One of your primary goals as a guitarist should be learning how to play scales all across the fretboard. Rather than being stuck in the one position, soloing all over the neck will open up countless possibilities for more creative playing. The two fundamental scales in western music are the major and natural minor scales. This column will teach you how to not only play those two scales across the neck easily, but also the other major modes as well.

For faster playing, the best way to play scales is using three-note-per-string groupings. By having the same amount of notes on each string, it makes it much easier to rip through scale licks quickly. If you’re into fast metal soloing, learning these patterns is essential.



For this column, we’re going to stick to the key of G major. Check out Exercise 1 (ignore the weird names for now). The first pattern is a G major scale played three notes-per-string. Now, there are seven notes in a major scale. If we continue up the neck playing the same notes but starting on each consecutive tone, the end result is seven ‘shapes’. No matter what note you start and end on, as long as G is kept as the root note, all the patterns can be used to play G major. Work through each shape, pausing on the G notes: Track 1.

The basic fingerings to use, according to the fret spaces, are as follows: two frets-two frets: fingers 1-2-4, one fret-two frets: fingers 1-2-4, two frets-one fret: fingers 1-3-4.


Every major scale has a relative minor made up of the same notes, only starting and ending on the sixth degree. If we count up six notes within G major we get E. This means that the scale forms for G major can also be used to play E natural minor - as long as E is now considered the root note. Once again, play through each shape but pause on all the E’s: Track 2.


These seven patterns don’t have any strict names. However, if you think of them modally you’ll be able to play every mode of the major scale. A mode of a scale is simply playing the same notes but starting on a different root note. Since there are seven notes in a major scale, if we make each note the root note, we get the seven modes. It’s easiest to think of the modes as alterations of a basic major or natural minor scale.

Each mode, plus its corresponding chord, can be summarized as follows:

1. Ionian – The modal name for a major scale, chord - major.

2. Dorian – Natural minor with a raised sixth (#6), chord - minor.

3. Phrygian – Natural minor with a lowered second (b2), chord - minor.

4. Lydian – Major scale with a raised fourth (#4), chord - major.

5. Mixolydian – Major scale with a lowered seventh (b7), chord - major.

6. Aeolian – Modal name for a natural minor scale, chord - minor.

7. Locrian – Natural minor with a lowered second and fifth (b2, b5), chord - diminished.

You can hear each modal form with its matching chord on: Track 3.


Practice in different keys, use a metronome, use hammer-ons ascending/pull-offs descending, use alternate picking, improvise joining them all together, focus on the minor ‘metal’ sounding modes (Aeolian, Dorian, Phrygian, Locrian).  I’ve recorded three short solos in E Aeolian, E Phrygian and E Lydian to give you an example of how you can use these scale forms: Track 4, Track 5, Track 6 respectively.

There’s a hell of lot that can be done with these seven patterns. Get them down and you’ll be well on your way to shredding all over the neck.