Fretboard Diagrams For Scales

Read scales on the fretboard diagrams and learn what order to play notes!

View the full lesson at Fretboard Diagrams For Scales | JustinGuitar

The root note in Red is F#, but the scale is A minor. Why?

Hi @Kitredmond . It’s a movable scale, so you move the root to fret 5 and then you have the Am pentatonic scale. If the root is on fret 2 which is what the picture looks like then yes it would be F#m. You can move the scale anywhere on the fretboard and wherever the root is that’s the scale.

Hello @Kitredmond and welcome to the community.

Note that the diagram deliberately has no fret numbers against any of the frets. It looks like fret 2 but it could be any fret anywhere on the neck.


Cheers :blush:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator

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What does he mean by “the lowest note”?

Advanced players should start and end on the lowest root note—more on how to do this later.

Hi Georgi and welcome to the community

Note that he says the lowest root note, so in this case it will be the Red Root indicated on the 6th E string. When you learn other patterns and shapes the lowest root can be on a different strings, example a 5th string root (or there may be a note below a 6th string root). So you start at the 5th string root, play the pattern all the way to the 1st e string, then back down to the thickest 6th E string BUT then go back up the scale to the Root note you started on.

On the Pattern 1 E shaped Minor pentatonic the lowest root note is the first note you play on the 6th string to start the pattern. So as long as you return there, you don’t have to worry about all that for now. It will be discussed later.

Hope that helps.


Also, folk folks seeing this as starting on the 2nd fret Justin says the follow, which supports what @Richard_close2u was saying about the shape being moveable, 1st fret to the 20th for those with 24 frets !!

When you look at this diagram, you’ll see no dark or double lines to show the nut! Usually, there’s a number on the left of the top fret that indicates the starting fret. In this example, we have a red dot. The red dot contains the root note, and it means that it’s a moveable scale.

There is always good supplementary information in Justin’s lesson texts. Always worth reading as it will answer many questions.



You don’t have to be that advanced player to start and end at the lowest root note :slight_smile:
Quite early on in Beginner course 2 you do a C Major scale starting and ending on C @ 3rd fret A string C Major Scale |

After reading through some discussions and watching some guitar videos, this also confuses me. Also when someone speaks of “the lowest string”. Is this referring to the string with the lowest sounding note (i.e. the low E string)? Or the string that is “mounted” at the lowest position on the guitar (i.e. the high E string)?

Naturally, for me it would be the low E string (because it has the lowest notes). But I think that most people actually mean the high E string when they talk about the “the lowest string”.

The same applies when numbering the strings. For me, string 1 would naturally be the low E string (because my head numbers the strings from lowest sounding to highest sounding). But I think for most people, string 1 is actually the high E string. Is that right?

Hello and welcome to the community @popaqy

Watch and listen very closely from 00:50 in the video until 01:15.
Everything in those 25 seconds explains it.

Start and end on the lowest (lowest sounding) root note which will almost always be on the thick E string or the A string. There is one exception in the CAGED system where a D-shape major scale has its lowest root note on the D string.


Plain and simple.
Lowest in sound.
Nothing to do with spatial positioning relative to the ground, the sky or the universe. :slight_smile:

They are misunderstanding the conventional way of describing and talking about guitars.

The second part of this is correct.

6th string = thickest string = low E string.

Hope that helps.

So the lowest string has the highest number? This makes the confusion perfect :see_no_evil:

But coming from the piano, it also really confuses me that guitarists start counting their fingers at the index finger. Ask any “normal” person to count their fingers … they will surely start at the thumb :joy:

Think of it as the thickest string is the biggest number the thinnest is the smallest number.

Hi there,

In Guitarland, the adjectives low/high don’t refer to physical directions but pitch relations. That’s why you hear things like playing something up at the 12th fret, i.e. not down at the 3rd fret or lower.

I guess thumb is not counted because it’s quite difficult to fret any notes with your thumb. It’s usually indicated as T when referring to fretting bass notes with your thumb curling over the 6th string, but that’s really a niche thing in my book.

However, for fingerstyle or legit classical playing, the thumb is regularly included among the picking fingers. In that case, the little finger may be overlooked sometimes.

I can think of it like that. But it feels counterintuitive to me. I guess it’s best to forget about that “lowest string” and “highest string” thing altogether.
Is a downstrum then not called downstrum because it goes from top to bottom, but because it goes from 6th string to 1st string? This would then be logical, but for my head still counterintuitive :wink:

Yes, that’s logical. Except that the numbering of the strings is the other way around. :joy: … The lower the string, the higher the string number. So a lower string number in fact means a higher pitch. I guess if you’re used to it you don’t even notice it, but for me it’s contradictory. :grin:

Well, if the thumb is not used, it would be perfectly logical for me to just see fingers 2-5 mentioned in the guitar world. But again: it’s just what you’re used to.

I’ve learned already that the picking fingers in fingerstyle/classical playing are marked p, i, m, and a. So again, something completely different :wink:

Yeah, the string numbering needed a bit of getting used to. Also, tunings are named low → high, e.g. EADGBE (standard), DADGAD, etc. so there’s another exception.

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