C Major Scale

This has me confused. I already have learned and practiced the Major Scale before, like in this image.

How come the Major Scale from the website with open strings is not a match?

Are these 2 different things that I am confusing as supposed to be the same?

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There are 5 different shapes in the CAGED system one for each open chord that makes up the name. These are movable shapes.
The first shape you posted is the E shape. The scale it represents is G major
The second shape you posted is the C shape. The scale it represents is C major.
If you want the first shape to be a C major place the Root note on the 8th fret E string


You can study more about the CAGED system in Justin’s Theory Course which I would thoroughly recommend.

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Hi Eric,

What do you mean exactly by “order number” of the notes? Scale degrees? Fingering?

As it’s the C major scale, C is degree I. This scale has only natural notes, so D will be degree II, E will be degree III, etc. The next C will be degree I again.

Fingering: this pattern is in open/first position, i.e. your first finger plays the notes at the first fret, your second finger at the second fret, and your third finger at the third fret.

Also, at this stage, you should begin and end the scale on the note C, played on the 5th string.

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Ho Jozsef, thanks for your message.

In fact I figured it out since then.
but being a non english spoken native, and Justin speaking fast, I had problem to figure out at the same time the talking, the fingers images and the logic behind the strings VS notes.

Now I don’t have a clue about what means Degree I degree II Degree III…But at this point i am not sure i need that bit of Theory. What d you think?

Currently fighting for my Fxxxxxx Chord :frowning:

Take Care


It’s a fancy way of saying notes in the scale. The notes in every Major scale are numbered 1-7
Each one of these numbers refers to a Interval or Degree.


They can also be useful if you are interested in chord progressions. E.g. I-IV-V is the basis of the blues progression. In the key of C it refers to the C, F and G chords. And all of this can be traced back to the major scale.

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Hi Jozsef, thanks .I think I got the overall concept but I am not there yet. I started guitar 15 months ago at 60.
and my boomer brain slowly learn :-).


Thanks for the explanation!

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Working on it! I’m the middle of Grade 5, I see CAGED is coming up in Grade 6 :grinning: :+1:

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Man, I came back from Module 10 (alternative picking this thing) cause I had trouble memorizing this and once the knot is broken (is that a saying in english as well or only in german?) it suddenly makes so much sense. Couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. :smiley:

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Yeah I’m getting confused with scales. I’m trying to do the Theory course concurrent with the Beginner course. In the Theory course, I got assigned the first major pattern to practice, but it isn’t the same as the C Major scale from module 9 of the Beginner course, but actually kind of similar. Similar enough to be confusing. So first off, what I am comprehending is that scales can have a shape and/or a pattern and those are two different things. Am I correct? Why is the C Major in module 9 referred to as a shape instead of a pattern?

Secondly, the C Major scale shape from module 9- is it actually the third Major Scale pattern that technically hasn’t been introduced yet? And is only called C Major because that is where the pattern is being placed root note-wise? This pattern can be played anywhere on the neck, so whatever root note it is applied to, it gets called that note’s scale, correct? So say I moved this pattern #3 from root note C to root note D. What would it be called then, seeing as there is a D Major scale that is a different pattern (pattern #2)?

I guess this confusion results in a third thing I am wondering- how do we verbally differentiate the five different patterns from one another when they can all (I assume) be played anywhere on the neck?


And fourthly, the E Minor Pattern 1 chord box graphic above…it looks like it’s lowest root note is on the F# fret on the 6th string, instead of the open string being the root note. Granted that might be an old chord box on one of Justin’s older lessons showing only the shape and not the proper placement. But am I even correct thinking that in the case of E the open string is the root note? That’s the only thing I can think of as to why that pattern is called an E shape. I dunno, so confusing. I prob need to go back and watch all the scales lessons again.

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Correct. The notes are E G A B D.


Hey Stacey,

Looks like you’re copping scales from all angles :crazy_face:

Remember that a scale is just a specific set of intervals. Thats it. No more, no less.

eg. Major scale - TTSTTTS - 1234567

Patterns, shapes etc are just ways of finding, playing, describing these scales. It is how they are laid out the fretboard.

The CAGED system - not sure if you’ve come across this yet - is a logical, and convenient way of understanding and navigating these scales, and corresponding chord shapes.

To perhaps illustrate, re your last question on the E minor pentatonic;

  1. Just a 5 note scale with specific intervals

  2. The one pictured is the Em shape ( not Em scale). You can see the Em shaped chord ( not Em chord) inside the scale.

  3. If you started the pictured scale on 12th fret, lowest string, which is an E note, you would then be playing the actual Em scale in the E shape pattern.

Hope this helps somewhat. Takes a little while to gel, so dont stress too much over it.

Cheers, Shane


To quote myself from another topic:

“Position = place (fret)
Pattern = shape”

You’re correct that all scales can be played in various patterns (i.e. the shape you see in scale diagrams with the root notes highlighed, etc.) and different patterns can be merged, depending on the situation.

The reason Justin teaches the C major scale in the first position (with open strings) is to drive home the necessity of learning the note names in the first 3 frets. As the C major has only natural notes, it’s a relatively easy lesson. That’s why the “C shape” (i.e. root note on string 5) is not elaborated further at that point.

When naming a given scale pattern, you can refer to the shape and the root note, e.g. playing an E-shape major scale in the fourth position means that you’re playing pattern 1 of the A major scale at the 5th fret. (Position refers to the fret where the index finger plays).

The scale diagram you posted can be interpreted the same way. You can see that the root note is at the 2nd fret of the 6th string, so we can see it’s pattern 1 of the F# minor pentatonic scale. In you want to play the E minor pentatonic, sure, you play the 6th string open. Btw, that’s the other early scale example as it also has only natural notes in it, see the C major scale above.

As to why pattern 1 is called E shape: because the location of the scale notes in this pattern follows the E shape major barre chord grip (see “the” F chord).


Patterns and shapes are simultaneous with one another.

  • E-shape = Pattern 1
  • D-shape = Pattern 2
  • C-shape = Pattern 3
  • A-shape = Pattern 4
  • G-shape = Pattern 5

To keep it simple and not distract. It is a C shape and ties in with having learned a C chord plus note names in the first three frets.

Yes - see the list I have written in this reply.

The pattern is the pattern. The location on the neck determines the root note which determines the naming of the actual scale (as opposed to the pattern of the scale).
So, yes.


It would be called D major if the root note is D.
All 12 notes can have major scales played using all five patterns. So, yes, there is another D major scale pattern. In fact there are four other patterns you can use for D major in addition to this pattern 3 moved up by two frets from the C major scale.

By describing them with root note and pattern number.
A major scale Pattern 5 for example. Because pattern 5 is G-shape whose root note is on the 6th string, playing A major scale Pattern 5 would involve playing the G-shape scale pattern with root at fret 5.

I am unclear why you have pasted a diagram of the minor pentatonic scale in this set of questions? It is a different scale.

I hope that helps.
Richard :slight_smile:


I’ve been seeing references to the CAGED system all over the place (all my social medias where I’ve followed guitar related accounts or when googling things) but I haven’t gotten into reading about it or trying to teach it to myself.

Yes your clarifications are helpful. I couldn’t determine if it was called Em because of the position or the shape, but you’ve cleared that up in a simple and concise way. Thank you, Shane!

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Thank you for this description, this seems complex at this stage, but I know its lack of exposure to theory that’s the issue, and it will eventually become very easy to read a description like that and know immediately what is being referenced…at least I hope it will!

Ah, I forgot this. Both scales are only natural notes. Not questioning the choice or method Justin is using, certainly. But I did wonder why he wouldn’t start at pattern #1 for both major and minor, but again, he’s the expert, definitely not me!

Ahhh ok. Yeah, I remember that now about the F being described as shaped that way. This fact is another one of those things that easily slips out of my mind. And I’m so early in that it is hard to apply these little patterns to memory because its like, oh an E shape barre chord, huh…compared to what other shapes? But I’ll get there one of these days. I think!

Thank you!


Thank you for addressing all my questions! And thank you for confirming that I’m thinking about some of these things correctly. Sometimes very basic things need to be stated for me so I can establish that I have the right understanding and I do not like to assume things, especially fundamental things, so early into a learning course.

This system is undoubtedly a bit confusing for beginners! I gotta get separate terms defined in my mind now before it gets even more complicated. Thank you for the clarification!

Yes, I was also finding the same type of confusion with the minor scale pattern, as to why it was called Em scale when that particular diagram looked like it was showing the root note on F# fret.

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Justin doesn’t teach it this way, but I always found it easier to understand the major scale intervals when they were played on a single string.

This way you, can clearly see the pattern of tones and semitones. It’s a movable pattern - if you know the root note you can play it on any string at any fret (though can get awkward above the 12th)

Probably not that useful for soloing, although there are some songs that use this approach e.g.

She Sells Sanctuary: She Sells Sanctuary (Remastered) - YouTube

Shine: Collective Soul - Shine - YouTube

The riffs in both of these songs play a scale pattern on the G string, over a droning open D string.