The major scale / differences

I’ve been learning the five positions of the major scale. So far so good.
I’ve recently been introduced to legato by my teacher. So why don’t i try to apply this to the newly learned positions, i wonder?
On to the site i go, looking at the legato material. I found a lesson here:
Here’s where the “trouble” starts. The example (Major_Scale) has a different take on the 4th position.
On the fourth position, the first (1) is a tone higher, in comparison to the material i have. On that one, the first note (1), is emitted.
I’ve been looking at different examples online for the major scale, and they all seem to have slight differences. Why is that?

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At the end of the day, the major scale is defined by the notes, not by the pattern or fingering.

There will be variations.

The main variation is the 3NPS patterns. These are well worth learning if you want to do legato.




@Richard_N @Majik thanks for the replies / materials.
These look very promising.
I’m going to enjoy them.

Technically there are 7 major scale positions although 1 & 7 and 3 & 4 are the same, the pairs are the same not all 4. So not really sure why seven are needed given the duplication.

Some, 3 actually of the 7, have in my view the 1st, the last or in one case the first and the last missing in diagrams I’ve seen and used. However the missing notes are still valid.

The easy way to remember until it becomes automatic is to remember the 1st and 6th string notes are always in the same frets, hope that helps.

Yes, one for each of the 7 notes in the scale.

Not really. They have a different starting notes and (sort of) relate to the 7 different modes (although that’s more advanced theory).

Roughly speaking, there’s two approaches:

  • 7 different scale shapes, one for each of the notes in the scale: this is the approach the 3NPS scales normally take.

  • 5 different scales shapes (the CAGED shapes), one for each of the open chords shapes on the guitar in standard tuning. This is specific to guitar and specific to standard tuning but, in general, is the most useful approach for guitar players as it aligns perfectly with standard chord shapes, arpeggios, and pentatonic scale “boxes”.

But, specifically, for legato, the 7 3nps shapes tend to be better as they provide consistency for legato playing.

Ultimately, it’s best to learn both and to understand how they relate, but it’s normally best to start with the 5 CAGED shapes.



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They only have a different starting note because some notes are omitted :joy:

But the modes point likely explains why they are missing, im just starting to get my head round those.

Yeah, I wasn’t quite correct when I said “different starting notes”. I really should have said “the lowest notes of the pattern are different”.

If you are doing a C scale (for instance) you should probably be starting on the lowest C of the scale, which usually isn’t the lowest note of the scale pattern.



If you use the 3nps system there are 7 different patterns. I’m not seeing any duplicates.

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Yes your correct. For some reason Justin has used a pattern that doesn’t really fit with the conventional CAGED patterns. I don’t know why he used that pattern.
Here is the more conventional pattern

Those three notes that I have circled, a full tone followed by another full tone, that doesn’t typically appear in CAGED shapes.
Screenshot (523)

Here is a good reference you can print out.

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Hi @Majik Keith, thanks for clarifying.

I’m referring to CAGED NOT 3NPS, I’ve been shown 7 patterns for that with 2 pairs or patterns the same but with different first notes as @Majik states although he too was referring to 3NPS.

Fair enough. I’ve never seen seven CAGED patterns (2 being duplicates) used for the major scale. Since you were shown seven CAGED patterns and two of them were duplicates, I suspect that someone was showing you how to use the five CAGED patterns to play the seven modes.

Justin uses a wholly consistent 17 notes per pattern approach.
This ensures that with strict alternate picking, a DOWN on the lowest root note as a starter will always ensure that when a full ascending / descending / return to the root is completed then the lowest root maintains a DOWN pick on it.
If that lowest note of pattern 4 was removed it would have 16 notes and the lowest root note would be switching between DOWN then Up picks as the pattern was repeated in multiple cycles.

It is the 17 note consistency approach.

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Yes. In his 3NPS lessons Justin explains that this system of major scale patterns is the choice for playing in a style reliant on fast legato runs.

Ok, so after reading all the wonderful input everybody has contributed, i’m taking away these points, correct me if i’m wrong.
There are 7 positions for the major scale, although there’s some repetition.I didn’t know this before.
It seems that i’ve learned the CAGED positions. Is that good or bad? Or a good starting point? Is there much difference between them?
I’m going to go ahead with the 3NPS lessons.
At least now i know where my confusion came from.

Of the 3nps system. CAGED has 5 one for each of the chord shape.


Aha. Ok.
Thank you for pointing that out.

Or 7, 1 for each mode :joy:

Actually no there isn’t. There are 5 scale pattern in the CAGED system and each pattern contains 7 modes using the 7 notes in those 5 patterns.

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There are only 5 CAGED shapes. As Stich pointed out, with just ONE of those 5 CAGED shapes you can play any of the 7 modes in any key if you understand it. That’s another topic. The OP is interested in the Major scale patterns. There are 7 patterns using the 3nps system. There are 5 patterns using the CAGED system.