How to learn guitar scales more in depth than 2 octave shapes

If you want to truly know the fret board you will need to do more than just memorize 1 shape of a scale. Learning as many ways as possible to play a scale is very beneficial. This does not mean that you have to master each approach to playing scales, however understanding the different approaches and memorizing them would never hurt. So what is the next step to learning scales once you know the 2 octave shapes? It is very simple. Learn one octave shapes.

guitar scales

Color coded diagram of one octave major scales starting on different G notes all over the fret board.

The magic about one octave scales is that the pattern repeats on every note on different strings. Keep in mind you need to shift up a fret on the B string. One octave scales is a great way to visualize the fret board. As long as you can find the root note you know where the right scale is. In this lesson I am going to use the major scale, but you can use this approach with all scales. There are 2 ways to play a major scale in 1 octave.  The first way is to play starting with the second finger; the second way is to start with the fourth finger. When you combine these 2 one octave shapes you cover the whole fret board. Take a look at these diagrams.

These shapes are color coded so you can see how each shape is repeated over the different strings. Once again don’t forget to shift on the B string.  Now let’s look at the other one octave major scale shape.

guitar scales

one octave major scale starting on fourth finger using G as the root note.

When you combine the 2 different diagrams you get a whole range of scale notes on the fret board. This is a great way to improve your knowledge of a scale you already know. Don’t just learn these shapes. Apply the same principle to all the modes in the major scale. Apply them to the harmonic and melodic minor scales as well. This is not the end all be all of guitar scales, but it is a valuable tool to use to help you visualize the guitar neck better. It will make you more comfortable in different part of the neck as well.

As with everything in life, don’t rush to learn it. It is better to know a few things well than to know a bunch of things poorly. Learning all these approaches to using scales is like how you eat an elephant. You take one bite at a time.   You may have also heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Be patient and good luck with the new knowledge!

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2 Responses to How to learn guitar scales more in depth than 2 octave shapes

  1. Tom says:

    You left out the one octave shape starting with the first finger! Otherwise great info, and something I just recently started doing. It has really “unlocked the fretboard” for me, and it has made me much more aware of what I am playing, the intervals, etc.

  2. gitguitar says:

    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you liked the information. 🙂

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