Knowing the best guitar scale patterns to learn guitar fast will make your playing more effortless. It will also enable you to memorize and learn more scales faster. They will be easier to use and  implement creative ideas with as well.


This article is not about one scale being better than another because of the notes in the scale. I’m not stating that the major scale is better than the minor scale or anything or the sorts. This is about scale patterns and how you play the scale. These are often referred to as shapes or boxes by guitar players. I think shapes or boxes are misleading terms since they aren’t shapes like a square or triangle and are also not boxes.


The primary thing we will be looking at is the major scale modes. The pentatonic scales are quite common on guitar and are excellent to learn as well. There is less debate or confusion on these. The major scale are other ‘complete’ scales are where more of the issues arise. The two primary ways of playing this that will be compared are the 3 Note Per String(3NPS) major scale patterns vs. the 1 Finger Per Fret(1FPF) pattern. This pattern has other names which if we get into can open a whole other can of worms.


First look at the scale diagrams to see what they look like.

You can play these as well if you’d like. The first thing you will notice is that the 3NPS ‘feels’ less comfortable and is hard to stretch to reach the notes. This is the first and most common thing that leads people astray.


The Stretch

 This isn’t a problem at all, in fact it is why it is much better. If you put your thumb in the correct position behind the middle finger from the beginning you will be able to reach all the notes. In addition to that you will also slowly get better at stretching. With the other scale you will not develop the ability to stretch further than 1 finger per fret. This is very limiting and will prevent you from playing many chords than require stretching and other scales that require even larger stretches.

 Winner: 3NPS


Scale Memorization

 This is a clear one to see. The 3NPS is simpler as it is 3 notes per string and the 1FPF pattern requires different number of notes per string so you have to memorize a more complex pattern. In addition the patterns on the 3NPS can be broken down into smaller patterns; strings 6 & 5 have the same pattern, 4 & 3 are the same, and 2 & 1 are the same. Simple.

 Winner: 3NPS


Further Scale Memorization

 After one learns these scales there are many more extensions to them called modes. I’m not going to get into that if you aren’t ready to learn about them, it will only cause confusion. What you do need to know is that the 3NPS is so simple that it is actually the same pattern being repeated in all the extended patterns. It is really 1 pattern. Super simple. The 1FPF has these extensions as well, but each one is a little different and requires you to memorize all of them which will take much longer and much more effort.


In addition to this is learning new scale patters for other scales. The 3NPS is very easy to work off of and adapt to any new scale pattern. The 1FPF will compound memorization issues when getting into more exotic and unique sounding scales.

 Winner: 3NPS


Fretboard Memorization

 Being able to see the notes and scale degrees on the fretboard instantly is massive for anyone who wants to move beyond basic chord strumming. It is essential for anyone who wants to compose, improvise, or transcribe songs.

 The 3NPS enables you to do this better for the same reasons mentioned above. It is really simple and is really 1 pattern adjusted to different scenarios. The 1FPF doesn’t make this as easy. For time sake this will not be delved into in depth.

 Winner: 3NPS


Using with Arpeggios

Arpeggios are another important factor for playing and fretboard memorization. The 3NPS is very easy to use with these since they all sit within the framework of the patterns. The 1FPF does not work well with them. It will require knowing the arpeggios very well to see this clearly. Like most of these areas, if you don’t know them very well then it won’t be totally clear until much later.

 Winner: 3NPS


Improvising and Songwriting

It’s pretty obvious if one can learn patterns faster and be able to recall, alter, and visualize them faster then one can use them better. The common struggle people have in the beginning is the stretch and will often disregard the entire method just for this one thing. Or if they have learned the 1FPF patterns first then learning the 3NPS patterns will feel foreign at first. Most everything on guitar feels weird or hard in the beginning. Remember when you started playing? Every chord was a huge pain in the butt until you got used to it.

So if you want to improvise, the 3 NPS enables you to not only very easily adjust up octaves in the patterns it will also enable you to play any sequence harmonized just by adjusting to the next pattern or mode. It’s not a perfect system, but it is very hard to find any setbacks. I really can’t think of any. People will often say it is easy to play 1FPF with the pentatonic scales. At first glance it looks like that is true, but after learning the 3NPS I have found there isn’t any issue at all.

 Winner: 3NPS



 Playing faster is going to be easier when you have the same pattern of notes on each string. If you have to alter when you are doing all the time to compensate for constant changes in the patterns then it will slow you down. The 3NPS allows you to simple play down, up down, for each string when ascending. Reverse the pattern for descending. It also covers a larger pitch area by adding 2 more notes.

 Winner: 3NPS


These are just 7(well actually more) areas I wanted to quickly cover. This is a great place to start to know the best guitar scale patterns to learn guitar fast. There are actually many more. I hope this will help you make the right decision and choose the 3 Note Per String scale pattern so you can get on to making and playing music you enjoy.


About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician,
songwriter, and teaches Guitar Lessons Seattle.