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How To Conquer the Major Scale

Why Fretboard Diagrams Help with Scales

Seven stages to breaking down scales

When learning scales, it is best to break down each pattern into smaller segments. Breaking down two octave scales is best when they are approached by a lower and higher register (as shown above).

Scales (although they can be learnt by tab, notation, or by learning the actual notes) are best learnt by seeing and studying the pattern on the fretboard. This is perfect for both Bass Guitar and Guitar (acoustic or electric). 

By learning the pattern and shape on the fretboard, players are able to move and reposition the pattern to suit whatever song or key they are playing in. This is easily done by knowing what fret or string you need to start on. The fretboard diagram above applies to all major scales or songs in a major key (when you hear major just think happy thoughts... major means happy).

This allows the player to shortcut the learning process and increase their muscle memory. When it comes to notes and notation, which are both good methods of learning, it can take a lot longer to build muscle memory and also the knowledge to simply understand the complexities of notation. It is quicker and usually easier to see the pattern and shape (especially when it is time to solo or improvise). 

This is how I approach all of my improvisations regardless of key or genre. By knowing the pattern and shape across the entire fretboard, I am able to move quickly between the lower and higher register or string them together (no pun intended) to create a longer ascending or descending line towards my next note in the bassline. 

Understanding the Pattern within the Fretboard

Each pattern is made up of eight circles, which equate to eight notes on the fretboard. Each line/string is read from left to right before moving to the next line/string. If we take example 1—One octave major scale in lower register. You can clearly see two circles on the bottom string/line. Both of these circles or notes have to be played before moving to the next line above.

This is how all fretboard diagrams are constructed, whether for Bass Guitar or Guitar (acoustic or electric). Example 1 is made up of a pattern of 2, 3, 3 which means you have to play 2 circles before moving to the next string which has 3 circles and then finally on to the next string which has another 3 circles. This, in total, gives you the eight notes required for a major scale pattern on the Bass Guitar.

By memorising how many circles are on each string/line, you can quickly position yourself within the scale. The pattern may be different for each exercise but the notes remain the same. For each example, you are playing the following notes: G A B C D E F# G 

If you don't know much theory, then do no worry. Regardless of which exercise/pattern you are learning or playing, you are playing the same notes in different places on the fretboard. This is why each pattern can be linked together to form the final example—Two octave major scale—combined positions. 

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