Using Scale Patterns to Expand Your Playing and Improve Your Speed

Author: Edward Cupler

So, why will using scale patterns improve your guitar playing? I remember some years ago I was reading an article from Billy Sheehan (Bass player for Talas David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Steve Vai and Niacin) and he was talking about how he had seen kids playing the video game Pac Man, and how they where racking up huge scores using patterns they had learned from books about the game. He said that he had applied this technique to his Bass playing using scale patterns. Billy Sheehan is one of the best players in the world so anything he says about improving your guitar technique is worth listening to.

I have also have found this a very useful tool for using guitar scales effectively. The examples in this lesson demonstrate the use of identical scale patterns found throughout the length of the guitar neck. These examples use the C Major scale with no sharps or flats (C D E F G A B) just to keep things simple. All of the patterns can easily be transposed to other scales simply by moving them up or down the guitars neck.

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Note: This technique works well as long as you’re using standard tuning (E A D G B and High E). It works regardless of what pitch you tune to 440 430 420 because all of the strings are standard, one half step down or one whole step down. This technique doesn’t work well with modular tunings such as (D A D G B and High E)

Example #1

Audio examples:
Slow
Normal Speed

E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------------------------7---9-7-10-9-7-h9-p7-----------|
D|----------------------------------7-10-9---10----------------9----------|
A|-------5---7-5-8-7-5-h7-p5----------------------------------------------|
E|-5-8-7---8----------------7---------------------------------------------|

E|----------10---12-10-13-12-10-h12-p10-----------------------------------|
B|-10-13-12---13----------------------------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Example #2

Audio examples:
Slow
Normal Speed

E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|-------------------------------------10-------10-12-14------------------|
D|----------------------------10-12-14----12-14---------------------------|
A|---------8-------8-10-12------------------------------------------------|
E|-8-10-12---10-12--------------------------------------------------------|

E|----------13------13-15-17----------------------------------------------|
B|-13-15-17---15-17-------------------------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Notice that all of the examples follow two strings (E and A) then move up one octave, a whole step (two frets) to (D and G) then again the pattern moves up the fretboard another octave, this time one and one half steps (three frets) to the (B and High E) strings. This is the same regardless of the pattern you start on the Low E and A strings

The following scale pattern uses the same technique in reverse. That is, it starts on the (B and High E) then it moves down one and one half steps (three frets) to repeat on the (D and G) strings then ending on the (E and A) a whole step (two frets) down.

Example #3

Audio examples:

Slow
Normal Speed

E|-12-p-8----8------------------------------------------------------------|
B|--------10---10-p-8--6--------------------------------------------------|
G|---------------------------9-p-5---5------------------------------------|
D|---------------------------------7---7-p-5--3---------------------------|
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|

E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
D|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
A|-7-p-3---3--------------------------------------------------------------|
E|-------5---5-p-3--1-----------------------------------------------------|

This last example blends the three octaves together creating one complete riff.

Example #4

Audio examples:

Slow
Normal Speed

E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
G|-----------------------------------------7------7-9-10-p9-7-------------|
D|---------------------------------7-9-10----9-10-------------10-9-7-9-10-|
A|-7-h8-p7-5-----------5-----5-7-8----------------------------------------|
E|-----------8-7-5-7-8---7-8----------------------------------------------|

E|------------------------10-12-13-p12-10----------------10------10-12-13-|
B|---------------10-12-13------------------13-12-10-12-13---12-13---------|
G|-7------7-9-10----------------------------------------------------------|
D|---9-10-----------------------------------------------------------------|
A|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Don’t just stick with these examples in this lesson. Use your imagination to invent new patterns and licks that fit your style.

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