Fretboard Knowledge

The 5 Root Shapes

Across the fretboard there are set shapes between one note and the next. On the diagram below are outlined the 5 basic shapes we can break these down into. These shapes apply no matter the starting note, and always follow eachother in the way displayed here.

Finding Intervals and Building Scales

As there are ever-present shapes between the same note across the neck, there are also consistent jumps across strings to reach the next note. A 'Whole Step' (2 notes) is 2 frets on the same string, but to make the same jump from one string to another, you have to go back by 3 frets on the higher string. To do the same but for a 'Half Step' (1 note), you need to go back by 4 frets on the higher string. As the B string is tuned differently, these jumps are all reduced by one fret when crossing from the G string to the B string, as shown below.

Once your comfortable with these fretboard patterns, you can begin to build and learn your scales across the entire fretboard with only two steps:

1) Know where your roots of the key are

2) Know the intervals between the notes in the scale you're using

We have looked at both major (ionian) and natural minor (aolean). The scale degrees for these scales are as follows:

Major - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (8)

Minor - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (8)

Therefore the jumps between each note of the scales are:

Major - R W W H W W W H

Minor - R W H W W H W W

Combining everything we have looked at so far, here are the main scale shapes for both major and minor in each of our 5 root positions, in both G Major and G Minor.

Creating Pentatonic Scales

The great use of pentatonic scales comes from their versatility; they can be played over more changes and keys as they have less notes between the octaves, meaning less notes to clash with those that are in the chords being played over.


The basic theory of pentatonic scales is thus; instead of having seven different notes in an octave (like the full major and minor scales above), they only have five. Two degrees are removed from the full major and minor scales giving you the major pentatonic and the minor pentatonic. The major pentatonic removes the 4th and 7th degrees of the full major scale, and the minor pentatonic removes the 2nd and b6th degrees of the full minor scale, meaning these are your new shapes.

Creating Arpeggio Shapes

These scale shapes can also be broken down into arpeggio notes within the root shapes. These can be used to both build chord shapes and emphasize melodic notes in lead playing.

Jazz Chord Shapes (pt. 1)

Here are a selection of more advanced jazz chords that can be used to spice up your basic or advanced progressions. Some are more solidly ingrained into the jazz sound, but I've found some are more versatile. Here are the main chords to look at and use: 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 16, 17 , 18, 19 and 22.

6th Chords