7 Major Scale Patterns
These maps provide the potential for figuring out how standard tuning works. They are also a way to get functional in all keys rather quickly. Once we have a key, we don’t rely on a pattern system like this, yet, again, we can open up the board by using them.
We are numbering them based upon the string where the root lives and the finger that will start the pattern. So, 62 (or 6/2) means the root is on the 6th string and we begin the pattern with a 2 finger. All 7 are 54 52 51 64 62 61 41 (any could be written 5/4 etc.).
On the path, we are building this map, piece by piece, but the whole picture is on this page.
The big maps on this page are for standard tuning [E-A-D-G-B-E] and are built in C Major [C is the red shape]. The numbers in the circles are the scale components using traditional naming.
The patterns are the same for all Major key centers [located in different positions than shown in C]. And, they always cycle in the same order [follow the small arrows and the line]. We can also use the C map as a baseline for endless modifications [since all naturals, we can modify to get all other keys; or, swap tones to create other types of keys all together.
Music is not pattern playing, yet learning these or other patterns can help us become functional in all keys.
This system is just one way to organize guitar scales in standard tuning. Ultimately, it comes down to octaves. 4 of these scale forms are combinations of two octaves.
Scale patterns are maps [mental and physical]; maps that can get us going. Yet, they are meant to be transcended. When we jam, we work with other vital dimensions of our musicianship, rather than playing patterns.
Knowing patterns and tone names for every key isn’t absolutely mandatory, yet sometimes can be. Both patterns [forms] and tone names/numbering are points of reference. They supply a ‘scaffolding’ we can transcend once we know them, if we choose. While in a soloing groove, these tones may resonate as points of light or vibrant colors, rather than letter names or numbers or some type of pattern. Our ear & voice are our guides with being melodic.
Each of the 7 scale patterns has a point on the board where it can be moved no lower. This location, we can call its origin. There are 7 origins that lend their architecture to the other tones which are not origins.
We could also think of an origin as a heel [as in a loaf of bread]. The slices always go in the same order, but one of them needs to be [has to be] at or near the nut. These ‘first slices’ or ‘heels’ are our 7 origins.
Below, the tone names + formulas + Numera are below the tablature.
54 • C, Db
These are all naturals. C Major is the only key using only the naturals.
52 • Bb, B
B Flat has 2 flats – Bb and Eb. The B Flat is the ‘opposite’ of B Major. What is flatted in B Flat [Bb Eb] are naturals in B [B and E]. What are sharped in B [F# C# G# D# A#] are naturals in B Flat [F C G D A].
51 • A only
The A scale can be viewed as the C scale with the F’s, C’s, and G’s moved to F sharps, C sharps, and G sharps. Or the D scale with a G sharp. Or, a scale with 3 sharps: F#, C#, & G#.
64 • G, Ab
G Major has one sharp, F#. So, one change from C Major. “C Major with Fs moved to F sharps”.
62 • F#/Gb
The F scale can be viewed as the C scale with the B moved to B-Flat. F is the ‘opposite’ of F#. What is flatted in F [B-flat] is natural in F# [B]. What is sharped in F# [F# C# G# D# A# E#] are naturals in F [F C G D A E].
61 • E only
4 sharps: F#, C#, G#, D#
41 • D, Eb
2 sharps: F#, C#. Can be viewed as the C scale with the F’s and C’s moved to F sharps and C sharps. Or the G scale with a C sharp.
Tone Names for C Major
Knowing tone names isn’t absolutely mandatory, yet can be. As with patterns, tone names are points of reference. They supply a ‘scaffolding’ we can ignore (transcend) later, if we choose. While in a soloing groove, these tones may resonate as points of light or vibrant colors, rather than letter names. Our ear & voice are our guides with being melodic.
In a non-reference playing mode, names may not even exist for us. Also, if we decide to rename all of the tones (such as: Frank, or orange, or pretty-bird), we will need to find people who also call the tones by those names [or just go solo with our fabulous new naming system]. Or, convince people that our naming system is superior (or inferior, if you are into that). Whatever we end up naming the tones, it becomes a medium to communicate with other musicianers.
As we build our understanding of standard tuning (or any tuning), we realize how tones interact with tones (i.e. how tones we use to solo, interact with the chords that are being sounded).
One of the best ways to memorize tone names is to say the tone name as we play it. “Say it while we play it.”
Also, memorize all of the A’s within a scale pattern. And, all of the B’s. The C’s, etc. And, this will lead to knowing our octave shapes.
3 Tones per String
These patterns take a bit more extension and shifting than the basic 7 we looked at above. The difference here is that we have 3 tones per string for all of the patterns.
It is common to also learn the Major scale patterns with 3 tones on each string. Some of the patterns we looked at first in this lesson, are already 3 tones per string [the 5/2 – add the 7 on string 1, the 5/1, & the 6/1]. The others had 2 tones on one of the strings.
To get 3 per string, for 3 of the patterns, we moved the lowest two tones on strings 2 and 1 to the highest 2 tones on strings 3 and 2 [5/4, 6/4, 4/1]. For the 6/2, we just had to move the lowest tone on string 1 to the highest tone on string 2. For all 4, we then added another highest scale tone on string 1.
We’ve named them by their mode names based on the lowest tone. Example: since 5/4’s lowest tone is the 3, the scale is Phrygian.
This is a common naming scheme, but keep in mind that every one of the patterns is all 7 modes [and ultimately all just C Major].
We’ve also left the numbering the same and the C as the red tone, just to keep the map as similar as possible to the first map on this page. We could totally renumber all of the tones and show different roots [the lowest tone, then octaves] based on the names, but we can glean the relationships from the existing numbering.
3 tones per string are commonly used for training directional picking [down-up-down, down-up down ascending; up-down-up, up-down-up descending, with the highest tone left out – 2 tones on string one, down-up, for the turnaround].
These patterns follow the same cycle and the relational spacing for every key center, with different heels/positions.