Lessons and stuff

Chart Guide

I painstakingly made a bunch of these back in 2011. Every couple years, when I update or move this website I'm reminded of how useful these things are.

Here, nearly too small to see, is the notation guide for all that is to follow.

Hover your mouse over the pointed ^ things to change the position in the graphics below.

Scales in 1 Position

Playing scales in one position is a good place to start if you're just beginning. It also comes in handy when building chords, it does for me anyway.

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Scales Extended

This is a slight variation on the one-position chart, playing 3 notes per string. Generally I prefer these patterns to playing in a single position - especially when ascending or descending quickly.   There are only three basic patterns to learn for this one: WholeStep-WholeStep, HalfStep-WholeStep, and WholeStep-HalfStep.   There are many other ways to play these scales, but I think you can probably figure those out on your own.

Also, since it fit in this chart, I added pentatonic scales where they can fit over three modes. This is not the conventional way to use the pentatonic scale, but there are some cool sounds to be found if you're comfortable with this pattern.

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Pentatonic in 5 Positions

Here we've got 5 positions of the pentatonic scale as it fits over the second note of the major scale (Dorian). Also called "pentatonic", "minor pentatonic", or just "minor". When people mention this scale, this is most likely what they are referring to. This is somewhat different than the pentatonic scales shown above (which is just the pattern of the "i" position applied over 3 modes). More on the differences in another post.

You could probably play > 80% of all guitar riffs ever rocked with just the "i" position. But seeing as you're curious, this is how all 5 look on the fret board. For reference, I left the notes in the related modes as hollow dots. Don't want to confuse anyone, but it's good to remember where those notes are.

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Pentatonic Pivot

So you know the "i" position really well, but you're stuck. Or maybe you're not stuck, but you want some new ideas* anyway.

The "Pentatonic Pivot" chart is made up of 15 groupings of notes in and around the pentatonic scale in one position (see key below). You will probably want to start with "i" and branch out in either direction. Unless you're already a pro at this, I recommend that you learn each pattern by itself first before combining them. What I've included are a mix of modes, pentatonic positions, and arpeggios as they fit (more or less) in the same key. This is not an exhaustive list, there are many other note combinations that work well. If you're feeling lost, have another look at the guide, or contact me.

Practice Using "Planet Caravan":

Line up the "i" position with the root (red-circled note) on E. This is the 12th fret for guitars in standard tuning. The shaded band spans the 12-15th frets left to right. Start playing some of these patterns. That's really all there is to it. If you're just learning, try each pattern ascending then descending. Pay attention to how the "yellow" notes sound (it's not always good). If you're a pro: do your thing. This will work on most rock songs in a minor key, just make sure you line up the "i" position with the right note. I'll do another post like this eventually with some more patterns - and I'm open to song suggestions.

Tabs Explained Left to Right
  • [Ext.] - Pentatonic scale extended
  • [Min.] - Minor mode of the relative key
  • [Dim.] - Diminished (locrian) mode of relative key
  • [VII] - VII position of the pentatonic scale
  • [Maj.] - Major mode of the relative key
  • [Blue] - "Blue notes" (accidentals) added to make the Blues scale
  • [i] - i position of the pentatonic scale (over dorian)
  • [i/Phr.] - "i position fingering" as it fits over the Phrygian mode
  • [Phr.] - Phrygian mode of the relative key
  • [Dom.] - Dominant (mixolydian) mode of the relative key
  • [135] - 1st, 3rd & 5th scale degrees (arpeggio) as they fit in the "i position"
  • [S3s] - Stacked thirds starting (scale degrees = 1-3-5-7-9-11)
  • [Arp Dim.] - Relative diminished arpeggio
  • [Arp Maj.] - Relative major arpeggio
  • [Arp Min.] - Relative minor arpeggio
*disclaimer: I made this as much for myself as for anyone else, it's a good refresher. Enjoy, rock.

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Pentatonic Pivot for Lefties

A little something for the southpaws. Here is the lefty version of the fingering chart. This goes with the pentatonic pivot exercise I posted earlier. Probably best to read through the description on the original post first. Yes, it's just the same thing reflected horizontally. Even that took some time to do... and it's not like I'm getting paid to do this. Sheesh. Enjoy.

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Pentatonic Pivot Video in B-flat

One more time through the original "Pentatonic Pivot" chart. This time with a sweet video. No more excuses, you can do this. Look for a new chart soon with more goodies. See the detailed description of each pattern under the chart in the original post.

Backing track on the video is in Bb. Start with the pattern with the i position on the 6th fret. The patterns played in the video are indicated in the top left corner. Find the pattern in the chart by mousing-over the arrows at the bottom. This video covers: i, VII, Blue, Dom, S3s, & Arp Dim. Try the others too. Enjoy!

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Stacked 3rds and Arpeggios

Based on the Pentatonic Pivot

Tabs Explained Left to Right
Arp = Arpeggio (3 tone)
S3 = Stacked 3rds from Root to 11th
  • [S3 Min.] - (1-b3-5-b7-9-11) over relative Minor
  • [Arp Min.] - (1-b3-5) over relative Minor
  • [S3 Dim.] - (1-b3-b5-b7-b9-11) over relative Locrian
  • [Arp Dim.] - (1-b3-b5) over relative Locrian
  • [S3 Maj.] - (1-3-5-7-9-11) over relative Major
  • [Arp Maj.] - (1-3-5) over relative Major
  • [i] - i position of pentatonic scale
  • [S3 Dor.] - (1-b3-5-b7-9-11) over relative Dorian
  • [Arp Dor.] - (1-b3-5) over relative Dorian
  • [S3 Phr.] - (1-b3-5-b7-b9-11) over relative Phrygian
  • [Arp Phr] - (1-b3-5) over relative Phrygian
  • [S3 Lyd.] - (1-3-5-7-9-#11) over relative Lydian
  • [Arp Lyd.] - (1-3-5) over relative Lydian
  • [S3 Dom.] - (1-3-5-b7-9-11) over Mixolydian (Dom.)
  • [Arp Dom.] - (1-3-5) over relative Mixolydian (Dom.)

Finally, some new material. Based on the original Pentatonic Pivot, this version adds "stacked 3rds" (1-3-5-7-9-11 scale degrees) and a 3-tone (1-3-5 scale degrees) arpeggio for each relative mode. Both are arpeggios, I just use "stacked 3rds" to be descriptive. I've kept the stacked 3rds on the fourth string and the 3-tone arpeggios on the fifth string. If you toggle between two patterns over the same relative mode you'll notice they share the 5th scale degree on the third string - keep that in mind in case you get lost. [also: the 7-9-11 degrees of one chord are the 1-3-5 degrees of the next one. As a result, "Arp Min." and "S3 Dim." share the same notes on the 1st and 2nd strings - as do the transitions between the others.]

The idea behind these charts is to take a familiar pattern, in this case Pentatonic, and use it to anchor other groupings of notes. It is the only way I've come close to wrapping my head around these things. Arpeggios can be a pain to learn - but there are a lot of great sounds to be found using them. Stacking 3rds is also a good segue to chord construction. I'll get right on that.

If you are getting lost, I play an example of "stacked 3rds" (the Dorian pattern over the root of the pentatonic scale) in the video above. In the notation in the table below: "b" means flat, "#" means sharp, in case you weren't a band nerd like me. After you get a few of these down, try playing them with a backing track.

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