Mastering the Minor Scale: Three Notes Per String

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 15 – Spring 2021 – Electrified!

In the previous lesson (Issue 14), we discussed the major scale and how to play it in multiple positions on the fretboard. Now, we are going to identify the notes of the minor scale and learn how to play them in the same way. What is the difference between the two scales? To put it simply, the major scale has a “happy” sound and the minor scale has a “sad” sound. While you will see a lot of overlapping notes from the major scale, it is just as important to know how to recognize and play the minor scale—especially if you want to play such styles as blues, jazz, and rock.

Let’s begin with the formula for the minor scale. We will be using the key of G Minor throughout this lesson, so our starting (root) note will be G. We can determine the order of the remaining notes by following this pattern (remember that a whole step is two frets and a half step is one fret):

whole step – half step – whole step – whole step – half step – whole step – whole step

In the key of G Minor, the notes in this pattern are G-A-Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G. These are the only notes we will be playing in this exercise. Also, we will only be playing three notes on each string, then continuing with the next notes on the next string. Begin with the G note located on the third fret of the sixth (low E) string, followed by A on the fifth fret, and Bb on the sixth fret. Next, move up to the fifth (A) string and play the note C on the third fret, D on the fifth fret, and Eb on the sixth fret. Move up again to the fourth (D) string and play the note F on the third fret, G on the fifth fret, and A on the seventh fret. Continue this pattern all the way up to the note C on the first (high E) string and play the pattern back down. Use the tab in Example 1 as a guide.

Example 1

Before moving on, try playing the G Major ascending and descending, followed by the G Minor scale. What differences do you hear?

Next, we are going to shift up to the fifth fret of the sixth (low E) string and continue playing the notes of the G Minor scale, with three notes per string but beginning on the note A. From there, we play the note Bb on the sixth fret and the note C on the eighth fret. Move up to the fifth (A) string and play the note D on the fifth fret, Eb on the sixth fret, and F on the eighth fret. Move up to the fourth (D) string and play the note G on the fifth fret, A on the seventh fret, and Bb on the eighth fret. Continue this pattern all the way up to the note D on the first (high E) string and play the pattern back down. Use the tab in Example 2 as a guide.

Example 2

Next, move up to the note Bb on the sixth fret of the sixth (low E) string. We play the note Bb on the sixth fret, the note C on the eighth fret, and the note D on the tenth fret. Move up to the fifth (A) string and play the note Eb on the sixth fret, F on the eighth fret, and G on the tenth fret. Continue this pattern to the note Eb on the eleventh fret of the first (high E) string and play the pattern back down.

Keep moving down the fretboard by starting on the next note of the scale on the sixth (low E) string: C, D, Eb, F and finally back to G. Once you feel comfortable in this key, pick a different key and practice the same whole/half step pattern. For best results, try to use alternate picking and one finger per note on your fretting hand. See Example 3 for finger positioning.

Example 3