Shapes & Patterns

As you may have noted in the regular course of playing, often a chord “shape” may be moved up and down the fretboard without altering its construction – and the displaced position becomes an entirely new chord.

In other words, if you fret the board as follows: 1-3-3-2-1-1, this yields a Fmaj chord. However, sliding this same “shape” up to the third fret constructs a Gmaj chord: 3-5-5-4-3-3. No matter where you displace the chord shape along the low E string, you will effect a new chord (of course those higher than the 12th fret will repeat those chords yielded above the 12th fret).

The same principle is applicable to scales. If you take notice of the shape that is used to effect a Gmaj scale, that pattern may be moved up and down the fretboard just as a chord shape. For instance, the Gmaj scale (E{string}: 3-5, A: 2-3-5, D: 2-4-5, G: 2-4-5, B: 3-5, E: 2-3-5) can be displaced to any fret along the low E string, and that position constructs the new scale. So, if the Gmaj pattern was slid up to the 7th fret, the result would be a Bmaj (E: 7-9, A: 6-7-9, D: 6-8-9, G: 6-8-9, B: 7-9, E: 6-7-9).

This also applies to the other patterns employed to produce different scales – whether it is the pattern for a Fmaj or an Amaj, the pattern will force the production of a new scale at any displaced starting point (as long as the pattern remains on the same string).

Therefore, an Amaj shape or pattern (E: 5, A: 2-4-5, D: 2-4-6, G: 2-4, B: 2-3-5, E: 2-4-5) can be slid up the fretboard to the 10th fret, invoking a Dmaj scale (E: 10, A: 7-9-10, D: 7-9-11, G: 7-9, B: 7-8-10, E: 7-9-10).

Likewise, this formula can be used to play the same scale from a specific position in many of the different, but not all of the shapes and patterns. Consequently, a Cmaj made be invoked by three different patterns beginning on the 8th fret along the low E string (Gmaj; E: 8-10, A: 7-8-10, D: 7-9-10, G: 7-9-10, B: 8-10, E: 6-8-10; Amaj; E: 8, A: 5-7-8, D: 5-7-9, G: 5-7, B: 5-6-8, E: 5-7- 8; Fmaj; E: 8-10-12, A: 8-10-12, D: 9-10- 12, G: 9-10-12, B: 10-12, E: 8-10-12).

Although all of the above examples utilize scales positioned on the low E string, the same principle holds true for scales that begin on any string – as long as the pattern begins and ends on the same string.