov 8, 2016,
Quote by NeoMvsEu
I think that's still an application stuck to notation and relevant names

well there's a bit more to it than that. To fill it in, Circle of 5ths makes learning easier when you approach scales as sets of notes across the entire fretboard instead of by patterns. In terms of position patterns alone, I agree key signature is irrelevant. But if you're always starting at the lowest possible note and going to the highest, changing just one sharp/flat takes the mental effort down to a manageable level. For people who are just learning the scales, it can be mentally fatiguing to keep running the interval formula, especially when covering entire fretboard. Doing 4-note-per-string scales in that manner really opened up the fretboard to me.
The Best Thing To Do Is Write It All Down Even If You Know It In Your Head Write It Down(Fretboard,Major/Minor Scales,Modes,Chords,Arpeggios,Relative Minors,Circle Of Fifths,The I IV V,Everything You Can Find WRITE IT DOWN - If It Makes Sense It Sticks.
Play them a billion times and PAY ATTENTION while you do it. Use your ears, say the names of the notes, sing, mix up the patterns, etc.

Mindless practice is not practice.

Also it takes months if not years so stick with it and don't get discouraged if you aren't Holdsworth by 2017.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
I see there are a lot of good suggestions here.
I think the most efficient way to learn and memorize scales from the get go will depend on how you personally memorize best.
For example, I learn fairly well by memorizing scales as geometric shapes on the fingerboard within one position.
Learning the scale in one MOVABLE position means that you can play the scale in any key that you can find the root note for, you'll have at least two octaves of range, and it's not too overwhelming at first.
When I started learning these movable scales I'd look at a scale and memorize it as something comparable to memorizing constellations.
It just worked for me quickly that way. It wasn't until I started playing around with scales that I needed to memorize the sound of each note against the root note. They all have their own emotion.

I'd recommend starting to memorize scales with whatever way seems to work quickly and naturally for yourself.
You'll maintain your own interest that way.
It may be to memorize the sound the scales by ear, the notes by name (C-D-E-F etc.), or the visual method by "seeing" the shape of the scale on the fingerboard.

Also, learn all of the "modal scales" individually.
Start with Ionian (Major) and Aeolian (Minor) because they are the most commonly used scales and the rest can be memorized as slight variations on those shapes. Keep in mind that the other modal scales are only different from either Major or Minor by one or two notes.
It's not as overwhelming as it looks at first. You'll notice each scale has its own unique emotional quality, that's when things really get interesting.
You can figure out how modes really work theoretically later.

Good luck!
Last edited by ericatd2002 at Dec 7, 2016,