Scale patterns can be formed HORIZONTALLY, VERTICALLY or DIAGONALLY in many different positions all over the entire guitar fretboard.


To thoroughly master the fretboard, and before learning vertical or diagonal scale patterns you should learn how to play the major scale on each individual string. 

You should include playing and memorizing all the notes of each individual string in your practice regime until it becomes second nature to you.

You might be wondering why you should bother learning how to play guitar scales on one string? 

After all, surely it is more efficient and practical to use patterns that cover all six strings? 

Well, YES and NO!

While multi-string patterns are great for playing chords, arpeggios and licks, they can also limit your creativity and expression if you rely on them too much. Learning guitar scales on one string can help you break out of the box and explore the fretboard in new ways. 

Here are some benefits of playing scales on one string:

– You can see the INTERVALS and individual notes of the scale more clearly, which helps you understand the theory behind it.

– You can create some interesting licks and solos by moving horizontally across the neck, instead of vertically within a fixed position.

– You can easily transpose any scale to any other key by simply shifting the root note to a different fret.

– You can combine single string scales with their corresponding multi-string patterns to create more variety and contrast in your playing.

Learning guitar scales on one string is a great way to expand your musical vocabulary and creativity. It can also help you improve your technique, speed and accuracy. By mastering single string scales, you will be able to play more confidently and expressively on any part of the neck. 

So grab your guitar and start exploring!


Vertical patterns are the most commonly used scale formations (often called “box patterns”) on the guitar fretboard.

There are 3 separate types of vertical scale patterns that can be played on the fretboard.

“CAGED” patterns.

“CAGED” hybrid patterns.

3. 3 notes per string patterns.


The CAGED system is a powerful tool for guitarists who want to master the fretboard and play in any key.  

The diagram below illustrates this concept by showing all the possible MAJOR and MINOR 3 note chord (triad) shapes:

The name CAGED comes from the fact that each chord shape is surrounded by notes that belong to the same parent scale.

For example, in the diagram below you can see how the FULL C major and A minor scales fit perfectly round the C/Am, A/Gm, G/Em, E/Dm and D/Cm chord shapes:

So, if you want to play scales or modes that fit perfectly with any MAJOR or MINOR chord, you should learn the CAGED system. 

The beauty of the CAGED system is that you can always find a scale note close to any chord tone, so you can create smooth melodies, licks and solos.

However, the CAGED full scale patterns have seven notes, and they do not fit on to the strings in even patterns.

 When you look at the diagrams above, you will see that you have to play three notes on all of the strings except one. 

This makes the fingering a bit tricky and harder to remember.

Also, CAGED patterns can often sound a bit too linear, “clicky” and predictable, and especially even more so if you never vary your dynamics and phrasing.

Unfortunately, there are too many guitarists that rely on one simple CAGED shape to play all of all of their licks and solos on.

This habit makes everything they play sound the same.

However, if you use every CAGED pattern available, you can avoid falling into that trap, and as a result, you will be a far more flexible and inventive guitarist.

So, please do not let anything stop you from exploring and using the CAGED system.

Make sure you learn and use all the CAGED patterns, you will find that It is a powerful tool which will help you master the fretboard and enable you to play any scale or mode pattern in any key you want all over the entire guitar fretboard. 

The CAGED system will also help you to understand how chords and scales/modes are related, and how to use them together to make great music.

The CAGED system works best for PENTATONIC scales.

These commonly used scales have only 5 notes, so they are easy to play with “CAGED” chord shapes:

Each of the 5 major or minor pentatonic patterns have only 2 notes per string, which makes them much easier to remember how to play.

To help you spice up your licks and solos, you can also add an extra note to the MAJOR or MINOR pentatonic patterns. 

This is called the blue note, and it creates some tension and contrast in your riffs, licks or solos.

 In the diagram above, the blue note is marked with a blue dot.

For the C major pentatonic scale, you can add the flattened 3rd note (which is Eb) of the C major scale to create a C major blues scale. 

Playing the MAJOR blues scale with major chords can give a “country” or “southern rock” flavour to your phrasing!

The MAJOR blues scale is a MAJOR pentatonic scale that has a MINOR 3rd as well as a MAJOR 3rd, which makes it perfect for swapping between MAJOR and MINOR sounds. 

For the A MINOR pentatonic scale, you add the flattened 5th note (which is also Eb) of the A MINOR scale to create an A MINOR blues scale.

 Using the blues scale gives a “classic blues” or “rock” sound to your phrasing, and it can be played over MINOR and MAJOR blues progressions.

The function and use of pentatonic and blues scales will be discussed later.

caged "hybrid" scale/MODE patterns

CAGED hybrid scale/mode patterns are 4 different connecting combinations of 2 consecutive CAGED scale or mode patterns.

The diagram below shows the 20 full scale CAGED “hybrid” formations of the C major/A minor scale.

All of these formations can be used to play any full MAJOR or MINOR scale or any MODE of the MAJOR or MINOR scale in ANY KEY.

caged "hybrid" major/minor pentatonic scale/blue scale patterns

CAGED hybrid scale/mode patterns are also fantastic for playing major/minor pentatonic and blues scales combined major/minor pentatonic scales or modal pentatonics.

The diagram below shows how to play the 20 variations of the CAGED hybrid C major/A minor pentatonic and blues scales.

These are all mapped out for you in the FRETPAL app.

Why play them?

Every scale or mode pattern has its own characteristics, the same note played on a different string can have a very different tone, each scale has its own articulation possibilities (slides, bends, hammer-on/pull offs etc).

The CAGED hybrid scale and mode patterns are a great alternative to the standard CAGED patterns and can really help you propel your playing style and phrasing to the next level.


We know that any MAJOR or MINOR scale and any of its modes has 7 individual notes.

Unlike the CAGED system that uses 5 different patterns, the 3 note per string system uses 7 different patterns of 3 notes per string because they are built on each successive degree of the MAJOR or MINOR scale.

Owing to this fact, some people confuse the 3nps system with playing MODES.

This is a mistake.

It is true that as each of the patterns in the diagram above starts with successive degrees of the MAJOR or MINOR scale, they each represent a very good way to play each MODE of any MAJOR or MINOR scale in ANY KEY.

For example, the first pattern in the diagram above starts with the E note on the 6th string, so, if you play the full pattern starting from this E note, you will be playing the E PHRYGIAN mode.

However, the same E PHRYGIAN mode can also be played on ANY of the other 6 patterns above simply by starting to play any of the patterns from the E note.

Therefore, each of the patterns above are just 7 different ways to play ANY full MAJOR/MINOR SCALE or any of their MODES using the 3nps system.

We will fully discuss the formation and use of MODES later.

The 3nps system, even though it has many good patterns which provide a great way of playing each individual MODE, is NOT especially reserved for playing MODES, so, you should not think of it as such.

You need to remember that all of the MODES of the MAJOR or MINOR scale can equally be played on one string, or vertically using either the CAGED, CAGED hybrid, 3nps system or with a whole plethora of diagonal patterns all over the entire guitar fretboard.

Like CAGED and CAGED hybrid patterns, 3nps patterns remain exactly the same for any key.

You only need to move the root note up or down the fretboard on the same string to the fret that has the root note of the key you want to change to.

Then you just play exactly the same pattern.

It is as simple as that…

Now, it has to be said that the 3nps system has some pros and cons that you should be aware of:

One of the benefits is that it is easy to memorize because it has a consistent pattern of 3 notes on each string.

Another benefit is that it is great for fast and smooth playing, especially if you use legato techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.

However, one of its biggest drawbacks is that full 3 notes per string scale patterns require a lot of finger stretching, which can be uncomfortable and even harmful if you overdo it.

If you have big hands and long fingers, these stretches will probably not present you with any problems.

However, if you have small hands and/or short fingers and you plan to use 3nps patterns extensively, a practical solution could be to use a short scale guitar.

Short-scale guitars have relatively narrow and shorter necks which makes them easier and more comfortable to play. 

They also have lower string tension which makes playing chords and bending the strings simpler, thereby putting much less damaging strain on your finger tendons. 

They have a slightly warmer tone that better emphasizes lower middle sound frequencies, making them ideal for solo playing.

 They have a lighter weight and more compact body making it easy to control and manoeuver them during performances.

Another drawback of the 3nps system is that like CAGED patterns, 3 notes per string patterns can sound a bit too linear and predictable, especially if you keep using the same pattern all the time, and even more so if you never vary your phrasing and dynamics.

Unfortunately, there are too many guitarists that fall into this trap and end up being average or mundane players.

Like the CAGED and CAGED hybrid systems, the 3nps system is a powerful tool for guitarists who want to master scales and modes all over the fretboard.

However the CAGED, CAGED hybrid and 3 notes per string system are not the only way to play scales and modes.

We will look at more exciting alternatives shortly.


  Is it the CAGED, CAGED hybrid or the 3 notes per string system?

The general answer to that question is that they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

And, in the most part, it really depends on what type of music you want to make.

However, In my personal opinion the CAGED hybrid is the best as all the patterns use slides to merge into the next CAGED pattern and avoid tricky and dangerous finger stretches.

Like 3nps patterns, CAGED hybrid patterns are great for fast and smooth legato playing and if you love to use articulations like hammer-ons/pull-offs, slides etc.

However, the biggest drawback with 3nps patterns is that they are NOT really that suitable for playing major/minor pentatonic/blues scales or modal pentatonics. 

Also, as previously mentioned, you should beware that If you choose to play 3nps scale/mode patterns too often, you are at high risk of developing severely painful tendonitis.

At worst, this could put an end to your guitar playing!

However, the choice is yours.

So, if you prefer to use the 3nps system and your finger tendons are becoming increasingly painful, maybe you should switch to playing the far easier CAGED hybrid patterns or even consider playing a short scale guitar.

Short scale guitars do sound a little different to full sized guitars, and have their advantages and disadvantages.

You need to weigh up their pros and cons and decide what is best for yourself and the music you want to make.

In conclusion, the CAGED, CAGED hybrid and 3nps systems are all great for playing scales and modes.

 Therefore, you should learn them all and fully explore and contrast the differences, merits and subtleties that each of the patterns gives you to bring greater fluency, masterful fretboard knowledge and endless variety to your playing style and phrasing.

This will make you a far more well rounded and versatile player.


If you think that the CAGED, CAGED hybrid and 3 notes per string systems are good for fast and fluent legato playing, just wait until you get diagonal scale patterns under your fingers!

What are diagonal scale patterns? 

They are simply scale patterns that move VERTICALLY across the strings and HORIZONTALLY up and down the neck in a DIAGONAL formation.

Why play diagonal scales? 

They have MANY benefits for guitar players.

Diagonal scale patterns will help you to:

1. Break out of playing in CAGED, CAGED hybrid or 3 notes per string boxes and use the WHOLE fretboard.

2. Connect with different patterns and positions and create SMOOTH transitions between them.

3. Create more melodic and varied solos by giving you more ARTICULATION and PHRASING options because there are more DIRECTIONS and DIFFERENT connecting notes to choose from.

4. Thoroughly learn where all the notes are on the fretboard and improve your musical ear by playing the same scales, riffs or licks in DIFFERENT ways.

5. Practice and evolve your technique and speed by challenging your fingers to move across the strings both up and down the fretboard.


There are 3 different DIAGONAL pattern formations for FULL scales and 3 different diagonal pattern formations for PENTATONIC scales.

For FULL scales, these are 3-4 notes per string, 4-3 notes per string and 4 notes per string.

For PENTATONIC scales, these are 2-3 notes per string, 3-2 notes per string and 3 notes per string. 


Do you want to elevate your guitar playing to the next level?

Look no further than using full scale or pentatonic diagonal scale patterns like those in the diagram above!

Diagonal patterns are not only a great way to master the fretboard, but also a gateway to countless musical possibilities.

The above diagram shows you just one example of each type of full diagonal scale and diagonal pentatonic scale in the key of C major or A minor.

However, that is only the start because there are so many more!

You will be amazed by how many different patterns you can use for any full major/minor or pentatonic scale that you could possibly want to play.

For example, if you want to use any full major or minor scale, you have the choice of a series of seven different patterns that switch between 3-4 and 4-3 notes per string, starting on the 6th or 5th string.

This means you can play the same full major or minor scale (or any of their modes) with 14 different patterns, which will give you much more variety, choice and expression in your playing.

Or you can use a series of four patterns that have 4 notes per string, also starting on the 6th or 5th string.

The major/minor pentatonic scales, all of which have 5 notes each, have a series of five different pentatonic patterns available that switch between 2-3 and 3-2 notes per string, starting on the 6th or 5th string.

There is another series of four different patterns that have 3 notes per string, also starting on the 6th or 5th string.

This may sound overwhelming, but don’t worry, all of these patterns are mapped out for you in the FRETPAL app…

When you browse through all the pattern options in the FRETPAL app, be they CAGED, CAGED hybrid 3nps or any of the huge variety of diagonal scale or mode patterns, you may be tempted to think that because some successive patterns only differ slightly from the previous one that they can safely be ignored. 

However, and this is VERY IMPORTANT…

 Please do not forget or ignore the fact that every individual full scale, or pentatonic scale pattern that you find in the FRETPAL app, be it played using the CAGED, CAGED hybrid or 3nps system or with any diagonal formation are all very DIFFERENT.

 Even though they all contain the same notes, each pattern has its own INDIVIDUAL, DISTINCTIVE and UNIQUE character with its own PHRASING, SURROUNDING NOTES, DIRECTION and ARTICULATION possibilities.

Remember too that the SAME notes played on different strings of different thicknesses have a different TONE.

So, if you want to take your fretboard knowledge, playing, creativity and phrasing into the next dimension, you should at some time or another, explore, practice and use every scale/mode pattern there is, be it played on one string, using the CAGED or CAGED hybrid system, the 3nps system or the wide variety of diagonal patterns that are available.

The FRETPAL app shows you how to play them all, saving you many years of trying to figure them out and memorize them all by yourself.

Now there is no longer any excuse for you to resign yourself to being an average guitar player!

The FRETPAL app is the ONLY app available in the world where you can QUICKLY and EASILY access all CAGED, CAGED hybrid, 3nps and diagonal scale patterns and their many variations.

The app also enables you to clearly see how all the patterns inter-connect with each other, allowing you to explore and compare their individual nuances and subtleties when you use them to create your riffs, licks or solos.

With so many choices, you will ALWAYS have something new to try on your guitar.

Take your playing to exciting new heights with these patterns today!


 Start with one scale pattern and concentrate on the key of C major or A minor and practice and explore all the positions and variations shown to you in the FRETPAL app. 

 Use a metronome and start slowly, gradually increasing the speed as you get more comfortable with each of the patterns.

 Play along with backing tracks or songs that use the same key and scale.

 Try to improvise using different scale patterns and see how they sound over different chords and progressions.

 Experiment with different rhythms, articulations, dynamics, and phrasing – you will find that doing this will significantly help you to become more flexible and inventive. 

Always try to make your playing as melodic, expressive and musical as possible.

Learn how to apply all scale patterns to different genres.

 For example, you can use any scale pattern to play LYDIAN, MIXOLYDIAN, or any other mode over different types of music.

Remember that some 3nps and diagonal FULL scale patterns involve some possibly difficult and painful finger stretching.

So, please don’t overdo it, and above all else, have fun!