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Jazz Guitar Scales

Positions Part Three: Scales Polishing and Connecting

Positions are the “meat and potatoes” of jazz guitar scales playing. Any melodic idea can be analyzed and explained (on the fingerboard) as belonging to one or more positions.

In this article series you will learn to properly place your hand on the fingerboard, understand the fingering principles and finally, learn jazz guitar scales in some of the most useful positions. Ready? Go!

Jump to a page:

Positions Part 1: How to Have Six Fingers and Control the Universe
Positions Part 2: Top Must-Know Positions for Jazz Guitar
Positions Part 3: Scales Polishing and Connecting
Positions Part 4: Arpeggios 101 – Complete Arps
Positions Part 5: Arpeggios 102 – Triads and Seventh Chords
Position Addendum: Scales in Cycle of Fourths

A Quick Review

In order to make the following topics clear, let’s see what we’ve learned so far. In dealing with positions and jazz guitar scales you should now understand that …

  • A position is a physical location on the fretboard. The fretting hand can spawn up to 6 frets (with index and pinky stretches)
  • The “whole universe”, musically speaking, is contained within any position. The range of any position is approx 2.5 octaves
  • Seven positions are really useful on the fretboard
  • The “finger – string” system determines the starting note/root of all positions we’re looking at on this website
  • Three “families” of positions exist; their divided by starting finger (starting with 1st, 2nd or 4th finger)
  • The seven positions apply to the major scale at first
  • The seven positions then apply to the melodic minor scale simply by changing one note from the major scale fingerings
  • The positions, tabs and diagrams in the previous jazz guitar scales article are incomplete in themselves (we’ll address that right now!)

If any of this sound unfamiliar, please read the first article and/or this second article on jazz guitar scales.

Ok, you’ve got the seven positions down and memorized? Good!

In melodic minor as well? Oups… maybe not?!

Don’t worry, it takes time to digest all that information. On the long run though, you want the seven positions of major and melodic minor (in 12 keys) to be part of the common stuff you play everyday.


Completing the Seven Positions

I would like to throw away the diagrams for now, using only tabs and music notation. I think I saw too many pictures of “fretboards covered with dots” in books. So here they are as promised: all the major positions “completed” with all the available notes in the reach of the hand in each of the seven positions. From now on, the concept of position incorporate “all the available notes” at all times.

You have to be conscious of every note that is within your reach in each position.

It is still in G major and this time the example will ascend / descend to cover all the notes. Please see each scale as the complete position’s own little etude.


Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position


Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position


Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Remember to stretch the index to reach to the fifth fret. So the frets 7, 8 and 9th should be played with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers. Stick to that diligently. (Also applies to 6-1 and 5-1)

Later on, if you want to experiment, you may want to use the exact same finger locations but reach out with the pinky instead. It will feel and play differently since the pinky is a weaker finger.



Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Pay attention : There is now a first finger stretch (on the first and sixth string) in this position.



Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Again, stretch with first finger…

Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Only one finger stretch with pinky.


Painless Scale Positions

how to play jazz guitar: painless scale positionsPainless Scale Positions: The Complete Course. In this course, you’ll master scales in the common “positions system” efficiently, easily and logically. The program contains over 2.5 hours of videos, numerous PDF and FIFTEEN assignments to keep track of your progress. Plus, a friendly teacher delivers the materials to you step-by-step. (-: (watch video)


Completing the Seven Positions (encore)

What do you think is happening with melodic minor now? Let me guess what’s on your mind.

You think that…

  • …you could take the seven “complete” positions of G major above?
  • …and change all the B’s to Bb’s?
  • …and you’d have seven positions of G melodic minor?

And you also think that…

  • …you should be careful with the new finger stretches that might happen along the way (specially in 5-4 and 6-4)?


Wow! My own words are coming right out of your mouth! But sorry guys: no diagrams, tabs or notation. You have to work at melodic minor all by yourself. It’s a valuable part of the process. You’ll thank me for that later. (-:


Mastering the Connections between Seven Positions

Et voilà!

If you came this far, you’re only one step away from mastering the jazz guitar scales in seven positions. Congratulations! Of course, you could (and should) spend a lifetime refining your chops, patterns, transcriptions, improvisations, etc. But the basics of the positions are now ingrained for you.

The last step involves connecting the seven positions together, one after another, and going up and down the neck. You play the same scale (G major for example) in all the positions, consecutively, without stopping. That’ll fix ya!

By the way, Barry Galbraith wrote a great book on connecting scales for the guitar neck. It’s called “The Fingerboard Workbook : Concepts in Logical Fingering”, the one with the blue cover.


Take Home PDF: Jazz Guitar Scales Connected

I wrote an etude (in PDF) for you to play. Remember to use all the proper fingerings for the seven positions before experimenting. Also keep in mind that the position shifts occur between half-steps (one fret):

  • In major between the 3rd and 4th or the 7th-8th degrees of the scale
  • In melodic minor only between the 7th and 8th degrees

For example, in G major, you shift between B and C or F# and G. In G melodic minor, you can only shift between F# and G.

Here’s the PDF:
Jazz Guitar Scales: G major in position

Yes, just the major positions… here again:
You have to work on melodic minor by yourself


Here’s what it SOUNDS and LOOKS like when you do it. The blue shirt is optional:

Moving On

If you believe you have mastered “position playing”, the next logical step is to play jazz guitar scales diagonally. Here’s an article on the basics of diagonal scales playing.

Or move on to Positions Part IV and Part V where we’ll deal exclusively with arpeggios.

Go to Jazz Guitar Arpeggios: Positions Part IV ——>

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