Monday, September 3, 2007

Major Scale Patterns

Dear Chris,

Thanks a million for your informative site which over the past few months has built my knowledge of theory substantially. However, there is till one thing I don't understand with the 5 positions of the major scale.

Q: I have worked out that one is the 'stock standard' major scale or first position (pattern 4, I think?) and that some of the other shapes turned out to Phrygian, natural minor and Dorian, but its still not clicking with me as to where each position is used. I am aware that ie the dorian for the key of c major is just d to d over a dmin, phrygian e to e over e min etc, but there are a couple positions of the major scale (patterns 3 and 5) that im not sure where to use. I hope this question makes sense.....thanks in advance for your time,

warm regards,


A: We as guitarists tend to think in fingerboard patterns rather than notes which sometimes can be problematic. Remember, a major scale is a major scale no matter what the fingerboard pattern looks like. Anywhere you can use one of them, you can use the other four as well (and should).

As an example, let's say you have to play over a Dmin7-G7 chord progression. Obviously, the scale needed here is the D dorian mode, which is simply a C major scale. Any five fingerboard patterns of the C major scale will do here. I imagine you are looking at pattern 4 of the C major scale and thinking to yourself that there is a D on top so this scale is the dorian mode because you can start on it. But the truth is it doesn't matter what note you start on as long as the chord over which you are playing is a Dmin7 chord. I mean think about it, when improvising, would you always start on the root? The root would actually be a somewhat boring note to start on so as long as it is the proper major scale, start on any note that suits your ears.

More information on modes:

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