How To Practice Scales

After you have learned them, this little routine will help you make music from the scales!

View the full lesson at How To Practice Scales | JustinGuitar

Why are you starting the chromatic scale on the second fret and calling it first position?

Hey Ralph,

Justins not actually ‘starting’ here on the second fret. He’s starting on the root note of the G Major scale, G, on the third fret. Also, the Major scale is a diatonic scale, rather than chromatic one.

When practicing/learning scales, you usually play down to the lowest note in the scale in that position/shape, which in this case is the F# on the second fret.

Regarding why 1st position and not on first fret? Best to think of the pattern name (eg. pattern 1) as relating to the SHAPE, rather than where its played. Where it is played will be determined by the root note. For example, pattern 1 of the A Major scale has its root on the 5th fret, pattern 1 of the E major scale on the 12 fret etc.

All the best
Cheers, Shane


Man, why didn’t anyone tell me this. Jeez, I learn so much from Justin, or, well, his site and people. I would like to say though that isn’t he playing every fret or are the four fingers just positioned above the strings and he is playing whole notes ( full steps) except for the F#. I know a lot about music because I was an accomplished clarinetist. Your site is so rich, but one thing causes me problems. The camera angle straight on to his hand makes it hard to see what fingers are playing where. I don’t know what to suggest but I have to watch some videos many times to get it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. Ha. Oh, and why wouldn’t the root of A Major be the open A string? Where would I find a description of all the patterns? Thank you.

You can see why I thought it was a chromatic scale.

Hey Ralph,

The patterns in this system ( CAGED system) are moveable patterns, so they cannot contain open strings. They provide the framework for the corresponding moveable chords shapes that are formed from within these shapes. It is a widely used map of the fretboard.
The Major scale itself, is just a series of 7 notes that can be formed any way you like. The CAGED system is one very common, logical, and very helpful, way to map it.
You can utilise the Major scale in the ‘open’ position as well ( ie using open strings), and its utilised alot on the guitar… Eg For A major, start on the open A string, then move up the scale with the remaining notes.
For pattern descriptions, just do a search on the website. There’s whole courses on this stuff, as its fundamental.


Ralph, I can see why you thought it was chromatic. It is a little difficult to follow the fingers, especially when he starts playing the patterns fast.

Justin has revamped the many of his lessons, including work on a new Intermediate programme focused on the major scale: Major Scale Maestro 1 |

You don’t give any indication as to where you are in Justin’s learning pathway. Depending on where you are it may be appropriate to start with the Major Scale Maestro.

If Grade 1 and 2 more appropriate for your level, then I’d suggest follow the programmes in sequence and scales will be introduced at a point.

I have found Justin’s sequencing works well to develop skills, knowledge and lay a solid foundation.


Several questions to address.

It is not the chromatic scale, it is the major scale, the G major scale to be exact. The lowest root note in pattern 1 is G at fret 3 of the 6th string. The lowest note overall in the pattern is F# at fret 2 of the 6th string.
Note - Justin calls it position 1 in this old, old video and has since revised his thinking to call the shapes patterns not positions.

I would deter you from looking at and attempting to learn all of the patterns. There are 5 CAGED patterns. Start with pattern 1 and pattern 1 only. Until you can play it fluently, cleanly and, most importantly, use it musically, then you do not want to think of learning further patterns.

See here for Pattern 1 Major Scale Pattern 1 |

It is an old, old video. Justin’s camera equipment and filming techniques have improved massively since. Use the new videos for learning the scale patterns and these old videos for content and advice.

Not strictly true.
There are two occurrences of a half step in any major scale.
For this G major scale they occur between F# and G plus between B and C.
F# - G = frets 2 and 3 of 6th string plus frets 4 and 5 of 4th string plus frets 2 and 3 of 1st string.
B - C = frets 2 and 3 of 5th string plus frets 4 and 5 of 3rd string.

None of the major scale patterns that you will learn through CAGED (at the beginning) contain open strings because you learn them as movable shapes. That said, there is an exception. Justin teaches the C major scale early in the beginner course (grade 2) and that does use open strings. His reason for teaching it at that stage is to introduce scale and single note picking. He deliberately does not call it a CAGED pattern even though it is. Just a CAGED pattern that is pushed off the end of the neck so some notes become open strings beyond the nut.

I hope that helps.

I have been looking at Justin’s major scale maestro and some other major scale information and I think Richard and Justin are spot on with this advice.

You can easily find all the patterns, but, they are just patterns and too many patterns does is no good at all. Justin and Richard take the approach of emphasizing musicality over, not technique, but rote learning. I have thought about this a lot, because I love technique, but I believe they are right.

Learn to use one scale pattern, make music with it, play it in different ways and learn how to make it musical and not just letting your fingers fall into a pattern. Then the other patterns can be added in in a useful and musical way.

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Well, all so very interesting. First of all, I was surprised to learn that I have to pay for the course on Scales. However, I don’t mind it at all because it is of inestimable value. This is very different from playing scales on a clarinet or a piano and it is fascinating. I agree that musicality is the ultimate goal but that technique is one of the requirements to reach that goal. There is so very, very much to learn and Justin is a great teacher, a natural. One problem for me is my fingers (3rd and 4th) simply can’t reach close to the fret on the succeeding frets. I hope that it’s true that you can stretch them.

Ralph, are you referring to the Practical Music Theory course? If so you can begin working on scales in Grade 2 or the course I linked to in a previous reply.

It is true, based on my own experience.

Ralph, you categoricaly do not have to pay for the courses which teach about the major scale and its CAGED patterns. The paid course, as @DavidP suggests, is the theory course. You can subscribe but it is not how you access the major scale lessons.