I am developing a app for Guitar Scales and want to implement Scale Shapes. And my question is, if is there any logic in those particular shapes(some are four frets stretched, one five, some notes out of box etc.) or just ease of playing with fingers? Note I am talking about basic 5 scale shape and not 3NPS shapes. And what about flexibility with different tunings?

The 5 scale shape: enter image description here

Source: Discover Guitar Online

Edit: I approached the box method for making shapes adding with few exceptions, different tunings work fine with slight manipulation. Here's the link if you are interested: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.guitarco.guitarcoscales&hl=en&gl=US

  • 1
    The question needs to be accompanied by the actual shapes you discuss. There are many different 'shapes' to scales on guitar. And which scales anyway? Needs more info!
    – Tim
    Jan 25, 2021 at 17:11
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    From a purely personal point of view - as a guitar player and teacher for over 50 yrs, I have never used charts such as these, either personally or with students. Just can't get on with them!
    – Tim
    Jan 25, 2021 at 17:59

3 Answers 3


And my question is, if is there any logic in those particular shapes(some are four frets stretched, one five, some notes out of box etc.) or just ease of playing with fingers?

In E-standard tuning the strings are spaced by a perfect fourth or 5 semitones (with exception of G-B major third interval between third and second string). For this reason you may expect "the box" to cover 5 frets.

Concerning logic: the diagram look irregular mostly because there is a different interval between the 2nd and 3rd string. If you tune the guitar to all perfect fourths (e.g. E2 A2 D3 G3 C4 F4) the diagrams will become much more symmetric and repetitive.

Note I am talking about basic 5 scale shape and not 3NPS shapes.

You can start playing a 7 note scale on 7 steps. What is the reason to drop 2 of them? "Ease of fingering" can be very subjective and depend on the context. For example 3 notes per string fingerings developed exactly for this reason.

I'm not saying that you're doing a wrong thing, but I think in order to answer your questions you need to understand what is your reason to choose the fingerings the way you do.

And what about flexibility with different tunings?

Possibly everything changes and you need to make the diagram from scratch.

  • 'You can start playing a 7 note scale on 7 steps'. No, you can't. You can play different modes of that scale on 7 steps - and this is where all those dotty bits get confusing (for me). A scale starts and finishes on a specific note - the root or tonic.
    – Tim
    Jan 25, 2021 at 18:12

The main significance of these chord shapes as I see it is that they correspond to the open chord shapes. The logic to them is that if you've learned the chord shape, it's a stepping stone to remembering the scale shape.

  1. This shape corresponds to your E chord shape. Imagine that the shape is shifted down 3 frets so that the 'R' on the low E string becomes the open string - the notes you would fret would be the 5 on the A string, the 'R' an octave up on the D string, and the 3rd on the G string:


  1. Similarly, this is a D chord shape:


  1. Corresponds to a C chord shape
  2. A chord shape
  3. G chord shape

The diagram at the bottom shows how the 5 shapes lock together. If you continue the diagram, you can see that the chords spell out the word 'CAGED':


Hence this way of visualising/memorising a full scale shape on the neck is often called the 'CAGED' system.

And what about flexibility with different tunings?

Well, different tunings would have different shapes... but the basic idea of there existing an overall 'all-neck' scale shape which can be broken down into smaller sections will still be valid.

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    A tangential point but this answer has a real profound core nugget of guitar-playing insight. Anyone who's spent any time looking on the internet at guitar-playing resources will have seen scales for days, scales when it says this, scales when it says that; endless questions about "what scale fits/goes/should I play". So rarely do you see mention of the fundamental continuum of chords — arpeggios — scales, which for me is the key to how I approach playing on the guitar. You have chord tones. If you spread them out, you get an arpeggio. If you play the notes next to them, you get a scale.
    – Judy N.
    Jan 25, 2021 at 23:00
  • So as a minor supporting illustration, here's an old thread with an image color-coded for c-major. music.stackexchange.com/questions/46190/…
    – Yorik
    Jan 26, 2021 at 15:36

I'm not sure it's a fair question to ask if there's "logic" behind the patterns. The required intervals along with the tuning of the instrument dictate where the fingers need to go. It's really more of a constraint than "logic". If you change the tuning you change the pattern. I would only add that one of the constraints in the patterns you have listed above is to stay close to one position, i.e. no shifting, which the 3NPS patterns require. Many shredders like the 3NPS better because the patterns tend to repeat in 2 string groups. However the guitars is really good for playing chords! So having scales or mode patterns that gravitate around a chord form is very helpful. The 5 patterns you have provided in your question are the Locrian, Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian, and Aeolean modes. These are related to the E-form, D-form, C-form, A-form, and G-form of the root chord (or tonic) of the key that all these modes are in. The patterns are related to the CAGED system. I do not know if they were invented that way 100s of years ago.

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