In this lesson, we’re going come look at exactly how to interpret scale diagrams. Range diagrams are offered a lot throughout this site, therefore it’s essential to understand exactly how to check out them.

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Before we gain right into it, it’s essential to know that conventions for composing out scales do vary, depending on who is creating them out. The main point of variation being the direction in which the strings and frets are set out. Some people place the strings in the diagrams horizontally, the frets vertically and also some world do the opposite.

Scale Diagrams

Here is an instance of a range diagram, making use of the format embraced on this site.

It is (just because that the benefits of this example), one position of the boy Pentatonic scale. The vertical lines stand for the strings. The horizontal present (or spaces in between) stand for the frets. The circles through numbers in them stand for fingers, v each number gift a reference to it’s particular finger (on the left hand).

If that appears a bit confusing, observe the adhering to diagram with markings.

This demonstrates pretty plainly what whatever is. You may not yet understand what to execute with the diagram, yet we’ll acquire to the shortly.

If you are comfortable with analysis chord diagrams, the format is exactly the same. Every that transforms is what girlfriend actually perform with the information. V a chord diagram, you play every the note at the same time. V a scale diagram, friend play each keep in mind one by one.

How To interpret Scale Diagrams

Now the you recognize what every the lines and also numbers mean, you require to know what to execute with them. What we’re going to do now is play the minor pentatonic scale, making use of the shape(s) above, end one octave.

The circles with numbers in them represent playing a note, v the finger of the same number. Each circle intersects a number and string. When we see a circle, we just play the fret and string that the circle intersects, utilizing the finger that the very same number.

Let’s look in ~ the original scale diagram. In ~ the top left of the diagram, there is a circle v a ‘1’ in it. The is aligned with the very first fret, top top the 6th string (E). Therefor, come play that note, we would just play the 1st fret that the 6th string with our 1st finger. It’s as straightforward as that.

You must practise play a few of the notes in the diagram, selecting notes in ~ random and making certain that you room using the exactly finger come play the fret and also string the it is set with.

Root Notes

Of course, once we interpret scale diagrams, us don’t simply play note at random. Us play each keep in mind one at a time in an orderly way.

Before us look in ~ the bespeak of notes, over there is one more thing we must look at – root notes.

The root notes tell us which scale we are playing. Because that example, once we pat a ‘G young pentatonic scale‘, the root keep in mind is ‘G’. Once we play an ‘A Mixolydian scale‘, the root note is ‘A’. When we play a ‘C# dorian scale‘, the root note is ‘C#’. You obtain the point. Think the the root keep in mind as the ‘home’ note. It likewise tells united state where we must start the scale.

With range diagrams, the root note(s) is usually a different colour 보다 the remainder of the notes. In the diagrams above, the source notes space darker than the rest. The reason why there room three source notes in the original diagrams is because the root keep in mind occurs in a few different octaves. Basically, it’s the same keep in mind each time, yet in a various range.

Order the Notes

Ok, for this reason let’s gain playing. Let’s look at the initial diagram that the minor pentatonic scale, there is no markings:

You should understand what all the lines, circles and also numbers median (if friend don’t, you deserve to reread the explanations leading approximately this point). Currently all you require to recognize is the order of notes.

What we room going to carry out is beat the range over one octave. This means that we room going to begin with the lowest source note and go up to the next root note and then stop. Once you know just how to apply the order of notes, it will certainly be simple to go with the various other notes, however for currently we’re walking to use one octave only.

The an initial step is to situate the lowest root note. By lowest, I average lowest in pitch. This can be confusing, due to the fact that it’s simple to confused ‘lowest in pitch’ through ‘lowest in height, or number (string number)’. Because that example, the 6th string, is lower in pitch 보다 the 5th string. The 5th string is reduced in pitch than the 4th string etc.

To uncover the lowest root note, simply locate the shortest string (pitch-wise) that has a root note. In our diagram above, the root note occurs in the complying with places:

6th cable (E string)4th cable (D string)1st cable (E string)

Which is the shortest string out of this three? The 6th string.

Therefor we begin from the root keep in mind that is top top the 6th string. Since that keep in mind is aligned to the first fret, and also is represented by a circle v a ‘1’ in it, we start out by play the a note on the 1st fret that the 6th string v our first finger.

We have played the first note. Great. Now we simply need come play with the various other notes in order of pitch, until we with the following root note. This basically method that we should play any type of other notes continuing to be on the exact same string, in order of fret number, then we move to the adjacent string (higher in pitch) and play v each that those notes in stimulate of frets, then move to the next string and so on.

Even thought this is fairly simple, it’s really hard to describe without making it seem more complicated than it is. For this reason, I have actually included one more version the the very same scale diagram, however with extra number in red, describe the bespeak of notes.


The order of note from the over scale diagram need to be quite clear. It’s logical. Playing with the scale, one note at a time, in together a means would an outcome in the following:

Remember, we’ve just played with one octave therefore far, which method there space still note in the diagram that us haven’t provided yet. Also, we have actually played an ‘ascending’ scale, i beg your pardon simply method that we have gone increase in pitch with the scale. If us were come go back down the way we came, one keep in mind at a time, we would then it is in ‘descending’.

Why Shapes? Why no Tabs?

Perhaps your asking, ‘why bother with range diagrams, once you can just use tabs, prefer you simply did?’. Good question. The beauty beauty of range diagrams, or ‘shapes’, as they are sometimes referred to, is that they space moveable. This way that you deserve to interpret them come be played in various positions. Tabs are good for telling us just how to play a range in a certain location, however they room not inherently movable, favor diagrams are.

In the original diagram v markings, the 1st, 2nd, third and 4th strings were annotated to make things simpler, however in reality, this frets might be any type of adjacent collection of four frets, relying on where you want to pat the scale. Look at the complying with three diagrams, right here I have had the initial diagram with markings, and two an ext diagrams, set out in different positions


Basically, you have the right to use any set of adjacent frets to readjust the position of wherein you space playing the scale. The over three examples interpret the diagram beginning on the first fret, then beginning on the 5th fret, then beginning on the 8th fret, which would result in the following:

Starting ~ above The first Fret

Starting ~ above The 5th Fret


Starting on The 8 hours Fret


How execute we understand which range we space playing when relocating to an additional position? The root note tells us. If the root keep in mind is ‘A’, we will be playing (using this shape) the ‘A minor pentatonic scale’. If we then relocate to another position and the root note is ‘Db’, we would now be play the ‘Db boy pentatonic scale’.

Obviously, this needs you come be acquainted with the note on the fretboard, so the you know which keep in mind you are actually playing.

Sometimes, the place in i m sorry a chart is to be play is indicated. Because that example, I might say, ‘The G boy pentatonic scale have the right to be played utilizing the following shape, starting on the third fret’.


Here you deserve to see that the ‘3rd’ through an arrow next come it is informing us wherein the 3rd fret is.

Diagrams whereby The Root keep in mind Is not The lowest Note

The above ‘shape’ was basic one to begin with, because the shortest root note was also the lowest note in the diagram. This is not constantly the case.

Let’s look at an additional shape whereby the shortest root keep in mind does not happen to it is in the lowest note in range. This is another shape because that the minor pentatonic scale. It’s the same scale, but effectively a different means of play it.


As friend should have the ability to see, the shortest root keep in mind in this diagram is no the lowest note in the diagram.


All this means is that we have to still begin from the shortest root note (but not the lowest in its entirety note) as soon as interpreting the diagram.

Observe the chart again, yet with the note order in red:


Again, this is a moveable shape, and also the root keep in mind determines which range we room playing. Here’s what the range looks favor when starting on the 10th fret. Together the root note will be ‘G’, we will be play the ‘G young pentatonic scale’.


Using The various other Notes In The Diagram

So far we have actually learnt to interpret scale diagrams by play over one octave. Together I mentioned previously though, over there are various other notes that we can additionally use.

The best method to practise scales, when going v all the note in the shape, but not adding in any type of from one more position, is to monitor this process.

Start from the lowest root noteAscend approximately the highest possible note available (not necessarily a root note)Descend down to the shortest note obtainable (not have to a root note)Ascending earlier to the starting root note (if the lowest note in the diagram is no the root note)

Here is an instance of applying this process to the scale shape that we simply looked at, beginning again top top the 10th fret.


If this appears a tiny confusing, over there is one more post that defines this procedure in greater detail. Currently that you can interpret range diagrams, the post should be basic to understand. Review it here.

The reason why playing with each note of the shape is necessary is because it method that friend really know the whole shape. Of course, you can play over only one octave if girlfriend want, or two if friend want, but as guitarists we have tendency to find out things based on positions. As soon as you know the shape and also all the note within, you can use it together you wish.

Scale Diagrams In The open Position

The last thing that we are going come look at is exactly how to analyze scale diagrams in the open position. This way that we will be spring at range diagrams that have actually open strings in them. Since of the open strings, these shapes are not moveable. Let’s have a look at the C major scale in the open position.


The just real difference when playing these varieties of shapes is the you need to look out for the open strings and also include them once playing the scale. Castle are represented by an ‘O’ i m sorry is aligned come the cable (but not on an really fret, because open strings inherently do not involve frets). When you are playing with the scale, think that the open notes together ‘zeros’. Because zero come before any kind of number, if there is a string v a ‘O’ alongside it, girlfriend play that note before playing the other notes ~ above that details string.

Once you’ve review a few open scale diagrams, you will check out that lock are almost identical to moveable diagrams in exactly how you analyze them.

Let’s look at the keep in mind order that the C significant scale in the open position, over one octave.


As you can see, the procedure for applying the order of note is the same just like the moveable scale diagrams, yet the open strings are also involved. This is what the open up C major scale looks like as tabs.


The source notes can likewise be open up strings. Let’s look in ~ the A major scale diagram in the open up position. The shortest root note is played together the open up A string. This is therefor our starting note. Also notification that no every string in this chart is to it is in played as an open up string.

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And that’s exactly how you read scale diagrams. Remember, girlfriend will regularly see variations on exactly how they room written. It is usual to create out range diagrams with the strings collection out horizontally and also the frets vertically. But regardless, if you come to be proficient at analysis one kind of range diagram, analysis another form just entails a quick mental switch.