Module 7 Lesson 2

Prior to Module 7 Lesson 2, this was my reference for the C Major Scale.

Module 7 Lesson 2 gave me this (not to be read as tab, just a chart)


I feel like I’m missing a ton of information on how to reconcile these two things. If anybody wants to help, I would really appreciate it.


That shape that you gave from M7:L2 is actually being used in the above fretboard chart - starting with the C on the 8th fret of the E string (played with the middle finger), then the D on the 10th fret with the pinky, then moving on to the A and D strings with the same finger pattern, starting with the E note played with the index finger (7th fret of the A string).

Same pattern and fingering starting with that C on the 3rd fret of the A string, to play the entire scale. That shape/pattern works if you start on the E or A string for any note, to play the major scale.

Only reason this is so fresh on my mind is because just this week I’ve been learning other major scale shapes you can use to play the scale. But since that lesson in B2B, that shape is really my go-to for playing the scale. But, you could play the whole scale on one string if you really wanted to, it would just be a pain shifting that much, when you could just play the whole scale on just one area of the neck, and leave your fretting hand in one basic playing position.

Hoping that clarified, maybe someone else has a better answer though - I’m still learning this too!


This is correct. The only thing I would add is that the reason Eric’s first chart is different is it has all of the fretted notes that are in the scale on it, while the tab-looking one just has one octave. So when you eliminate the duplicate notes and the ones in adjacent octaves, they are the same.

For example, the A string “3” on the tab and the red C on the E-string on the image - those are the same note (the exact same pitch.) Meanwhile, that G in the upper right corner of the image is one octave higher than the “5” on the D string in the tab. So once you eliminate all of those duplicate notes or ones in other octaves, it looks like the tab.

Now the confusing thing for some folks: all of those notes are in the scale and you can come up with other shapes to represent the scale, such as all on one string, like Vik says. It’s just that the shape Josh gives and you have in the tab there - that’s generally the most convenient one. For example:

G|    4 5
D|  3   5   7
A|  3   5   7

That’s also C major. But much less convenient.


@howard and @Vik Thanks a lot for clearing that up. Great explanations, both.

Is the inclusion of all natural notes what makes the C major scale unique?


Kind of. It is the only major scale made up of all naturals, but that’s just an artifact of notation. Other than absolute note pitch, no major scale is really any different from any other, because the important part is the note intervals, not the discrete note names.

Getting just a little deeper in theory, it is also not unique - for example, A minor is also all the natural notes. C major and A minor use the same notes, they just start on different notes. This is true of all scales - every major scale has a corresponding minor scale that uses the same notes.

You won’t want to hear this but reading music makes this part easier because you start to think of notes and intervals instead of frets :slight_smile:


And - if you want to bypass the theory part altogether - the one thing that made playing that scale fun for me was just knowing that I could play that same shape anywhere, and it would come out sounding nice, as it was a major scale with some root note. I didn’t care what note was the root, or what notes the different degrees of the scale were - too much to process.

Now, I at least know enough about the fretboard to know what root I’m starting on. I’m still not there about naming all the notes of each major key. (Not even close) But at least I can sound like I’m not hitting an off-note, just by sticking to this shape :smile:


Good stuff already from @howard and @Vik. What can be confusing is to accept that there are many different ways (patterns) to play a C major scale (in fact, any major or even any other scale). There are different ways that use different parts of the fretboard, but always give you (in this case) the C major scale.

The one from M7L2 is probably the most compact and most well known pattern. Here, you should start the fingering with your middle finger on the third fret of the A string. You might find this labeled as “first position” in some texts/videos (because it covers the lower part of the fretboard). The second position to play a C major scale starts with your pinky on the 8th fret of the E string, then your index finger on the fifth fret of the A string, ring on 7th, pinky on 8th, index on 5th (on D string now), ring on 7th, index on 4th of the G string and middle on 5th (hope this shorthand makes sense!?). This position covers the middle part of the fretboard. The third position is then the one starting with your index in the 8th fret of the E string. Then middle on 10th, pinky on 12th, index on 8th on A string, middle on 10th, pinky on 12th, index on 9th on the D string and middle on 10th. This one requires a bit more spread in your fingers, and, obviously covers the upper part of the fretboard.

There are other variants that distinguish themselves by how many strings are involved in fingering the scale, but I’ll stop here. Just explore for yourself how many different ways you could play a C major scale across and around the fretboard… there are quite a few!


Wow. Thanks for all this. You guys are pretty great for taking the time to write all that out.

It has taken me a couple of days to digest this. I think my biggest take away at this point is visualization. Josh even made the point in one of the first few classes how a lot of this is easier if you visualize it on a keyboard rather than a bass. The patterns become more obvious. Thanks again, this was very helpful.


Yeah there are some things that are just much easier to show on a piano keyboard, and the relationship between scales and notes in scales is a huge one.

On the other hand, it is much easier to learn to play scales on stringed instruments. Once you know the scale pattern, you can play the scale from any root note equally well. The same is VERY MUCH NOT true of the piano, where it is easy to figure out any given scale, but to play at any speed you effectively memorize the notes in all the scales :slight_smile:


@eric.kiser, this chart shows ALL the locations of the “C” notes up to the 12th fret (colored red). Within this chart, you can find two complete C major scales. One starts at the 3rd fret of the A string, and the other starts at the 8th fret of the E string.

I can see how confusing the rest of the notes could be to you. :slight_smile:

You’ll gain more understanding of the “octave shape” and the “unison shape” in Module 12 lesson 4 part 1 and the chart will make more sense to you then.

Cheers, Joe


Yeah. Frankly I don’t find diagrams like that nearly as useful as ones that just show a single octave pattern starting on the root.


Yes, you are right, @Jazzbass19, but the most important aspect is that there are at least 6 different ways to play the C major scale in the space given by that diagram, i.e., paths to come from one of the lower C’s to one of the higher C’s!


Yep. The problem I have with charts showing all the notes regardless of octave that happen to be in C major like that is that you’re also showing all the notes in Am, and the five other diatonic modes as well for that matter. And it’s hiding the actual patterns used to make a major scale by just throwing out a big cloud of notes.

Plus if they are going to show all the notes, they missed the open strings, all of which are also in C major :slight_smile:

So now, say you need to learn F# major. Well, if that chart had taught you one of the major scale patterns instead of just throwing all the notes out there, you wouldn’t need a chart, because you would just know the pattern. But instead they would now need to show a chart of all the notes in F#maj.

I feel like charts like that are made by piano teachers teaching other instruments on the side :slight_smile:


I agree that this chart is - on its own - more confusing than helpful, @howard. However, it DOES include all notes of the C major scale (AND all notes of the related diatonic scales), as you also pointed out, so you could argue that once you memorize the entire pattern here, you know all the “good” notes and the once to avoid for Cmaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, and so on (all diatonic scales for C maj) Now, if you are interested in F# major, you “just” shift everything two frets to the right and voilà :smile:

In reality, you’d need to use this overview chart together with the basic scale patterns. They are, of course, “hidden” in there, but if you don’t already know them, you won’t find them. D’oh!

Still, one important point is that the patterns you are referring to are typically only the most compact patterns for, e.g., C major. It is, however, advisable, to learn - eventually - all the patterns that give you the C major scale on your fretboard, as this is also the only way to be able to play that (or any) scale over more than one octave. Then, you need to know how to continue going up the fretboard, but the movement is now no longer horizontal, but much more vertical.

Initially, I thought there would be shortcuts to get this knowledge, but I guess there is no way around to memorizing these patterns over the entire fretboard and get them into your muscle memory as well. That, I am afraid, takes a lot of (zen-like) patience :smile:


Well - yes and no. You have the root notes for those keys but actually have the scale notes for Cmaj, D Dorian, E Phrygian, etc. Which is interesting as trivia but not as useful as knowing the corresponding major and minor scales in a chord progression. (Which the pattern shapes give you :slight_smile:

You basically have all the root notes for any chord progression from C, and all the notes for any diatonic scale made up of using only the white keys on a piano. But there are notes that are not valid for, say, Emin or Fmaj on that chart.

I agree that it is good to know where other notes are outside the pattern. And yes, you just need to learn them. But at the same time I can completely understand confusion caused by charts like that. It totally reminds me of learning scales on the piano, which is sacrificing a big advantage of stringed instruments :slight_smile:


You are right again, @howard - I should have formulated my statements more carefully.

Once you know all the notes of the C major scale, then you are “home-free” in any song in C major, where the chord progression uses chords from the diatonic family. So, I should have made the clear distinction between the chord F major (7) and the scale of F major. While you can use all notes of the C major scale over an F major chord (then you’d play F lydian), not all notes of the F major scale are part of the C major scale.

So, yes, the notes ARE valid for an E min chord and an F maj chord, but NOT for the entire E min scale or the entire F maj scale :crazy_face:

While somewhat confusing, this gives you choices over what to play over a given chord. So, if we have an E min chord (and the song is in the key of C), then you could play the E phrygian or the E minor scale over that chord. If you encounter an E min chord, but the song is in the key of D, then you could play the E dorian or, again, the E minor scale. And so on…


Yeah for the triads (and probably the 7th in most) that’s true. It’s not really an important distinction for playing along with others.

We’re getting really, really far afield into theory from the original question but now I just realized I honestly don’t know, when improvising a bassline in a chord progression, if it would be better to stick with notes in the chord key or notes in the mode from Cmaj - like, if the chord progresses to Emin, is it ok to play F while improvising, or should you play F#? F is in Cmaj but not Emin, which uses F#. I am guessing it would be better to stick with the chord key so you don’t sound discordant with the guitar chord. Then again, maybe it would just take the song into one of the other modes like Phrygian then, and still sound cool :slight_smile:


(Reverb Soaked Deep Voice from the Clouds:)
(voice fades)

… Of course, if it sounds good to you, but the band leader hates it, you’re S.O.L.
There’s always a catch…


Hahaha yeah, thanks man. Clearly I am overthinking this.


Nah, thanks for keeping me accountable for what I am saying here, @howard :smile: I guess I had been venturing out onto the lake too far not realizing how thin the ice had gotten, such that I should have fallen through a while ago…

At this point in my career in music theory, I might also be overthinking the whole thing, but the resulting occasional eureka moment makes up for that, I think.

Let’s recap:

  • looking at an isolated(!) C major (7) chord (C - E - G - B), it probably doesn’t matter whether you play an F over it or a F#. If in doubt: @Gio’s Rule applies! BUT: we probably need to see this C major chord in the context of the other chords around it and the key of the song - if the key is C, then C major is the I chord and an F# is probably not a good idea; if the key is G, then C major is the IV key (lydian mode) and an F# is indeed warranted.

  • there is more than one minor mode (natural, harmonic, melodic, …) and so, again, the context (key etc.) tells us whether an E minor chord is the ii, iii, vi, or vii chord, and accordingly what notes fit “better”. E.g., if it’s the ii chord (dorian) then there should be an F#, it it’s the iii chord (phrygian), then it should be an F, and so on

  • if you (only) think of the parallel key, then E minor would “belong” to G major, and you’d think there always should be an F# when playing over the E minor chord. Obviously, this is “just” the aeolian scale, i.e., when E minor is the vi chord

  • if in doubt, revert to @Gio’s Rule