How to think about minor scales within my fretboard framework

I’m struggling to figure out the best way to think about how all the different scales fit together. How do you all visualize the different patterns as they relate to one another?

I know my major scale positions and I want to learn other scales like the minor pentatonic. Should I think about the minor pentatonic as a completely separate pattern in my head? That seems to be how Justin teaches it. Or should I, for example, visualize position 2 of the Am pentatonic as “fitting into” (a subset of) position 1 of the C major scale?

The benefit of the second approach is that it requires learning/visualizing much fewer distinct shapes, but the drawback is that I’ll need to think about my major scale patterns with different root locations depending on which mode I’m in.

If I think of my minor pentatonics and other scales as completely separate, then I’m worried I’m doing a bunch of extra work and my fretboard framework will be fragmented.

For those of you that really know your fretboard, how do you think of these things? Or is there another way of thinking about it that I haven’t considered?

Hey Stefan - let me get the disclaimers in first … I wouldn’t say I have mastered the fretboard, and I don’t know all scale patterns, however I am taking a rather different approach as suggested by Tom Quayle. I am focusing my attention on learning interval patterns rather than scale patterns. So from a given note, I am learning to quickly identify the flat 7ths, 5ths, minor 3rds etc both higher and lower. Sure, I know a few patterns such as the major scale and minor pentatonics but I try and focus on what each of the intervals I am playing are. For example I know a major pentatonic consists of root, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th and I can see those intervals on the fretboard if I want to play major pentatonic. For a new scale I just need to learn the formula rather than all the shapes.
I think there certainly are some advantages to learning patterns or shapes as it’s going to be quicker to move around those without much thought, but I am finding many of my own.
To be honest I’m not sure whether this is the best use of my time and it is a little unorthodox, but I figure it certainly can’t hurt. Most of what I play is major/minor pentatonic or major scale based plus a bunch of blues licks (where I try and see the intervals anyhow) so right now this is working for me.
I am not suggesting you go this route as it’s not exactly mainstream but I thought I’d put it out there.

For me, as I suspect it is for most, everything is derived from the Major scale.
So a minor pentatonic, at its core is 1,b3,4,5,b7. A major pentatonic is 1,2,3,5,6. A minor scale 1,2,b3,4,5,b6,b7.
All relative to the major scale intervals. Its all about intervals.
In that way, all your chords, your triads, your arpeggios etc of any kind whatsover will all derive logically from this initial major scale framework. Its a beautifully logical system that allows you to start to become your own teacher, as well as a student.

The actual patterns that any scale makes in whatever part of the fretboard is - while super important to learn - in the end is secondary and incidental. Learn this major scale derivative framework, and you’ll absorb these initial patterns much more organically, and eventually discover many more besides.

Cheers, Shane

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Stefan, every time someone asks a question about learning more scale shapes, someone posts this important lesson from Justin. I will do it this time.

That said, there are good reasons to learn major and minor pentatonic in tandem with one another, perhaps at different paces.

I too go with the concept that all derives from the major scale - in terms of analysis and theory and more.

In terms of finger placement and the practical side, if you’re playing minor pentatonic, set aside your major scale for the learning of it. If you’re learning and playing A minor pentatonic, the last thing you want at the forefront of your mind, as any kind of translation filter, is the C major scale. Too complex. Too contorted. Too unhelpful. Just learn the A minor pentatonic scale in its own right.

And they say playing the guitar isn’t rocket science. I’m not so sure about that…

Having played violin in a prior life, I practiced major and minor scales and arpeggios every day for an hour. No pentatonic scales there. Basically, just one pattern for each starting on any root note and played up and down three octaves or more. Focus was primarily on bowing articulation, legato, rhythm patterns, speed, etc. Finding the individual notes was mindless.

Picking up the guitar, I memorized patterns for major/minor scales and major/minor pentatonic. Although maybe nice to know this, I now think it was a mistake given the guitar is focused so much on chordal structures. As others have said, you pick what intervals to play and you have to know the fretboard in order to quickly identify a root note as a spot to begin. I now wish I’d started this process sooner. So now I am practicing building any number of chords from knowing what intervals are required. Example, Dom 7 chord is just 1, 3, and 5 with a flat 7. Instead of scales and six string chord grips, I’m thinking more about multiple triad patterns.

This is almost absurdly obvious once you realize this, but it was a big realization for me once I got it in my head.

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Thanks everyone this has been super helpful. To clarify, when I visualize my patterns I’m really just thinking about intervals and scale degrees all the time. Seeing the pattern is a way for me to see all the intervals at once. So learning a new set of intervals (like the minor scale) is tackling a different beast compared to the major scale intervals.

Learning my minor scales will teach me the b3, b6, and b7 intervals. I plan to learn the minor scales using the same shapes as the major scales since I’ll be able to reuse familiar fingerings, but I’ll think about it completely separately since the scale degrees of the notes in the pattern will be different.

Once I have that down, I’ll practice knowing my b5 and b2 intervals, and then I should be able to play any scale in any mode based on the set of intervals.

A follow up question: everyone is talking about intervals, triads, arpeggios, etc being a good way to think of things. Do I always want to be thinking about intervals in relation to the root of the key? Or do you also think about intervals as they relate multiple notes within a key to each other? For example if I’m in C major and playing over an Em chord, do you temporarily see note intervals as they relate to that E? Or do you always think in terms of scale degrees of C? I understand the end goal is to not think about this at all while playing though

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For me, most often I’m thinking about the chord I’m playing over, so I’m likely to be targeting chord tones for example and I might well use chord shapes. However, I also need to think about how the chord functions in the key. For example if I’m playing over G in the key of C (ie the V) then I can’t just think about G major scale as the 7th should probably be flattened. I’m a long way from being able to do that without thinking though!!

Similar to Paul, @mathsjunky, I’m thinking about the chord as well.
So if I’m on an Em chord, I’m initially conscious of the 1,b3,5. In order to create some sort of movement, variation, tension, colour etc, I’m trying to visualise and ingrain the intervals around that Em - relative to the chord. Sometimes those notes arent in C major scale, but they can sound good over the chord. Im also trying to visualise the C major scale around that Em simultaneously.
So I’m trying to ‘see’ the intervals either side of the 1,b3,5 at the moment. Thats enough to keep me busy for a while.
This can be a hard slog for me sometimes. And I’m under no illusion that it’s going to evolve over several years, not several months. But hey, what else am I doin?

Cheers, Shane

Hmmmmm…I think this actually has multiple layers to it depending on your journey.

I would say that at the start you really want to get acquainted with your scales as they are an essential part of your journey. You want your fingers to have an automated response. Your notes you want to hit are within that scale, or close to it It can move depending on your skillsets. And how well you know the fret board. THIS TAKES PRACTICE! I can’t say it enough! :v:

As Justin has mentioned, he has played waaaaay too much scales, no one is coming to listen to your awesome A minor pentatonic! However slap some 1:3, 1:4 in a rows. @Richard_close2u has a good explanation on this.First Steps in Blues Improvisation using Minor Pentatonic Scale Pattern 1

If your talking blues. And suddenly things change.

Obviously,for alot of us, in the end you will want to work with the triads,(this should really be down the road once you have an excellent foundation to work on) but I am just learning triads and I find knowing the patterns is definately a plus, but I drop practicing the basic pattern when my fingers are well acquainted and I barely have to think about it. The scale isn’t what I am after, my automated finger placement is(the athlete)That way I can concentrate on the notes I have to hit, since my fingers are now an athlete I can hit those notes better.

I think this is what you should be focused on to really make it work for you from the lessons and skillsets I have at my fingertips!

So in the end, scales should be worked on as it helps develop alot of other skillsets, but ultimately, drop scale practice once you know them well and I’m positive it helps

Rock on!