3 notes per string major scale

Just wondering if anyone has some ideas on the benefits of learning by the 3 notes per string system of the major scale?
Having spent some considerable time on the caged patterns,I am intrigued to know what some of the advantages might be of 3 NPS?

3NPS scales are harder than CAGED scales in some ways:

  • There’s more of them to learn (7 compared to 5)
  • There’s more notes in each scale to learn
  • They don’t easily align with chords or arpeggios
  • They require greater stretches

The main advantage of 3NPS scales is that you have a consistent number of notes on each string (the clue is in the name) which makes certain note runs easier/faster to do, especially using legato techniques (hammer ons and pull offs). For this reason they are often favoured by metal and some rock players.

Arguably, they suit modal playing too, as it’s possible to align each pattern with a mode.



There are so many videos out there on the subject that you can learn the benefits from better players than me. From my perspective, anything that sounds good and breaks us out of our boxy lead playing is a good thing.

One of the things that I like about the Pentatonic Highway is that you mix two and three notes per string patterns while connecting the various boxes as you traverse the fretboard. Note: We have discussed the Pentatonic Highway here and in the old forum: Scale Diagrams A min Pentatonic - #19 by CT
And really driven home here: 3+2 Diagonal Pentatonics (Guitar Lessons) @EffectiveMusicPractice - YouTube

It’s a good thing to learn, nothing lost in expanding your knowledge, and something to put in your lead playing tool kit. Take in some of the Youtube lessons and let us know how it goes for you.

EDIT: I should note that the Justin courseware suggests spending a fair amount of time on improvisation (the actual percentage is not at my fingertips). I know that learning songs is the mantra, and that tends to point to Lick Library and other rote types of playing as well, but if you’re not doing some freewheeling on the instrument you are missing a lot of fun and a great way to express yourself on guitar.

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I will point out that Justin has a module on 3NPS.

and also this: CAGED vs 3 Notes Per String (3NPS) Scale Systems | JustinGuitar.com




The 3nps patterns are easy enough to construct if you understand them. I’d argue they are easier than the caged patterns. Once you understand the big picture you can quickly build the pattern for any mode. I learnt this from a 10 page booklet written by Michael Pillitiere. If you have the kindle app you can download it for about $4.00

I was going to have a crack at explaining it but it appears that the author has a YouTube series on the method.

Here is a link to the series:

Edit : $2.00 for a printable PDF.


I mostly used the caged shapes because they are more compact. There is less hand shifting required, at least for me. I recommend you become familiar with the ideas in the videos because you can use the 3nps system to help transition up and down the fretboard to the various caged patterns. A sort of hybrid system.

I agree with CT. It’s always good to increase your knowledge and to another tool to your kit.


Thanks for the link there Matt. Looks very interesting. I’ll definitely check that out.

Thanks for all the detailed replies there guys. The 3NPS is something I’d never really considered as part of my practice routine but I’ll certainly delve deeper. I’m blessed in that I have quite a bit of time to dedicate to the guitar so I can put in some extra study.

Thank you again :+1: