Scales on single string as a finger exercise

I’ve been playing on and off for a year now.
Following Justin’s plan and taking a few deviations here and there, I started showing my wife (she’s been playing a couple of months now) the G major scale, a couple of strings at a time as an exercise to loosen her grip, stretch the fingers a bit, and give her a something to do when the finger soreness got a bit much.

Anyway, I have, like many neglected the learning of most of the notes on the fretboard - simply going through them is pretty boring, so I have come up with the plan of combining single string scales as a means to both learning the notes, exercising my fingers (nerves are knackered) and getting to know the fretboard down to the 12th fret.

I am just doing the Major scale at the minute - the WWhWWWh pattern starting with the open string, playing with one finger all the way up, then using each other finger to do the same, so 4 times per string. Making sure I call out the notes makes it interesting, as I frequently question myself - especially on the B!

Next I will do the minor scale pattern, and then start moving the root to the 1st fret, 2nd fret etc.

One question I have is regarding the enharmonic names.
I start open string and go the 12th, so every enharmonic gets a ‘Sharp’ name.
Going back down the neck (starting from the 12th) would it be normal to give the notes a ‘flat’ designation?

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If you are doing normal diatonic scales, the rule is that each note letter should be used exactly once. So if you start from E, the next note up is F# and not Gb, otherwise you would miss the letter “F”.

The same applies on the way down. So it, basically, depends on the key and if you are doing a scale in the key of E (for example) then it’s the same regardless of direction.

For the F major scale, you would name the 4th note in the scale “Bb” rather than “A#” for the same reason: you have already used the letter A and can’t use it again.




Andy, I think @Majik’s answer has probably cleared this up for you already.

In a nutshell my answer would have been to say ‘no’. When playing the scale up and down the neck you would call the same note name up and down. And the note name is based on the scale as per @majik’s reply.

Thanks for that.
I can stumble by now without overheating my brain (doesn’t take much!)

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I agree with all replies given so far.

All the major scales based on the open strings as root notes have note names that take a sharp and not a flat.

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My advice - use flats, not sharps. It’s a lot easier! :smiley:

One way to take this to the next level is to play riffs this way, with the adjacent bass string played open as a drone.

Two examples, on the G string and open D string:

  • She Sells Sanctuary, by the Cult (which is on the App…last time I looked, anyway)
  • Shine, by Collective Soul

This trick works on the open A and E strings as well - just play the melody on the adjacent string. I’ve come up with my own riff using this approach too.

Playing the riffs on the single string is a good idea. Anything to get through learning the notes!

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Hi Andy,

I admire your conscientiousness, but I think learning the major scales & notes on the fretboard this way is a bit of an overkill.

What I would do is to learn the 6 key notes on the 5th and 6th string, then the octave shapes, and after that doing the “find a note” exercise. Those are a bit more creative and help to get you used to thinking less “linearly” about the place of the notes.

For the major scales, fill in the worksheet as many times as you can and see if you can discover any “rules” or patterns, e.g. where and in which order the accidentals (sharps/flats) appear, the relationship between the root note of the scale and the number of accidentals, etc. I think these exercises have much more benefit in the long run than learning each major scale note by note. They may require a bit more effort in the beginning but will pay you dividends pretty soon.


Thanks for that - I just found the lesson and will give it a go. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I think that anything that promotes fretboard awareness is worthwhile, knowledge of where the notes are is invaluable!