3 Notes Per String Major Scales

This lesson is a complete breakdown of the 7 scale forms created when you arrange a major scale for 3 notes per string. This lesson combined with the “Understanding Keys” lesson can be used to learn the complete guitar neck in all keys.

This is the first lesson dealing with major scales arranged for the 3-notes per string. I believe this method is the best to completely visualize scales in all keys across the neck.

Memorizing these shapes and combining them with the knowledge of Major Keys will provide an incredible resource to open up the guitar neck in ways that you can hardly imagine.

The next couple of lessons in the Advanced Guitar Series will be technical exercises using these 3-notes per string scales shapes, then after we get a good handle of them we will begin to start our visualization lessons.

So be patient and start memorizing these forms. And don’t forget to get the PDF of the lesson.

3-Notes Per String Major Scales PDF

Please support all the time, money, effort, blood, sweat and tears it requires to bring you all of these free video lessons by supporting the site as a Premium subscriber or by making a donation. Your support will help keep GuitarLessons365 the best resource of it’s kind on the internet. Thanks! Carl..

3 Notes Per String Major Scales

46 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    First, allow me to commend you on the work and effort you put into this site. Your musical background and training is extensive and obviously your passion. It is great, you want to share so much info. I am almost embarrased, to call myself a guitar teacher, although my students are thrilled with my method of teaching ( typical theory/practical stuff ).My question to you is, with the 3-notes per string Maj Scales. what are you referring to as the second, third etc. the root is B, the second C# and so on.the second scale seems like it is in A-CMin ?, is there an order to this exercise ? can you elaborate on the theory ? it seems you are starting on B, then it travels backwords through the Major scales A-G, is that correct? sorry for going on about this , but I seem to be having a seniors moment. Thanx again for such a great site.

  2. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Ken, thanks for taking the time to give this great feedback. I think this may be a question a lot of people will have so I will try and clear it up for you.

    First, this particular lesson is only aimed at memorizing the 7 scale forms that we need to know to use this method. I play them all at the seventh fret because at first I am just trying to get people to physically memorize the actual shapes without worrying about putting them in certain keys. I have learned through teaching that if I initially write out scale forms all within one key, after the student learns them he has a harder time transferring them to other keys. So I just start out saying learn them all at the same fret at first, then we will concern ourselves with keys.

    Second, when I say shape built from the 2nd, 3rd and so forth I mean that the very first note in the scale form located on the 6th string would be placed on the 2nd or 3rd note of whatever particular key you want. You are right in the fact that in this particular video I am playing everything off of B so the shape built from the root would be in B/G#min. and the shape built from the 2nd would be in A/C#min. and the shape built from the 3rd would be in G/Emin. But the real idea behind this lesson is just to get the scale forms memorized.

    Now that you know these scale forms you should check out the lessons on “Visualizing 3-notes per string major scales”. THAT is when I start to introduce playing in actual keys with these scale forms. It looks you are already getting the concept anyway so I think you will find the method pretty easy since it also seems like you have a good knowledge of your keys as well. Just in case you don’t have a very solid grasp of keys check out the “Understanding Keys” lesson in the theory lesson archive.

    Thanks again for the comment!! It will probably help a lot of other people in the future who read this. Hope to hear from you again soon!! Carl :D

  3. Ken says:

    Okay I have just gone through the Visualizing 3-notes per string !now it makes perfect sense to me, I love how you have broken this info done, it’s perfect…can’t wait to beef up my chops with this stuff, can certainly see how this will greatly enlarge my playing vocabulary.Thanx Carl for your dedication and your love for playing and sharing what you know. I will be supporting your cause with whatever I can, you desrve it.

  4. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Awesome Ken, that really makes my day to see that you enjoyed the visualization lessons. One quick thing, if you haven’t checked out the visualizing modes lesson maybe you should. It works off of the exact same method and if you can do the visualization with major scales you will find modes a breeze.

    I also have a theory tutorial on “Understanding Modes” in the theory lesson archives as well if you need any help at all with them. :D Thanks again!! Good Luck!!


  5. David says:

    ‘Basic key theory’ is not in the intemrediate guitar lesson archive. As this is the basis of so many of your lessons i’d suggest putting it in there as you say it is so we can all learn from your instruction.

  6. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Did you see it in the theory section?


    These lessons are excellent. I am a new subscriber, and maybe I just haven’t been able to find it, but have you considered doing a lesson on different arpeggio positions? I mean, different arpeggio patterns that can be used when playing over a particular chord. This could be very helpful for improv soloing. If you have already done this, please let me know where :)



  8. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Johnathan, I don’t think I have a lesson on the site for arpeggios in different positions. BUT, thanks for the idea!! It will be coming soon!!

    Cheers!! Carl


  9. James T. says:

    Can you please help me!, to grasp an understanding of Guitar musical phrashing skills etc; because I want to be able to play more cooler sounding Melodic licks/solos or just musical statements. And lastly, would you be able to send me ‘sweep picking Arpeggios’ in guitar Tab form?.
    Best regards,
    James T.
    Intermediate guitarist

  10. pauljdel says:

    I know my CAGED patterns for pentatonic scales and major scales. The seven “3 notes per string” patterns are obviously related as they cover the same “realestate”. Is it best to keep these two visualization methods separate in my mind? If there is an advantage in learning or playing to be able to visualize them together how do they relate visually? Does knowing the CAGED patterns provide any shortcut to memorizing the “3 notes per string” patterns? It’s usually best for me to be able to relate new ideas to old ones as I learn, but I may just be asking for confusion here. Please comment. Thank You.

  11. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey there, thanks for the question. :D

    Learning the CAGED patterns AND 3 notes per string patterns is in my opinion essential. The CAGED system really helps you get your chord playing down and be able to see how those chords relate to scales.

    The reason I developed the 3 notes per string system that I teach on this site is because I felt I needed a better way to break out of the same old boxes I was always playing in. If you look at the 3 notes per string shapes as being in boxes you will probably have the same trouble freely moving around the neck that you do with the standard CAGED shapes. The idea with the 3 notes per string shapes is that you will notice that the last two notes of each shape are always the first two notes of the next one. There really is no beginning or end to the shapes once you start seeing them that way. I noticed my playing became more fluid and free very quickly after I started practicing my improv this way. It may take some getting used to, but as I am sure you know anything worth having usually takes a little work. ;)

    There are a few spots where the forms in both systems line up visually but the idea with the 3 notes per string forms is that they always stay consistent from one string to the next making many things much easier, especially your picking. I don’t think already knowing the CAGED forms would provide any shortcut to learning the 3 notes per string patterns except for the fact that your brain is probably used to learning scale forms by now and that should speed things up a bit.

    Let me know if you have any more questions and thanks a bunch for coming to my site!! :D

    Happy Holidays!! Carl..

  12. Steve Luko says:

    Hey!..I just wanted to say that I’m currently going to college for music and this cite has alredy opened up so much for me and tonight is my first time looking at it!!.Thanks so much for your dedication and time I think I’m finally understanding my guitar not just playing it!!

  13. Franky says:

    hi thanks for the really good PDF really helped me!!

  14. Russ says:

    Hey Carl, thanks for the lessons.

    Are you playing all 7 modes starting on B?


  15. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Yeah you can look at it that way but really I was just trying to get you to memorize the 7 scale forms without thinking key or mode. That is why they are all at the 7th fret. In reality every single one of those scale forms can be used to play every mode which you will see in the visualization videos. :)

    Thanks!! Carl.. :)

  16. Rauca Daniel says:

    another question for you Carl :) each shape from this video go with 1 mode? if you want to play the Dorian you use the shape 2 ..Phrygian shape 3 etc? ( can’t be that simple )

  17. Sam says:

    What key is the 4th shape in?

  18. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    It can be in any key you want depending on where on the fretboard you play it. :D

  19. christopher nixon says:

    Thanks for taking the time to make these lessons. They are very helpful.

  20. Grant says:

    Its weird i came upon this 3 note per string technique when self teaching. Using the last two notes to start the next run. Almost a certain pattern everytime.

    ps. Keep changing the world today with your lessons. Your doing a good thing by helping out the community. The passion you put into your lessons is what makes people want to learn. Thxs again Carl for the positive lessons.

    (I have a queestion about sweep-picking and how to incoperate it into songs and rythmns) Would it just be finding the right chord and breaking it up from there. Im not sure how you would write a certain sweep to fit a certain rythmn.? Maybe a vid on different kinds of sweeps.. (some with finger rolls, taping sweeps etc.)


  21. Shawn says:

    I’d just like to say that you, sir, are the best teacher out there. i swear i’m not even lying ur site is so helpful and easy to use without any stupid advertisements and packages and other junk. you’re just a great to-the-point teacher and the stuff that you teach is what people pay loads to learn. I just thank you man for making this free and doing a favour to loads of people. please keep it this way. i’m definitely gonna donate to this site. thanks a lot man i really appreciate it personally cheers man

  22. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Shawn, thanks a bunch for the kind comment. I hope you continue to enjoy the lessons on the site for a long time to come. There will always be a large amount of free videos for people to learn from on this site, I can certainly guarantee that. :D

    Cheers! Carl..

  23. Guy says:

    I think your lessons are great stuff, I personally like to think of the three note patterns as Major mode patterns, maybe because I already know the Major modes.

    Ionian Mode: Pattern from the Root note of the Major scale

    Dorian Mode: Pattern from the 2nd note of the Major scale

    Phrygian Mode: Pattern from the 3rd note of the Major scale

    Lydian Mode: Pattern from the 4th note of the Major scale

    Mixolydian Mode: Pattern from the 5th note of the Major scale

    Aeolian Mode: Pattern from the 6th note of the Major scale

    Locrian Mode: Pattern from the 7th note of the Major scale

  24. Elias says:

    Now days its quite hard to find the right teacher for a musical instrument u have a passion for to be able to answer any question u may have even virtually. this site is truley amazing and ive learned alot! Thanks!

  25. t2 says:

    Bang spot on, been playing for 40years… Your site this lesson in particular w/UNDERSTANDING KEYS… ZENmaster CB the CAGE had me trapped 3N/string or the flow has compounded the bits & pieces into some Gr8 knowledge. Thought i was an artist found out i was a painter… Will be the artist i thought i was with your grant of info:)

    chrs t2

  26. Hi Carl,

    I love your videos. I am, however, having a really hard time understanding what you mean when you say “shape built from the 2nd….3rd…4th…etc.” I’ve read the above comments, but it still does not click for me. What does that mean built from?

    I am desperate to improve my guitar and given how much you harp on this (pardon the pun), I feel like I really need to understand it.

    Thanks in advance.

  27. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Chris, the built form the 2nd, 3rd and so forth means which note in the scale that shape starts on.

    If you take the key of G Major, it’s notes are G A B C D E F# .. That is 7 notes and you just number them 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. So in the case of G major the shape built from the 2nd would begin on the note A on the six string.

    The shape built from the 3rd would begin on B on the six string and so forth.

    Does that make more sense?

    Cheers! Carl..

  28. frank says:

    Hi again carl, sorry for so manny questions, but here it goes lol… so as I’m playing through the 3 not per string patterens I noticed that when u started the shape built from the 5th, from the ffirst not on the fifth (A) string, u get the the shape from the root and when u do the 6th shape in the same manner u get the 2nd shape and so on.. I was just wondering if that’s the correct relationship between the scales on the two strings, or am I just over thinking.

    Thanks again sir

  29. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Frank, sorry but I don’t really understand the question. :(

  30. frank says:

    Ok for an example. Say ur in the key of Fmajor, and u slide to the C on sixth string(8th fret), and start the scale from that C that would b the mixo mode, right? But insted of starting on the C u would start on the F on the fifth string(8th fret) wich is the fourth note from that mixo scale, and when u start from the F on the fifth string its the same fingering patterns as the major mode, except for the one fret shift on the third string.
    I’m just wondering if I’m visualizing the scales starting on the fifth string correctly. And if this is just a stupid question, or if I don’t make sence, I’m sooo sorry for wastin ur time lol :)
    Thanks again Frank

  31. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Well it depends on what scale form you are playing on that C note.

    If you are playing the shape built from the root off of the F on the six string you will be playing in F Major. If you then shift up to the C and want to stay in F Major you will play the shape built from the 5th off of that C note since C is the 5th note in the key of F Major.

    If you were to play the same “Built from the root” scale shape off that same C note you would now be playing the notes of C Major. The mode is really determined by the harmony you are playing over, not the scale tones you are playing since every major scale can represent 7 different modes. Hope this make sense.

    Cheers! Carl..

  32. hugo says:

    Very well method, thanks a lot Carl.

  33. Thank you so much Carl. I wish I could articulate in one comment how much your teaching has helped me!

    Peace and love from Leeds, England

  34. Just like Chris Yacono, I too am confused by your 2nd, 3rd… etc statement on six string.

    Quoting from your reply “If you take the key of G Major, it’s notes are G A B C D E F# .. That is 7 notes and you just number them 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. So in the case of G major the shape built from the 2nd would begin on the note A on the six string.

    In the above last sentence, did you mean to say, that “.. the 2nd would begin on the note A of the sixth string (or the low E string)?”

    Still confused, I am. Thanks for further clarification.

  35. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey thanks for following the lessons. :)

    For clarification, most guitarists refer to the sixth as the low E string. That can be confusing since in a physical sense it is the higher E string.

    But, guitarist call the 6th string the “low E string” since it is the lowest pitched E string. This comes from standard sheet music and TAB where the lowest pitched strings or notes are at the bottom of the staff ie lower than the other notes on paper.

    So just for complete clarification :) The sixth string or low E string means that really thick one on your guitar, not the flimsy tiny little one. Make sense now? :)

  36. yes, thanks Carl. got it all figured out finally what you meant.

    great lessons you have here. i am following every single one and hope to progress quick enough.

    still, i think there’s a lot of memorizing to do but you made things a whole lot easier. more power to you.

  37. Billy says:

    Hello Carl, I wanted to get your confirmation on something because I trust your opinion. So I was researching into modal sounds and I noticed they had three note per string scales when I completed my observation of all 7 traditional modes I came to the conclusion that they’re identical to the major scale. So does that mean you can get modal sounds just by playing the correct chords underneath those scales. So lets say I had an C Lydian. C D E F# G A B. So to get my Lydian Would I just play the chords Cmaj F#maj and Amin?

  38. Billy says:

    I meant as far as underneath the scale ha ha. I know in Ionian its exactly the same as the major scale, but to get the sound you play a single extended chord underneath the scale correct?

  39. Billy says:

    Oh wait a minute I have it now to get the sound you need to have the chords Have an A in the base at all times for A Lydian.

  40. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Yes most modal playing is analyzed to a single chord or harmony underneath. To get that C Lydian sound you are going after, all you really need is the notes of a G major scale (like the ones you plotted out below) with a C Major type harmony underneath it. So just try vamping on a C major chord or C major 7th or C major 9th or best of all a C Major 9#11 chord and the sound of Lydian will fill the air! Ahhhh :)

    Hope this helps! Carl..

  41. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Yeah I think your getting it!! Pretty simple stuff huh..


  42. Derek says:

    Hi Carl, I’m having some trouble making these 7-9-11 fret stretches with my shorter fingers. Is this something that requires a lot of practice being able to comfortably finger these longer patterns? I find it even more difficult playing these on the wider frets (ex: 1, 3, 5) where there is more wrist torque and longer distances to cover from index finger to pinky.

    Also, is it normal to have wrist pain from these wider patterns? I see that my wrist has to have more of an angle to be able to fret these wider distances. I’d hate to develop carpel tunnel. And if I’m getting discomfort from playing these patterns, are there any less-wide patterns that will also work with your scale learning teaching system? Thanks for any answers to my questions.

  43. Carl Brown Carl Brown says:

    Hey Derek, I can’t really say for sure without actually seeing a video of you trying to play the scales but for 99% of people that have trouble with a stretch of that length on the guitar (ie 5 frets), it is mostly an issue of how they are placing their fret-hand then actual finger length.

    From your description I can perhaps make a few suggestions.

    First off, simply put your fret-hand out in front of you palm up with the wrist straight. Now spread your fingers as far apart as possible (without strain).

    You will probably see that your fingers are plenty long. Now simply keep your thumb at the same angle and place it on the back of the neck. Make sure it is placed low, somewhere between the middle of the neck and bottom. That lower thumb position helps your stretching ability immensely.

    Now bring your fingers over the fretboard while keeping your wrist straight. You may need to make more thumb adjustments. Keep your fingers spread out like before and that should start to give you the proper positioning needed for larger stretches.

    Hope this helps! Carl..

  44. Derek says:

    Thanks Carl. I’ll give your advice a try. I appreciate your in depth reply :)

  45. Derek says:

    Carl, Another question if you don’t mind….do you have a 3 note per string pattern system for the minor keys as well? Thanks.

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