Wolfe’s Beginners Guide to Scales & Modes. OK. Some people wanted some guide on the basics of scale

Wolfe’s Beginners Guide to Scales & Modes.

OK. Some people wanted some guide on the basics of scales and modes, so here it is. It’s by no means comprehensive, just sticking to the popular modes/scales used by most musicians. Some people who read this may already be familiar with some of the patterns needed to play various scales (pentatonics etc), but don’t really understand how it all works, or simply haven’t read an explanation that makes the theory ‘click’ in your head (no little light bulb of comprehension lighting up). Hopefully, fingers crossed, I’ll explain in a simple way that makes it clearer to you (or maybe not, lol). So here goes.

What is a Scale

Ask most people and they’ll tell you it’s a collection of notes. You may even get the same response from musicians who haven’t put much effort into music theory.

“Isn’t that right”

Sorta. A scale is a collection of notes ‘IN A SPECIFIC ORDER’. Or a collection of intervals (pitch gaps) in relation to the first note of the scale, which is often called the ROOT note.

For instance, if you played all the white notes on a piano, what scale are you playing? Some people might say C Major, some might say G Mixolydian, others A Aeolian (A Minor). So which one is right?

Well they all are. It really depends on which note you start on. If you played from ‘C’ to ‘C’, you’d be playing in C Major (because you’ve made ‘C’ the starting root note, with ‘D’ the second note of the scale and ‘E’ the third etc). If you started playing on ‘D’ through to ‘D’, then your playing the scale of D Dorian (or the second mode of C Major, if your into modal theory). Here are the seven different ways you can organise those seven notes and the seven different ways of describing them (the modes are all named after ancient Greek cities):

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – THE Major Scale
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian - a Minor Scale
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – a Minor Scale
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - a Major Scale
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – a Major Scale
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – THE Minor Scale
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – a Minor Scale.

Note: Although there are three happy sounding major scales and four sad sounding minor scales in the above list, it was decided a few centuries back that the IONIAN scale would, henceforth, be THE major scale and the AEOLIAN scale would be THE Minor scale from now on. If someone asks you to play in “A Minor”, they typically mean they want you to play in “A Aeolian”. And if they asked you to play a “C Major” scale, they typically mean the “C Ionian” scale. Two different names that mean the same thing.

Now, some people like to think of the seven different ways that you can arrange those seven notes as completely different scales (technically correct), but most people tend to think of them as the same scale (since they have the same seven notes in them), simply looked at from seven different angles (7 viewing MODES). Which nicely brings us onto the subject of MODES……..

Modal Theory

I listed above seven different ways of arranging the same seven notes. Some people might consider these seven different scales, others might prefer to think of them as one scale with seven different MODES, depending on what note is considered ROOT . Here’s the same list again, but this time we’ll look at them MODALLY, from the perspective of the ‘C Major’ (C Ionian) scale (so C Ionian is considered the 1st MODE).

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – MODE 1
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian – MODE 2
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – MODE 3
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - MODE 4
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – MODE 5
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – MODE 6
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – MODE 7

In this case, we are treating C Ionian (C Major) as MODE 1. In this example, A Minor (A Aeolian) is relegated to MODE 6 in our list. If you’ve ever heard someone talking about this scale or that scale being “the sixth mode of so and so”, you’ll maybe have some sort of inkling of what they are talking about (hopefully).

But, we could also of arranged them like this:

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – MODE 3
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian – MODE 4
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – MODE 5
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - MODE 6
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – MODE 7
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – MODE 1
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – MODE 2

Making ‘A Aeolian’ (A Minor) the starting MODE/Scale. So that in the scale of ‘A Aeolian / A Minor’, ‘C Major’ (C Ionian) gets bumped to third position (Mode 3). So we could say “C Major is it’s own scale, but also the 3rd Mode of the A Minor scale”. Or that ‘A Minor’ is it’s own scale but also the sixth mode of the ‘C Major’ scale. Both are true.

Are you confused yet?

W’ell be coming back to modal theory later on, but if you get nothing else from the above intro to modes, you should come away with the basic idea that most scales share the same set of notes as many other scales. There is no such thing as a ‘unique’ scale. A scale that has a set of notes that at least four to six other scales don’t also use. Which can make it difficult to describe which scale your using (It all comes down to which note your treating as ROOT and the intervalic spacing between it and subsequent notes).

So lets not dwell on modes too much just yet and get on with the task of learning scales on a guitar…….

The Pattern

Ok. So you want to learn to play scales on a guitar. So how exactly do you do that. A lot of beginners think you have to learn a ton of finger patterns and notes. One for each scale. Actually no. For just about everything, except the most exotic scales, you only really need to learn ONE finger pattern. Here it is:

Note that the pattern wraps around/repeats at the 12th fret (you’ll see that frets 12 and 13 are the same as frets 0 and 1). You’ll also be moving this pattern around later on, so don’t get into the habit of memorizing it in relation to any of the fretboard markers.

From now on, this will simply be referred to as ‘The Pattern’. It’s a complicated pattern and it’s a good idea to break it up into smaller segments to help memorize it. There are a couple of ways you could do this. You could split ‘The Pattern’ into seven subpatterns, each one starting and ending on one of the seven notes that defines each mode (more useful for neoclassical shredders). But, if all you want to do is play it from one end of the neck to the other, without leaving any gaps, you could divide it into these five patterns, that overlap slightly (more useful to classic rockers who veer more towards Pentatonic wailing).

“What scale is it”?

That’s not important. All you need to know is that ‘The Pattern’ allows you play every Major (Ionian), Minor (Aeolian), Lydian, Mixolydian, Locrian and Dorian scale/mode. It also allows you to play all Pentatonic scales (through omission) and all Melodic and all Harmonic major and minor scales (through alteration).

For now, simply concentrate on memorizing and learning to play ‘The Pattern’. How to make use of it to play specific scales and modes will come later.

Finger Solutions

O.K. Your thinking about learning scales. “So you just run your fingers up and down them… right”. Essentially, yes. But you can run into problems or bad habits if you don’t do it right. What I call finger solutions. Heres a finger solution for the 3rd pattern in the five listed above.

Plucking the notes on the outer two strings shouldn’t prove a problem. It’s when you get to the center of the strings that your fingers start getting tied up in knots. Look at the following diagrams to see a simple mistake most people make. It involves the way you transfer your fingers from the second string up (B string) to the third string up (G String), when descending down the scale. The numbers represent the fingers you’d most likely use to finger each note.

The notes on the G string are a little further back on the neck. Your natural inclination will be to play the notes on the B string using your 4th, 2nd and 1st finger as seen in the diagram below. This is correct.

When switching strings, your natural inclination is to move your 3rd finger up on to the first note of the next string (since it’s not doing anything and the closest to the note you want to fret). Followed by your 1st finger for the note after that.

Now you’ve run out of fingers to select the third and final note of the G string. So most people just slide the 1st finger (and their whole hand) up to get it (see diagram above). You then would have to slide the finger (and your hand) back down to get the next note on the fourth string up. THIS IS WRONG (or at least not optimal)

You don’t want to be jerking your hand back and forth as if your masturbating the neck. You want to get a nice ‘rippling’ motion going with your hand. Heres a better way of doing it.

After playing the notes of the B string with your 4th, 2nd and 1st fingers, keep the 1st finger were it is and ‘contract’ your hand so that your 4th , pinky finger, is now over the the first note of the next string (diagram below).

Place the 4th finger on the first note of the next string and take your 1st finger off the last note of the previous string. Pluck the note and, at the same time, ‘expand’ your hand so that your 2nd finger is over the next note to pluck (look at the diagram). And then you should find that your 1st finger can reach the last note of the G string without sliding.

Now for the next bit. After plucking the last note of the G string with your 1st finger, pluck the first note of the next string with your 4th finger. With your finger still on the note, ‘contract’ your hand so that the next note is pressed down with your 1st finger (your fingers should be scrunched together).

Lastly. When moving from the fourth to fifth string, keep the 1st finger pressing the last note of the fourth string and then ‘expand’ your hand so that your 4th finger is over the next note to pluck.

Phew! Easier to do than explain. Here it is animated (take careful note of the finger numbers)

Thinking about the most economical way of moving your hand when doing scales is what will eventually lead to greater speed. So put some thought into your ‘Finger Solutions’. It’s what differentiates between the ‘slow and sloppy’ players and the ‘Fastfret whizzkids’. There is always more than one way of navigating your fingers through “The Pattern”, so experiment and don’t always take the path of least resistence (the easiest route)


As mentioned above, break it up into manageable chunks and practice each chunk seperately. It shouldn’t take as long as you think once you’ve embedded the pattern(s) into your head. The slowest part will be getting your stupid fingers to do what you want them to, until the movements are embedded in your muscle memory and you no longer have to look or even think about playing the shape(s). So practice, practice, practice.

Also remember to alternate pick the notes, not just downpick all the time as this will seriously reduce your speed later on (easier to start with though, which is why so many people fall into such bad habits….’path of least resistence’ again).

Practising scales can be a bit of a bore. So it’s often a good idea to find ways to make them more interesting in ways that will test your finger dexterity. Instead of simply going up and down them, after you’ve learned the intitial patterns, try finding patterns of ascending or descending the scale that make it a little more interesting.

Here’s a couple to try. I’m using just one section of ‘The Pattern’ but, ideally, you should practice them on all sections.

3 Forward, 1 Back

Simply play the first three notes of the scale, go back one place, and repeat. Simple, but will improve your co-ordination.

Pause after each group of three notes at first, to give yourself time to think about the next three notes. Once you’ve got it down reasonably smooth, take out the pauses to aim for a long continuous run. Same applies to all these exercises.

4 Forward, 2 Back

Same as above, but play the first four notes then go back 2 and repeat.


This one involves playing the 1st note and then jumping to the 3rd. Go back one place and play the 2nd and 4th. Repeat.

Try playing all these exercises going both up and down the scale. When you think you’ve mastered that, try inverting them (when going up the scale, play the notes in reverse order so that they are played highest note to low…. Do the same when descending the scale to give four different variation of each exercise).

These simple exercises will simultaneously drill the shapes into your memory as well as improving finger dexterity (and picking).

Of course, another way to remember ‘The Pattern’ Is to sweep through it. Here’s probably one of the most famous sweeps. It simply involves sweeping through the pattern at the current position, moving the starting note up (which I’ve squared) to the next note in “The Pattern” and sweeping through the pattern again at that position. And then repeat, over and over until you run out of neck. Unlike sweeps based around chords (see my chord theory guide) the pattern is constantly changing as you move up the neck, which is why it’ll test your memory of “The Pattern”.

Note: Yellow notes are hammered onto or pulled off from. They are not picked (the last one on the upsweep is optional).

If your familiar with sweeping, but not scales, you shouldn’t have too many problems with that. Especially if you can visualize “The Pattern” over the fretboard. Beginners to sweeping might find it just a little too much however (trying to learn too many new things at once).

Modes (again)

OK. You’ve been noodling around, trying to get your fingers to run up and down “The Pattern”, now it’s time to actually start understanding some of the theory behind it and exactly why you can play so many scales with it.

Earlier on, I pointed out that the seven notes in our scale will also be used by six other scales (1 Phrygian, 1 Lydian, 1 Mixolydian, 1 Aeolian, 1 Locrian, 1 Ionian and 1 Dorian), the only difference being which note you consider the 1st note (root). Consequently, while all seven scales are different Theoretically, they are the same scale Mechanically as the overall finger pattern for all seven scales will be the same. This is why I have avoided mentioning what scale we’ve been practicing so far, as there are seven different answers to that question. “A picture speaks a thousand words”, so here’s a graphical representation of what I’m talking about. Below is an animated finger pattern for the [color=green]‘C Major’[/color] (C Ionian, remember) scale AND the [color=blue]‘A Minor’[/color] (A Aeolian) scale.

Notice that, Mechanically, it’s the same finger pattern (the one we’ve been learning) for both scales. The only difference is that in the ‘C Major’ scale, we treat the C note as root (D 2nd, E 3rd etc) and in the ‘A Minor’ scale, we treat the ‘A’ as root note (B 2nd, C 3rd etc). The same is true for the other five scales, or Modes if you prefer, that use the same set of seven notes as shown in the finger pattern above. The seven notes of the above pattern allow you to play C Ionian, D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian and A Aeolian by the way (each of the seven notes being the start of one of the modes).

You’ve been splitting “The Pattern” up into five smaller manageable chunks in order to help remember it, but, as mentioned earlier, you could also try splitting it into seven (slightly overlapping) patterns, each chunk, or sub-section starting and ending on one of the notes of each mode/scale, like this:

E Phrygian (E to E)

F Lydian (F to F)

G Mixolydian (G to G)

A Aeolian (A to A)

B Locrian (B to B)

C Ionian (C to C)

D Dorian (D to D)

Typically, each pattern is given the name of the mode it starts, but don’t make the noob mistake of thinking each pattern is the whole mode, or “getting stuck in box shapes” as it’s more often known (a lot of guitarists simply use one section of “The Pattern” and slide it about the neck). Remember that ALL seven patterns play the Ionian scale, ALL seven patterns play the Dorian scale, ALL seven patterns play the Aeolian scale, etc.

It’s simply that the various smaller patterns fall directly underneath the note (on the E string) that gives each mode it’s name and could therefore be used to quickly figure out where to lay the overall pattern on the neck when playing in a specific mode/scale.

For example:

In the scale of C Major (C Ionian), we would place the Ionian subpattern over the C note of the outer E strings and consider it Pattern 1/Mode 1 of our scale, which makes the Dorian pattern fall immediately below the ‘D’ note, which we can think of as Pattern 2/Mode 2 of the scale and so on, like so:

As described earlier on in this guide:

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – MODE 1
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian – MODE 2
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – MODE 3
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - MODE 4
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – MODE 5
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – MODE 6
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – MODE 7

(note: the order of The Patterns is always Ionian, Dorian, Phryigian etc.. you never swap them around or rearrange them)

To play in the scale of ‘A Minor’ (A Aeolian), we’d use exactly the same pattern. Only this time we’d place the Aeolian subsection of “The Pattern” over the ‘A’ note of the top ‘E’ string and think of this as ‘Pattern 1/ Mode 1’ (with ‘A’ being the root note). Like so:

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – MODE 3
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian – MODE 4
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – MODE 5
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - MODE 6
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – MODE 7
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – MODE 1
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – MODE 2

Likewise, if you wanted to play in the scale of G Mixolydian, you’d simply place the Mixolydian sub-section of “The Pattern” so that the first note was on ‘G’, call it ‘Mode 1’ and then fill out the rest of the fretboard with the other six sub-sections of “The Pattern”, treating ‘G’ as the root note (which in all three examples above places “The Pattern” in the same place on the neck, but that isn’t always going to be the case for all scales).


At this point you may still be having trouble understanding how the same seven notes can be seven different sounding scales. After all, they’re the same notes, so wont they sound the same when you run your fingers up and down them. How can they be a sad sounding ‘Minor’ scale while simultaneously being a happy sounding ‘Major’ scale?

As mentioned at the very beginning of this guide, a scale is a collection of notes with a specific root note and intervals (pitch spaces) between it and the other six notes. Try this:

Get a bass player to play a constant ‘C’ note while running your fingers up and down the pattern posted above (the whole thing). What scale are you playing? The sad sounding A Minor (A Aeolian), or the happy sounding C Major (C Ionian)? They’ve both got the same notes in them.

The answer in this case is that you are playing in C Major. Your bass player is defining the root note of the scale and the seven notes your playing will have a happy ‘Major’ sound to them in relation to that root note when heard together. Much like how the individual notes of a chord don’t sound ‘major’ or ‘minor’ when heard all alone, only when played together (or closely after each other).

If your bass player switched to pumping away on a ‘A’ note, the seven notes your playing would suddenly sound sad and ‘Minor’ish in relation to that note (the interval spacing will have changed).

If he started playing a G, you’d be in G Mixolydian, E and you’d be in E Phrygian etc.


At the moment, we’ve been playing “The Pattern” at the same location on the neck, which gives us seven different variations (modes) of the same thing. Now it’s time to start using “The Pattern” to play scales other than the seven already covered. To do this we need to transpose “The Pattern”. A fancy word for “move” it (I told you not to get too used to it being in the same location all the time).

For instance, let’s say that you wanted to play in the scale of ‘D Major’, how would learning “The Pattern” allow you to do that. Simple. Since ‘D Major’ is just another way of saying ‘D Ionian’ all we have to do is place the Ionian sub section of “The Pattern” so that the first note rests on the ‘D’ note of your top E string (assuming standard tuning) and then fill out the rest of the fretboard with the other six sub-sections of “The Pattern”. Like so:

Essentially, all we’ve done is move the whole pattern two frets further up the neck, giving us seven completely new scales/modes (but still 1 Phrygian, 1 Lydian, 1 Mixolydian, 1 Aeolian, 1 Locrian, 1 Ionian and 1 Dorian). In this case the scales/modes of D Ionian, E Dorian, F# Phrygian, G Lydian, A Mixolydian, B Aeolian and C# Locrian (look at the seven notes on the top E string).

Again. Notice how the “The Pattern” wraps around at the 12th fret, reappearing at the nut. It’s also duplicated from the 12th fret down to the 24th.

Although “The Pattern” remains the same, being able to move it, in it’s entirety, around the neck can take a while to learn, which is why so many players get stuck in ‘box shapes’, using just one section of “The Pattern” instead of the whole thing (sliding the Aeolian/Minor sub-section around the neck to play over Minor chords, for example).

Which brings us to our next topic.

Scales and Chords

Earlier on I explained how a bass player pumping away on a specific note helped define the root note of the scale, thus defining which of the seven modes your playing when playing the seven notes in the “The Pattern”. The same can be applied to a rhythm guitarist, strumming some chords. However, each mode as a specific chord that goes with it. For instance, the C Major chord would obviously go with the C Major/Ionian mode (CDEFGABC). The A Minor chord would go with the A Minor/Aeolian mode (ABCDEFGA). But what about the other five. And just like the example with the bass player the chords your rhythm player plays defines how the seven notes of the scale sound as you run up and down them (more so).

Here’s a list of the seven modes (again, using C Major/Ionian as root), along with the chords that could go with them. Note that Lydian, Ionian & Mixolydian are MAJOR scales, so fit well with MAJOR chords. Dorian, Aeolian & Phrygian are MINOR scales, so fit well with Minor chords (why is probably another guide entirely). Remember that a chord could be a simple triad (1st , 3rd & 5th of the scale) or a 7th (1st, 3rd,5th & 7th) of the scale. If you have no idea what that means, check out my beginners guide to chord theory (no point trying to aquire any scale theory if you have no chord theory).

C D E F G A B C -- Ionian – C Major / C Major 7th
D E F G A B C D -- Dorian – D Minor / D Minor 7th
E F G A B C D E -- Phrygian – E Minor / E Minor 7th
F G A B C D E F – Lydian - F Major / F Major 7th
G A B C D E F G -- Mixolydian – G Major / G 7th
A B C D E F G A -- Aeolian – A Minor / A Minor 7th
B C D E F G A B -- Locrian – B Dim / B Minor 7th (flat 5)

Or, more simply



Of course, basic “1st, 5th” power chords sound good over almost all of them. Lol.

When dealing with scales, it’s important to number the notes rather than trying to remember the names of them. So the root note is “note 1”, the next note “note 2” etc. Here’s the Ionian pattern numbered accordingly (note: ‘1’ being on the C note of the top E string,,,,, so C Major/Ionian again).

For chords, look to play any of the 1st, 3rd, 5th or 7th notes in the pattern. A triad chord is made up from the 1st, 3rd & 5th. A 7th chord from the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th. A simple powerchord from any of the 1st’s or 5th’s. Like so.

You can also sweep through the patterns. Try sweeping through the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 1st, for a C Major sweep. Or 1st, 3rd, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th for a C Major 7th sweep.

If you swapped the Ionian pattern above with the Aeolian/Minor pattern instead, situated over the ‘C’ note of the top E string, you’d be sweeping through C Minor and C Minor 7th instead. Any chords you picked out of the pattern by playing it’s 1st’s 3rd’s, 5th’s and 7th’s would likewise be C Minor **something**.

Scale Degrees

Another popular way of understanding modes & chords is to try and understand how each of the seven modes is a variation on the others. Or how to switch from one mode to the others by simply flattening certain notes. Here’s a table that lists the difference between each mode (the red notes show which notes to flatten to morph the previous pattern into the current one):

Lydian 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
Ionian 1 2 3 [color=red]4[/color] 5 6 7
Mixolydian 1 2 3 4 5 6 [color=red]b7[/color]
Dorian 1 2 [color=red]b3[/color] 4 5 6 b7
Aeolian 1 2 b3 4 5 [color=red]b6[/color] b7
Phrygian 1 [color=red]2[/color] b3 4 5 b6 b7
Locrian 1 2 b3 4 [color=red]b5[/color] b6 b7

I’ve put a divide between the Major modes (with a regular 3rd) and the Minor modes (which have a flattened 3rd). It’s the 3rd that typically make a scale (or chord) sound uplifting (Major) or sad (Minor). Again, check out my chord theory guide for more information on that.

So what does all that mean in practice?

Well look at the table and you’ll see that to turn a Ionian scale into a Mixolydian scale, you need to flatten the 7th, because the Ionian as a regular seventh note and the Mixolydian has a b7 note. Other than that, they are almost identical. Watch.

(And our Ionian pattern morphs into the Mixolydian pattern)

And to change it from Mixolydian to Dorian, you’d flatten the 3rd (see table).

And so on………………….. (I’m not animating all of them)

A good exercise is to start off with the Lydian pattern, any place on the neck, and then try making one alteration to each pattern to convert it into the next one, moving through all seven patterns in the same location. Here’s all the modes in one location (C Lydian, C Mixolydian, C Aeolian, C Locrian, C Ionian, C Dorian, C Phrygian). Numbered with the relevent notes showing which notes are sharp or flat, relative to the Lydian scale (as in the table posted above).








By the way. Running through all the modes In the positions pictured above (just before the 12th fret), while keeping the root note the same (the other six notes change) is a technique called “Mode Modulation or Pitch Axis”. A popular trick of Joe Satriani’s (for whoever on the forum asked what that meant).

Other Scales

At the beginning of the guide it was mentioned that “The Pattern” would also allow you to play scales other than the one we’ve been dealing with so far, such as Pentatonic, Harmonic and Melodic scales. So how do you go about doing that.


Well. “Penta” is greek for ‘five’. So unlike most modern scales a pentatonic scale only has five notes in it, instead of seven. Only five modes therefore too.

Think of the “The Pattern” as simply the Pentatonic scales with two extra notes added. Here’s “The Pattern” with and without those extra two notes, so that we are seeing the Pentatonic equivelent of it. Both in A Minor (A as root note and Aeolian as Mode 1), So that your switching from 'A Minor' to 'A Minor Pentatonic'.

And again, showing the five individual modes/sub sections (note that the Pentatonic modes don’t retain the “Ionian, Dorian etc” names but I’ve included them anyways for ease of reference).

Pentatonic Phrygian

Pentatonic Mixolydian

Pentatonic Aeolian (Minor)

Pentatonic Ionian (Major)

Pentatonic Dorian

The same rules apply as in the normal seven note pattern. To play in D Pentatonic Minor for example, simply place the Pentatonic equivelent of the Aeolian/Minor pattern so that the first note is the D note of your E string and then fill out the rest of the neck with the other four patterns (remembering to wrap it around at the 12th fret).

You could also add an extra note to give the legendary 6 note “Blues” scale. The famous ‘blue note’ (which is actually red in this diagram, lol).

Harmonic Scale

The Harmonic Major/Minor finger pattern is identical to “The Pattern”, the only difference being one note sharpened. Again from the viewpoint of A Minor (A=Root, Aeolian Pattern 1 / Mode 1).

Melodic Scale

This ones a little odd. It’s actually TWO patterns, depending on if your going up the scale or down it. On the way up the scale you need to sharpen two notes in the pattern (F and G in this example), but on the way down the scale, the pattern is the original pattern we’ve been using since the start of the guide. Here’s the Melodic Major/Minor scale alterations to “The Pattern”.

Same rules apply as before. This is the A Melodic Minor scale simply because we’ve made ‘A’ the root note and placed The Pattern so that the appropriate “Minor/Aeolian” section of it sits over the ‘A’ note on the E string.

OK. Kinda getting a bit bored with this now. It’s not the purpose of this guide to cover all the different scale degrees and alteration you can apply to a scale to get some pretty exotic collection of notes. For beginners, it’s simpler just to memorize the patterns, understanding why the alterations are necessary is a subject for more advanced scale theory.

I’ve probably confused the crap out of the beginners and over simplified for the more advanced forumites. But hopefully, it’ll get some people rethinking about the way they look at scales (or not, lol).

You know where to post questions……



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    my gob is well and truelly smacked! \:\)
  • Bob the builderBob the builder Posts: 731Member
    I'm self taught and have been playing (pretty poorly) for years and frankly this is the most clear and useful guide I think I've ever seen. Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to put this comprehensive and excellent guide together.
    Cheers - Bob the Builder
  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member

    I showed how to split the Pattern up into five, or seven, sub patterns to help memorize it. Here's an alternative, i didn't mention. It's Paul Gilberts three notes per string approach. Like the example where you split the pattern into seven chunks that each start and end on one of the notes of the scales modes, this does much the same but doesn't necessarily end on the same note. Instead, the idea is to always use three notes per string (Gilbert style).

    Chords & Scales & Keys

    I thought this little diagram might help people understand the relationship between scales and chords. In this case, the Scale of C Major and the Key of C.

    The Scale of C Major contains the notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B. The chords that go with that are:

    I = C Major
    II = D Minor
    III = E Minor
    IV = F Major
    V = G Major (or G7)
    VI = A Minor
    VII = B Dim

    But why those chords in particular. Why not just C,D,E,F,G,A,B Major chords to match the notes of the scale? Why are some Major, some Minor, some sevenths and some Diminished?

    Look at the following animation and see if you can't figure out the connection. The gray notes are all the notes of the C Major scale (properly numbered with C being note "1").

    Made the connection?


    Look again. Not a single one of those chords uses a note that isn't a note of the C Major scale (in gray).

    In other words, although a D Minor chord is made up of the 1st,3rd and 5th of the D Minor scale and a E Minor chord is made up of the 1st,3rd and 5th of the E Minor scale (see my chord theory guide), the notes they are made up from are also notes of the C Major scale too.

    So while a D Minor chord is made up of the 1st,3rd,5th of the D Minor scale, these three notes are also the 6th,2nd and 4th notes of the C Major scale too. The same applies to the rest of the chords that go with the scale/key of C Major.

    Getting the idea. In fact, just randomly picking out three or four notes from "The Pattern" will make up chords that sound ok'ish with that scale (depends on which notes..... experiment). One of the best examples of this that i can think of is the intro to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers "The Zephyr song".

    (Strum each three note chord slowly)

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    my head hurts...
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    Fantastic stuff Mr Wolfe, thank you for these brilliant posts! \:\)

    May I ask a question about the diagrams? What software do you use to generate them? I could find it very useful for a number of projects.

  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member
    I use a program called axmaster (15 day trial) and the animation program that comes with paint shop pro to join the pics together into gif animations.
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    Thanks for that Wolfe. \:\)

    I'll go looking for it.

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    Im quite literate, not normaly stuck for words but this is magnificent. Thank you there are months of CONSTRUCTIVE learning all before my eyes. I have spent ages trawling net finding a little here a little there and trying to piece them together. I have a spring in my step since I found this. PLEASE DONT LET THIS SITE CRASH
  • CortRedHandedCortRedHanded Posts: 621Member
     Originally Posted By: andy508

    Well I know of at least one forumite who has a off-line version
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    How please if Im not being impertinant? this is way better than Harmony Central and acoustic guitar forum all they seem to talk about is guitars and a few links to fee paying sites in USA. All I do at the moment is strum the same few (15) chords with no idea why. Thanks a lot
  •  Originally Posted By: andy508
    Im quite literate, not normaly stuck for words but this is magnificent. Thank you there are months of CONSTRUCTIVE learning all before my eyes. I have spent ages trawling net finding a little here a little there and trying to piece them together. I have a spring in my step since I found this. PLEASE DONT LET THIS SITE CRASH

    Well it is hosted on one of the most robust managed servers in the UK (via rackspace)and costs me a small fortune to run so.... you should be ok!
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    Well it is hosted on one of the most robust managed servers in the UK (via rackspace)and costs me a small fortune to run so.... you should be ok! [/quote]
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    Thats very reassuring Richard, thank you for the site.
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    Read a little again but need to practice while its on the computer monitor, its an L shaped glass table which will take a little while, I figure its worth it though as there seems to be a little on you tube Anji Gimmie Shelter ... anyway.... I digress are there any other software packages either for sound or practice that could help while looking at your lessons,a vague question I know I think I have in mind a virtual metronome and in the future a simple recording setup to analyse my weaknesses, thanks Andy
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    God I am not blessed with intelligence... all I had to do was turn the monitor round .....oh well at least I try(lol)
  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member
    A simple trick you can use to train your ear is to record each note of your instrument as a separate mp3 file. Play the note and wait four or five seconds before hitting stop on whatever recording software your using. Load the mp3 files into your mp3 player (either on your computer or your portable mp3 player). Hit the play button but make sure you've got the device/software set to play the songs in random order.

    The name of this game is to listen to the note being played and then find it on your guitars neck before the next mp3 plays. You'll almost certainly get it wrong most of the time when you start doing it. But do it for half an hour every day and as the months go by your brain will start to identify the location of the note on the neck with less inaccuracy.

    Why would you want to do that? Because knowing the location and name of the notes on your instrument is less important than knowing how they sound. After a while, if you hear a tune on the radio or just make one up in your head, your fingers will immediately know where to go on the neck to get the notes your hearing in your 'minds eye' (or should that be 'minds ear'), instead of relying on TABS or musical notation to tell you where to put your fingers.

    This is a VERY useful skill when mastering any musical instrument and will improve your ability to just 'make something up' over the top of a rhythm or bass track (most musician and non musicians alike can adlib something over the top of a backing track in their head, but can't translate that to an actual instrument because they don't know what scale their invention is in or the name of the notes etc, and therefore where to place their fingers).
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    So if I could do this (sounds like a lesson I could have when in my van) would it make me pitch perfect.?
  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member
    Pretty much. It's just one more 'trick' to add to your guitar trick bag. The more you have, the better a player you'll be.

    You don't need to be able to do this trick to play an instrument. But then again, you don't need to know any scales or chord theory to play an instrument (you can just pluck notes at random until you find combinations and riffs you like). But knowing these things makes life easier in the long run and stimulates your inventiveness .
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    Thanks, you have opened the horizon immeasurably.
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    That is just stunning.

    Once again a case of gaps being filled and a whole picture emerging. Thanks *very* much for taking the trouble to illustrate that so clearly, and I mean that in both linguistic and graphical senses!

    Right, let's take it from the top again... ;\)
  • DaveBassDaveBass Posts: 3,311Member
     Originally Posted By: andy508
    So if I could do this (sounds like a lesson I could have when in my van) would it make me pitch perfect.?

    Not necessarily. There are two aspects to it: relative pitch and perfect pitch.

    Relative pitch is an ability that every musician needs to develop. Essentially it comes down to recognising intervals. In other words, you're relating one note to another, either sequentially (one after the other), which is the basis of melodic work, or simultaneously (chords), which is the basis of harmony.

    Perfect pitch is something different, and a step beyond relative pitch. People who have it describe it as each note (or pitch class, i.e. all the A's, all the C#'s etc) having its own characteristic sound or timbre, independent of the octave or the instrument playing it. It's the audible equivalent of colour. People with perfect pitch can name an F# instantly when they hear it (it's a bit more edgy than other notes apparently) and some people even relate particular pitch classes to different colours (a form of synaesthesia).

    A few people are born with perfect pitch (including my uncle, though he says he's gone flat with age) but according to http://www.perfectpitch.com/, the rest of us can train ourselves to have perfect pitch if we do the appropriate exercises. But so far my efforts have been in vain. At times I think I can just about discern a difference but it could be my imagination.


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    MMMMMMmmmm.... sounds intriguing Ill give it a go ina month or so. I would love to know what notes the birds are singing, curlew,nightingale jackdaws(they seem to dance) thanks for the info
  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member
    Bump (thought i'd bump em so they appear on the first page of the techniques section again).
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    IMHO Wolfe's excellent guides to Scales and Chords, should be stickied \:\)
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    Yes, I agree, for me they gave me an overview to point a direction learningwise.

    Where the differant modes appear on the fret in differant moving shapes and colours, could that be slowed, or paused, wanted to print a copy, but couldnt, sorry if Im not allowed,

    Thanks Wolfe I have a clear view of the horizon now......just dont know the middle journey yet but at least I KNOW WHERE IM GOING +++++
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     Originally Posted By: andy508
    Where the differant modes appear on the fret in differant moving shapes and colours, could that be slowed, or paused, wanted to print a copy, but couldnt, sorry if Im not allowed

    I just saved a copy on my PC for future reference and offline viewing \:\)
  • WolfeWolfe Posts: 398Member
     Originally Posted By: andy508
    Yes, I agree, for me they gave me an overview to point a direction learningwise.

    Where the differant modes appear on the fret in differant moving shapes and colours, could that be slowed, or paused, wanted to print a copy, but couldnt, sorry if Im not allowed,

    Thanks Wolfe I have a clear view of the horizon now......just dont know the middle journey yet but at least I KNOW WHERE IM GOING +++++

    Which one in particular. If you've got any animation software, you can download the gif files and save each of the animation frames as pictures.
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    Thanks for the info..... I think Ill ask someone
    None in particular, just be able to play along slowly and make my own way.
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    I'd just like to say a big 'thank you' to Wolfe for taking the time to post this. It is fantastic IMO, and a much easier read than most books that I've tried to chew through.

    Can I save it easily in an off-line version?
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    You could've put some effort into it Wolfe.. Awesome!

    I taught a little bit of theory to fellow guitarians and the best way I could describe music theory was by looking at it like a hoberman sphere:

    I.e. there is no definitive start point but the closer you look at how scales/modes chords etc. relate, the more expanded the sphere becomes- Allowing you to see the 'colours' as the sphere bedcomes clearer ;\)

    /airy fairyness
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