Friday, December 4, 2009

CAGED System part III: Scale Forms (level:beginner - intermediate)

    In the previous installment on the CAGED system, I covered basic chords and how they fall into the pattern.  This post will cover the major scale and demonstrate how the 5 basic chord forms are actually part of 5 major scale forms.  You will see that just like the chord forms, the scale forms are also moveable.
    Before seeing the full major scale form, we will take a look at a 5-note version of the major scale called a "pentatonic" scale.  The reason for this is that it is easier to see the chord forms within the pentatonic scale forms because there are less notes to look at.  Let's have a look.

    Notice how, just like the chord forms, the end of one pentatonic form is the beginning of the next.  I have shaded the chord forms black to make it easier for you to see where the chord forms fit in to the pentatonic forms.

    So how do you figure out the letter name of the scale you are playing?  The name of the scale is determined through the same process as the chord form that is part of the scale you are trying to define.  Remember:

  • G and E chord forms: The name of the chord is determined by the note in the chord form that lies on the 6th string.
  • C and A chord forms:  The name of the chord is determined by the note in the chord form that lies on the 5th string.
  • D chord form: The name of the chord is determined by the note in the chord form that lies on the 4th string.
    To name a pentatonic scale, first find the chord form inside the pentatonic scale you are looking at.  Let's take a look at the A pentatonic form at the first fret.

    Since this is the A pentatonic form, we need to find the A chord form within.

 The shaded circles show the A form within the pentatonic form.  Now that we have the chord form within the pentatonic form, we can name it using the same process described in CAGED System part II .  Once we name the chord form, we will also know the name for the scale form, because they are the same.

    Since we are looking at the A form, we know that it's name is derived from the note in the chord form on the 5th string.  We also know that the open note of the 5th string is an A, and we can see that the note on that string which is in the chord form is on the 2nd fret.  All we need to do is count up chromatically from the open note to the 2nd fret to determine the name of the scale form.  From A, we would count the 1st fret A# (or Bb) and the 2nd fret B.  Since B is the note on the 2nd fret, both the chord and the pentatonic scale are labeled "B."  We have a B chord within the B pentatonic scale.

    To go to part IV of the CAGED series click here.


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