Essential Scale Sequences

What are scale sequences?

A sequence is a repeated and ordered pattern applied to the notes of a scale or arpeggio.

Imagine walking in a straight line for 8 steps. You could go ahead one step at a time like you normally would or you could decide to mix it up. For instance, you could step forward 3 times and step back once. You could step forward 4 times and step back twice. You could even leap forward a distance of 2 steps and then take a step back. All of these would be different ways in which you could walk ahead 8 steps. They are different patterns. They are different sequences.

Why learn them?

From the moment you learn a scale, it is your duty as a musician to convert it into music. Playing scales up and down the same way forever simply won’t cut it. And so the use of scale sequences is the answer. Sequences are an essential part of fretboard freedom and musical freedom. The more you master, the more interesting and creative sounds you can make with scales. Using sequences can change the way in which your guitar leadwork affects a track/song/jam. For instance, simply playing up through the notes of a scale produces a rather bland and straightforward result, represented below by a straight line. Whereas by applying something powerfully intervallic like the second example in this article: the "Pentatonic 4ths" sequence, you can produce a far more jagged and melodic sound to the ear, represented below by the jagged rising line.

How to use them

Play through the examples. Alternate pick everything. Apply them to different positions/scales/modes/keys. Familiarise yourself with the different sound of each sequence. Next time you jam, make sure to incorporate them into your leads. Perhaps between licks, melodies or scale runs you already know. Remember to mix it up: play examples as 16th notes (4 notes per beat) but also try them as 8th note triplets (3 notes per beat). Different notes of the sequence will land on different beats and can change the sound. You may be very pleased with what you discover! Pay very close attention to the fretting fingering instructions under some ambiguous tabs. Play examples exactly as specified to avoid unnecessary difficulty and confusion.

Example #1: "Linear Fours" in C Major

Here is the first of four examples. Instead of playing the C major 3-notes-per-string (3NPS) scale up and down, we apply a sequence called "Linear Fours". The pattern goes like this: Forward 4 notes, back 1 note. When you step back that one note, the sequence begins again. Give it a go!

Example #2: "Pentatonic 4ths" in A minor

Now we will try out a pentatonic idea. This one is trickier as it requires you to employ finger rolling to hit adjacent notes. In other words, you'll need to rock a small barre back and forth with a fretting finger to play notes which have the same fret number but a different string. Go really slowly to ensure a clean sound. And make sure you follow the fingering instructions under the tab.

Example #3: "Skipped 3rds" Diminished Arpeggio

This example shows that sequences aren't limited to scales - they can be applied to arpeggios as well. Starting on the D note on the low E string we play through the 4 notes of the diminished arpeggio (Root, Min3, b5 & 6 AKA bb7). But we don't play them in order. Instead we play the first note, then jump over the second to play the third (Hence "Skipped 3rds") and then we step back a note to play the second. And from that note we skip up a third, then step back one, and so on it goes. Once again, pay attention to the fingering instructions below the tab. Love this sound!

Example #4: "Root, 7th & 5th Triads" E Lydian

This is the most complex example by far, and sounds amazing! I'll try to explain this one as simply as possible. We are basically sequencing an E Lydian scale by building triads of root, 7th and 5th off every note of an EMaj7 chord. But don't get too caught up with the technical aspects of this if you don't want to, just follow the fingering instructions (Slowly!) and enjoy this beautiful sound.

Check out the video lesson!

 



 

 

 





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Japanese Scale Picking Patterns

Get exotic with the Japanese Pentatonic scale! Like the standard pentatonic scale, the Japanese pentatonic also has 5 box positions. This lesson also includes diagonal picking patterns to aid your horizontal playing and fretboard vision. This lesson will be in the key of A Japanese Pentatonic.

Box Shape 1
This is the first box shape for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. You should note that it is actually the exact same scale as the A Natural Minor. The only difference is that the minor thirds and flat sevens have been removed (grey notes).

This means that you can use the A Japanese Pentatonic scale over a standard A minor progression!

So starting on the 5th fret play the black notes up and back down again.

Box Shape 2

Here is the second position. Play this on the second note of the previous position, the 7th fret. The tricky part with this position is the pinky finger roll you have to perform when crossing between the G and B strings.

Box Shape 3

Carry on playing through the box positions. Begin this third shape on the second note of the second shape. Start with your second finger followed by the pinky to make the change to the A string easier.

Box Shape 4

This second-to-last box position is otherwise known as the "In Sen" scale. Starting here on the E, the 12th fret, play this scale instead of E Phrygian for an instant exotic sound.

Box Shape 5

And this is the fifth and final box position for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. Now let's step it up a notch with some diagonal picking patterns!


Diagonal Picking Pattern 1

Starting back on the root note, the A (5th fret), we take the first two strings of the first box position and repeat the pair diagonally to slice right across three box positions. It's a great way to get around the neck and is an easy pattern to remember.

Diagonal Picking Pattern 2

This next diagonal picking patterns begins where the second box position is. This one is a bit of a wide stretch but the pattern is interesting and covers 11 frets of space. This slices right across and up to the fifth position. And again we have a pattern on a string pair which is repeated and moved up diagonally. Easy to remember.

Diagonal Picking Pattern 3

Here's that "In Sen" scale again. This pattern spans a big 11 frets like the previous and slices up to the top of the second box position of the next octave.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson.
Check out the video below to see and hear the patterns being demonstrated

 

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Min7 Alternate Picking Patterns

Last time I showed you how a Cmaj7 arpeggio could be arranged into useful picking patterns. Now, staying in the key of C major/A minor, we will be moving on to the Amin7 arpeggio. The notes and intervals contained in the following two picking shapes make up the arpeggio:

A, C, E & G.
R, m3, 5th & b7


A root, minor 3rd, 5th and flat 7 makes up a minor 7 chord/arpeggio.

Shape 1:

Shape 2:

Here's a bonus - because Dmin7 and Emin7 chords are both in the key of C major/A minor, you can play the exact same patterns for those arpeggios as well. This fact makes the arpeggio picking shapes extra useful.

Here is a descending run which I created by blending the Dmin7 and the Emin7 shapes together:

To hear these shapes in action (+ some bonus music theory) check out the video I made for this lesson:

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