In previous lessons we’ve learned about the CAGED system for learning guitar chords and scales. Another system that is useful for learning scales is the 3 notes per string system. In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at the 3 notes per string major scale patterns.
What is the 3 notes per string system?
With this system of learning scales, as the name implies, you play 3 notes per string across the fretboard for each position. There aren’t any changes from 3 notes, to 2 notes, back to 3 notes, like you find in the CAGED system. It’s more uniform in nature, which I think appeals to many guitarists and can make it a little easier to move through the scale.
However, playing 3 notes per string requires a bit more flexibility as some of the notes are 4 frets apart. If you have small hands or lack adequate flexibility, you may find these patterns a little difficult to play.
Also, instead of 5 different patterns to learn (as with CAGED), there are 7. I find these patterns run together a bit and they’re not as distinct as the CAGED patterns. So learning them may take a bit longer.
3 notes per string major scale positions
The scales in these example are F major, but the shapes can be applied to any major scale up and down the neck. Play each position ascending and descending across the neck.
For notes that span 5 frets, I recommend playing the first note with the index finger, the second note with the middle finger, and the third note with the pinky.
As always, practice the positions with a metronome!
The 3 notes per string major scale patterns give us another way to map out scales on the fretboard. Combining these patterns with the CAGED patterns can really open up the guitar and allow you to expand your lead playing. They may take a little more time to learn, but I think the effort is well worth it.
Cheat Sheet: 3 Notes Per String Major Scale
Download the cheat sheet for this lesson: