The Simple Scale System - Part 3

Now comes the bad news. All these wonderful scales and arpeggios you've been playing only work when the guitar is tuned in our equal "fixed" tuning. In this section you will learn how to adapt the patterns we've come up with to fit the standard guitar tuning

What Happens When We Change One String?

Tune E Down

Play Tuning Notes Play

Start by tuning the first string back down to "E." It lowers the string by one half-step (1 fret). If you lower a string by a half-step everything in the pattern moves up a half-step (1 fret) for that string. Let's look at a few examples:

Original Pattern:

Original Pattern

Play Original Pattern Play

Effect of Lowering 1st String:

Effect of lowering string

New Pattern:

New Pattern

Play New Pattern Play

Here is another example, this time with two notes on the first string. Both of them move up to accommodate the string moving down.

Original Pattern:

Original Pattern

Play Original Pattern Play

Effect of Lowering First String:

Effect of lowering 1st string

New Pattern:

New Pattern

Play New Pattern Play

Try all (yes I mean all) of the patterns you have learned so far in our new tuning. When you get to the 1st string remember to raise everything by one fret in order to account for the lowered string.

What Happens When You Lower Two Strings?

Let's change the tuning one last time. This time both the first and second string are tuned down one half-step from our original equal "fixed" tuning. That makes your tuning "E A D G B E", which is the standard tuning of the guitar.

Standard Tuning

Play Tuning Notes Play

Just like with the first string , lowering the second string one half-step (1 fret) causes everything on that string to shift up a fret. That means that everything on the first and second string shifts up one fret. Let's look at a few examples.

Original Pattern:

Original Pattern

Play Original Pattern Play

Effect of Lowering First and Second Strings:

Effect of Lowering Strings

New Pattern:

New Pattern

Play New Pattern Play

Here's another example:

Original Pattern:

Original Pattern

Play Original Pattern Play

Effect of Lowering First and Second Strings:

Effect of Lowering Two Strings

New Pattern:

New Pattern

Play New Pattern Play

What about a scale pattern? There are a few more notes, but the process is the same:

Original Pattern:

Scale Pattern

Play Original Pattern Play

New Pattern:

Scale Pattern

Play New Pattern Play

Just as before, you should try shifting all previous patterns. And just as before, I mean it! Go back to part 1 and part 2 of this article and play all the patterns while making the adjustment for the top two strings. You need to get used to shifting, it is fundamental to working with the guitar's tuning. At first it is a little awkward, but with practice it can become quite easy.

That's it! Once you have adjusted the patterns for the first and second string they are ready to be used on the guitar. Below you will find a summary of how to use the system as well as additional materials that will help you master any scale or arpeggio on the guitar using the Simple Scale System. Good luck!

The Simple Scale System in a Nutshell

  1. Tune the guitar equally "E A D G C F"
  2. Figure out two basic versions of a scale or arpeggio. Usually one starts with the first or second finger and the other starts with the third or fourth.
  3. Stack these two smaller forms on top of each other to create larger forms. Many different combinations can be used.
    1. Second form - root on the fifth string (1/C)
    2. First form - root on the fifth string (2/A)
    3. Second form - root on the sixth string (3/G)
    4. First form - root on the sixth string (4/E)
    5. First form - root on the fourth string (5/D)
    This will give you five larger versions of a scale. (see part one or part two for a visual demonstration of this. Color coding and numbers correspond the diagrams in the first two parts.)
  4. Tune the guitar down to "E A D G B E"
  5. Adjust your patterns by raising everything on the first and second strings one fret.
  6. Practice!

Note on the CAGED system

The CAGED system is a wonderful system for visualizing scales and arpeggios on the guitar. (For an introduction to the CAGED system see our YouTube Video on the CAGED System.) At first glance it would appear that the CAGED system is at odds with the Simple Scale System. Actually it is a great compliment to the Simple Scale System. For instance once the the five major scale patterns we used in part two are adjusted for standard tuning they are exactly the same as the C, A, G, E, and D shapes used in the CAGED system. By combining your knowledge of how to build scales from small patterns (The Simple Scale System) with an ability to locate scales based on chord shapes (The CAGED System), players can easily find scale patterns anywhere on the neck of the guitar. The chord shapes used in the CAGED system become skeletons for the Simple Scale System to flesh out.

Before (Equal Tuning) After (Standard Tuning)
Scale Pattern CAGED pattern C
Scale Pattern CAGED Pattern A
Scale Pattern CAGED Pattern G
Scale Pattern Caged Pattern E
Scale Pattern CAGED Pattern D

Further Resources / Projects

Part I     |     Part II     |     Part III