In the lesson Navigating Major Scale Positions on Guitar by Using the Root Note, we learned how to use the root note of the major scale as an anchor point to move between scale positions on the guitar. In this lesson, we take a look at the root note patterns of the minor scale positions to accomplish the same thing.
Before diving in, let’s quickly review the minor scale.
The minor scale is a 7-note diatonic scale just like the major scale. However, it differs from the major scale in that it contains a flat 3rd, flat 6th, and flat 7th.
Below are the intervals of the minor scale.
Scale patterns between the major and minor scales are the same, it’s just that the correlating positions of the root notes and scale positions are different. For a complete review of the minor scale, check out the lesson The (Natural) Minor Scale.
Using root note patterns to identify minor scale positions on guitar
Like the major scale, the minor scale will have at least two occurrences of the root note in each scale position. In fact, you’ll notice that the root note patterns of the minor scale are the same in structure as the major scale. The only difference is the position to which they apply.
The diagrams below show the relation between the root patterns and minor scale positions.
Root note patterns of position 1
In position 1 of the minor scale there are three root notes, forming a triangle shape. This shape covers 3 octaves of the root note.
Root note patterns of position 2
Position 2 contains two root notes, on strings 4 and 2, in the standard octave pattern. Because the B string is tuned a 1/2 step lower, from the bass root note you have to move over two strings and up three frets.
Root note patterns of position 3
Position 3 also contains two root notes, found on strings 2 and 5, covering two octaves of the root.
Root note patterns of position 4
Position 4 of the minor scale contains root notes on the 5th and 3rd strings, again covering two octaves of the root.
Root note patterns of position 5
Similar to position 1, there are three root notes found in position 5 of the minor scale. The roots are found on strings 1, 3, and 6. Also similar to position 1, the root notes make a triangular pattern and covers 3 octaves.
Again, just like the major scale patterns, these minor scale patterns are based on intervals so they’re the same across all minor keys. The root pattern will be the same for a given position regardless of the minor key scale being used.
Minor scale positions connected by root
Each root position connects two positions of the minor scale. Because of this, we can use the root across all six strings as another way to visualize the scale positions and how they’re connected.
Let’s go string by string and identify the root note and the connected scale positions for each.
Root on 1st string
The root on the 1st string connects positions 5 and 1.
Root on 2nd string
The root on the 2nd string connects position 2 with position 3 of the minor scale.
Root on 3rd string
When the root is on the 3rd string, positions 4 and 5 of the scale are connected.
Root on 4th string
Minor scale positions 1 and 2 are connected when the root is on the 4th string.
Root on 5th string
The root on the 5th string connects scale positions 3 and 4.
Root on 6th string
Since the notes on the 6th string are identical to the 1st string, the same positions are connected. The root on the 6th string connects positions 5 and 1.
Position switching exercises
You can use the same exercises from the major scale root positions lesson to develop your ability to visualize the patterns across the entire fretboard. The exercises are designed to first help you identify positions connected by the same root note and then identify positions anywhere on the fretboard using only the root note. You can expand on these exercises anyway you like.
Root notes form memorable patterns across the entire fretboard. These root note patterns can be used as anchor points to help visualize and move between scale positions. Once you’re able to identify and move freely between the positions, you can begin building licks to connect the different positions.