Scales and Intervals, Part 3

Hopefully the material we’ve covered so far in scale and interval theory is useful and makes sense. As always, please post any questions or comments here, or send directly to and we’ll respond ASAP.

So continuing on with exploring the C major scale, let’s try playing a few simple variations. Here’s a 5-string 2-octave version starting from 3rd position A string:


The same version spelled with intervals:


Check the tab, observing the slight shift when you get to the B string:

2octave Remember to come back down the pattern, maintaining strict alternate picking. This one is movable as well, with the first note as the root. Playing the formation at the 5th position makes it a D major scale, 7th position is E major, etc.

Here is the scale in just a single octave, but in the more traditional (rather than 3-note/string) form:


As we progress through scales and intervals, and move on to triads, modes, chords, and arpeggios, the 1-octave form comes in pretty handy for developing melodic exercises that go through all seven modes of the scale (which we’ll get to soon).

Let’s look at one more way to play the major scale, before moving on to a quick interval exercise. Check out the single-string scale below:


This is a great exercise for position shifting. Use the suggested fingering and slides, ascending then descending, alternate picking throughout. Take it slow at first; the range you cover quickly makes it tough to just rip through it.

Single-string scale patterns are great to learn, in all keys and on every string. Sample diagrams will be provided on the Resources page, and you can also refer to the fretboard diagram below to figure the rest of the possibilities in C major:


Spelled intervallically:


Don’t worry about going strictly from C to C’ for single-string patterns, this is another great way to build fretboard knowledge and develop melodic patterns to use. Single- and two-string patterns are awesome for developing cool pedal point figures.

In all of these different scale formations, make sure to observe where the intervals are, and how they fall on the fretboard. Keep in mind that the interval designations in the above diagram are in relation to the root, and that the notes are also intervallically related to each other.

That might be a bit confusing, so here’s an example of the different intervallic relationships: you can see where the E note at the 12th fret of the low E string is a major third above the C note on the 8th fret of that string. You can see where the G note (10th fret, A string) is a perfect fifth above that C note. But that G note is also a major second above the F note (8th fret), and a minor third above the E note, the one that’s a major third above the C.

Be sure to check out the 2-page Intervals pdf cheat sheet on the Resources page; it contains a handy 2-octave chart that demonstrates the various combinations. Thirds are especially important to get a handle on, as it is the various combinations of major and minor thirds that are used to construct triads and chords.

We’ll get more into depth on intervals in the next post, but the tab below shows the C major scale played in ascending thirds:


All of the intervals are useful to know, but thirds are probably the most important ones to get familiar with. Stay tuned; more exercises based on thirds, and how to construct triads and chords with them, are up next.

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