Jazz Guitar: Which Scales to Focus on

Question by Eric


I am an intermediate guitar player but a novice at jazz. I would like to learn the basics of improv and theory. I am focusing on the major scale to begin with, as you suggest. I have learned the C major scale across the entire neck. My question, however, is this: there are 15 major scales, so should I learn that fingering for all 15 of those scales?


M-A’s Answer:

Hello Eric,

Yes, what you are describing is a worthy endeavor: take those fingerings you currently know and displace them up and down on the fingerboard. You will get 12 distinct fingerings (and not 15) because we only have 12 frets… (-:

BUT … you could also take a step forward and think of all the scales (those 15 distinct KEY signatures) as alterations on your basic C major “all over the fretboard” worldmap.

For instance, think of the key of F major as “one flat” from your original C major reference. Do the same with every key signatures up to 7 flats and 7 sharps. And don’t forget that you’ll get 3 enharmonic equivalents … Db = C# and Gb = F# and Cb = B … which will cover the same fingering patterns but for which “the theory” will look different on paper.

Whichever approach you prefer, time working on this is well rewarded. You can do that with the berklee approach (7 positions), or the 5-position or CAGED, etc… then you can take on other visualization approaches such as single-string, string combination or so-called “diagonal” fingerings on the guitar.

I hope this helps, please let me know if you have further questions.

Marc-Andre Seguin
“Improve Your Jazz Guitar Playing with a REAL Teacher”


Old Comments for Jazz Guitar: Which Scales to Focus on

Jul 07, 2012
Scales to Focus On
by: Michael


Thanks for your reply to Eric. Eric…I am in the same boat. I am a Delta Blues finger picker venturing into jazz. Been practicing C, F and B flat scales (notice the cycle of 4ths?) in 6/1, 6/2 and 6/4 positions for what seems an eternity. Not sure what progress I am making but will stick with it. Do the same!

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