-- Tim Fowler
In this lesson we are going to breakdown some scales and help you learn some new tricks to help you gain mastery of the fretboard.
Most people learn scales in positions(see reference). This is a convenient way to learn scales, and they are relatively easy to memorize and move around. The drawback of playing scales in positions is that it is easy to get stuck in a position or a scale form, they all different shapes, and it can limit your playing, whether you are reading or improvising. In the following examples I am going to show you some ways to get out of standard positions and give you a system of building scales that will open your eyes. This will help you gain fretboard mastery, open your ears to new possibilities, and can lead to becoming a significantly better sight-reader.
In the first example you see a common form of C major scale, positioned with the root on the 5th string, 3rd fret.
The rest of this lesson will break scales into smaller “bite size” pieces and connect them together. Here is the lower octave of the scale. This pattern can be used anywhere with the first note on the 6th or 5th string. If you know the name of the note on the 5th or 6th string, you have a scale, and it is the same for every key! Play this example in every position, making sure you know what note you start on. The same pattern starting on the 8th fret of the 6th string will result in the same notes.
Now we need a second octave of the scale. There are many ways to do this, but we will use the following pattern. Because this pattern crosses the 2nd and 3rd strings, which are tuned a major 3rd apart, it does not directly translate to other strings. This is another essential scale pattern. If you know the name of the note on the first string(hint: it’s the same as the one on the 6th string, same fret) you have the scale. Now you instantly have the “melody” octave scale in any key. Whether you are soloing, reading a melody, or harmonizing with someone else, you have easy access to the notes in the key you are in. Learn this pattern in all positions:
Here comes the part where we get out of playing “in position.” In order to have a two octave scale, the two patterns need to be connected, and that means moving positions while on a string. A lot of guitar players are uneasy with the idea of shifting positions, but string players have been doing it for hundreds of years. And your favorite rockers are doing it too.(Have you ever watched Eric Johnson? He has this mastered!) In the next example, we combine the two patterns and get a two octave scale that moves us from the third position to the 5th very smoothly. Pay particular attention to the move on the third string. The fingering is 1 3 1 3 on the left hand and you shift between the B and C notes. The position of your hand should be the same after the move, without twisting the left wrist. Take your time with this move. Once you get it, you'll be able to go very fast.
We can move up the neck with many different scale patterns. Here is one way(of many) to do it in G. In this example we’ll do a three octave G scale with two shifts. Once you can see the whole neck as a G scale, you may see some new things that you hadn’t before.
Have fun and try applying these concepts to other elements of your playing. And remember, scales are just a means, and not an end. Experiment and make music. If you want to see a deep dive on making scales, see my article at: Dig Deeper