On Learning Scales Across the Entire Fretboard

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut with your soloing? Like there are just one or two scale patterns you're really comfortable with in any key?

It's a common problem for guitarists. Many of my own students have dealt with this same frustration.

The good news is that you don't have to stay there. It's time to shine a light on all those dark, mysterious parts of the fretboard once and for all.

Over the years I've developed a methodical approach to mapping out scales on the fretboard, in any key, in any position, starting on any finger, and on any string set. In short, I developed a method for quickly mapping out any scale on the entire neck...no stone left unturned.

If you've ever wondered how I cover scales with my students, you're about to see a big piece of that picture.

The Method

  • Start by learning a horizontal scale pattern - a pattern on one string. Play this pattern in different keys and on different strings until you're comfortable with the pattern of whole steps and half steps.
  • Next, learn the scale starting with your first finger and staying in position. Now you're crossing strings with the scale rather than shifting up the neck. Map out patterns starting on all string sets (E string root, A string root, etc.)
  • Repeat starting on your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers. Again, work out patterns on all string sets.
  • Practice these one octave scale cells until you're equally comfortable with them all. Focus on scale degree numbers (intervals above root) as you work through these scales.
  • Once the one octave patterns are memorized, start connecting the patterns to cover larger areas of the neck. For example, if you start a major scale with your first finger on the 6th string root, you'll finish the one octave pattern on your 2nd finger on the 4th string. Now you're ready to begin the next octave pattern on your 2nd finger.
  • You can spend several weeks (months even) working out and getting comfortable with all the possible scale connections on the neck. Enjoy the journey!

    There you have it - a quick look at my method for mastering scales on the entire guitar.

    If you're tired of all those gaps in your fretboard knowledge, get to work! I've seen this method work time and time again.

    Have a question or comment about this or another approach to learning scales? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.

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