Recalling Major Scale Notes

Interesting. That is what I would think of as “pattern” and not interval.
The minor pentatonic interval from root would look like Root, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 as semitone offsets in my bullet point above.

I can see an advantage in using pattern method since when a chord sequence changes, you can just think in the new pattern options for the new chord. I can see this being possible even if I don’t know the note names.

How do you handle a song in a different scale? Wouldn’t you need to learn a new set of patterns for each scale?

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No, the patterns are movable. First finger on E string 5th fret you are playing the A minor pentatonic scale (assuming pattern 1- the one I listed previously). First finger on 8th fret you are playing the C minor pentatonic scale (pattern 1). The intervals are the same for a given scale, regardless of the key. Only the notes change.

To be clear, you still need to memorise the shape of the pattern by rote. When you no longer need to think about that, you can start to visualise the intervals.

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1-4, 1-3, 1-3, etc… IS the pattern- which fret on which string. The intervals (R, b3, 4th, 5th, b7th) start from the root note. For pattern 1 of the minor pentatonic scale, the first note is the root. That isn’t always the case for the other patterns.

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Memorise in what way?

The way to play on guitar? If yes, your fingers will do that in repeatable and movable shapes, starting with 5 CAGED patterns built up gradually over time.

The notes within each? Guitarists tend to stick to A, C, D, G, E keys so there’s no need to get bogged down worrying about all 12.

The point of a formula and a reference guide is to delegate some of the effort of remembering and using the tools to figure out what you need when you need it. Over time, and with usage, memorisation will come.


Just to go a step further on this: unless you are playing from musical notation, you don’t even need to know the key signature. If you know how to play the scale on the guitar, you will automatically get the right notes.

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Hi Richard,

Thanks for the comments. For some background, I am enrolled in Justins Music Theory and I was also watching Stevie Ray Vaughan Tin Pan Alley (with Johnny Copeland) - YouTube and thinking about how these guys know what to play.

I took a long weekend off which affords me time to think of these things. :slight_smile:

I have seen CAGED in my reading in several places. I know it is in my future but I haven’t been that far in the lessons yet. Good to know it will be a part of the answer, so I will try to be patient!

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Hi John,

I need to let my theoretical mind crank through that proof! Right now, it seems like if I am in C Major, it will be different than Ab Major. Even though a few of the notes are the same, I still have flats in Ab Major that are not in C Major.

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@sequences Do you know the note circle? There are only 12 notes and the major scale only uses 7 of these notes. Richard listed the most common keys used by guitar players. The pattern to every major scale is the same and once you know the intervals in the pattern you can use the note circle to figure out the note.
Practice the scale in the 5 major keys and say the notes as you practice. Use the note circle as a guide until you memorize each key.

Don’t worry to much if you have a hard time it’s really not that important to know the notes, it more important to know the patterns and be able o make music with the patterns.

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What I’m saying is this: let’s say you can play the C major scale in position 1 (root on 6th string, 8th fret). You can make music, improvise, play some licks or a composed melody, whatever. You can do the same exact thing in Ab by moving your position to 6th string 4th fret. You don’t need any music theory beyond knowing that Ab is 2 full tones below C. You don’t need to know about the flats in Ab major, because you know the pattern. Does that make sense?


I can assure you that thinking about the notes and intervals and scale patterns is certainly not their guiding force and mindset.

How do they play like that then? :slight_smile:

It has to start somewhere. I am pretty sure actively making decisions is not happening, it is subconscious. But is the beginning more of a theoretical knowledge of the notes in a scale or more of an artistic experiential knowledge of what sequence of string/fret combos will go together to create the feeling? Both is my expectation.

What I am hearing from my original question is to get a few keys in a couple scales worked out in memory and don’t worry about knowing more until it is needed. That much seems manageable to me.

I would not make it that complex. That is far too much to want and expect and work on as you learn to use scales to make music.

One scale. One only.
Either major or minor pentatonic.
One pattern. One only.
Pattern 1.
The open position C major scale C-shape comes early in the beginner course. But for dedicated major scale learning the E-shape is pattern 1.

The open position E minor pentatonic scale is also introduced early in the beginner course. It is the same pattern as the A minor pentatonic but uses open strings where the A minor pent needs fretted notes at fret 5.

If you’re going with A minor pentatonic then this topic may help.

If you’re going with the major then Justin introduces a little major scale improv in the beginner course.

The basic approach is learn and practice the pattern, learn and play it well and at a reasonable speed, though being fast is not the aim. Once comfortable you play and create music with it over backing tracks ideally.

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I love this method with Catos diagram :slight_smile: am getting to grips with the scales just wish i had been told years ago

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I’m a bit stuck. Catos diagram has no number under the F on the left with the flats

The exercise asked me to put down the notes for F major Scale - is F Major Scale F or F#?
F has all naturals besides 1 flat, F# has all sharps besides one natural

I dont feel like the F scales are explained in Catos diagram, or am I missing something?

I’m trying to understand something.

We have things called minor chords (Emin, Amin, Dmin etc), and I’m wondering if this is the equivalent to Eb, Ab, Db. But upon Googleing, this doesn’t seem to be correct.

When I google the difference between a Emin and Eb, the answer I got aws that Emin refers to the Emin scale, whereas Eb is a singular note. So how come there is a chord called E (or A or D) minor?


Rob @nashi
If you look ahead to Grade 4 all will become clear.
Too involved to explain in a post.

Hey Rob,

Think of it all as a structure like this;

Notes 》 Scales 》Chords

CHORDS are built from SCALES, which are built from NOTES

The term ‘Eb’ on its own doesn’t give much info. However, in the structure above, ie, in context;

‘Eb’ can refer to a note ( a note can be b, #, or natural) Never minor or major though, which would be nonsensical.

‘Eb’ can refer to a scale eg. The Eb major scale, or Eb minor scale etc ( a scale, in its basic distinction, can be major or minor)

‘Eb’ can refer to a chord, specifically Eb major. ( a chord, in its basic distinction, can be major or minor)

As you work through your theory study, and start to see the structure/ substructures above, it will all become very clear. It does takes some time to gel initially though for just about everyone. And, keep asking questions. Its the smart thing to do. :+1:

Cheers, Shane


Why is it important to recall the major scale notes? I understand it’s useful to know the major scale patterns and the notes on the fretboard, but why recall it from memory? What overall goal does this help us work towards?

Every note in the major scale also relates to a chord in the Key of that scale and the relive minor of that key. These chords are what makes the music written in those Keys.
You’ve heard of chord progressions like 1 4 5, 1 6 4 5 etc. These numbers are the chords in the major scale of the Key.

Phew, just did the exercise and relieved to say that, thanks to the lead up of Lessons (thanks Justin!), I got them almost all right. Caveat: F Major tripped me, which served as a good (and hopefully lasting) reminder about the quirks of F.