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Scale Forms Locator

The Scale Forms Generator creates a fretboard map of scale forms for most of the common scales and modes. A scale form is a region spanning just a few frets where you can find all the notes of a given scale from the lower to upper strings. If you know the primary forms for a given scale, it means you can play that scale no matter what fret area you are in. Email me if you encounter bugs! (Note: The tablature option is not yet available.)

Select Tuning
define custom tunings
Select Scale

Enter a scale root (C, F#, Bb...), select a scale type and press the Find Positions button.

Display Options

Labeling:

Show Results as:

button-off Tablature button-on Fretboards

What Are Scale Forms?

Scale forms are essentially areas of the fretboard where you can play all the notes of a given scale with a minimum of lateral bar movement, making the scale easier to play. So on the standard C6th tuning you can play all the notes of a C major scale using only open strings, fret 1, and fret 2. All the notes lie within a 2-fret span. This is called the Normal Form for the C scale because it starts on the principal fret for the key of C—the open position. The normal form for the F major scale goes from frets 5 to 7, since the 5th fret is the primary position for the key of F. Here are some things to notice about forms:

  • On typical steel guitar tunings there are a surprising number of forms on your fretboard. Usually, there are "primary forms" that stand out—ones that span fewer frets than the others. These are the ones to focus on initially. On the standard C6th, the +1 Form and +8 Form are the more complex for the major scale. Run the script and check this out. These forms span 3 frets and have a more haphazard arrangement making them more difficult to learn.
  • Knowing several forms for a given scale allows you to play comfortably in many areas of the fretboard for your key and makes your playing more fluid.
  • Forms usually contain duplicate scale tones giving you a few ways to play the scale within a given form. The above script traces out optimal scale path within each form but you should not confine yourself to it (this feature is not available in the beta version).

The above scale forms scheme is partly based on the CAGED System for guitar players. There's a lot of information on this system on the web and well worth checking out.

About the Form Names

The names of the forms are expressed as a positive offset from the scale's root position. It sounds complicated but it's not. Let's look at a simple example on the basic C6th tuning. Root position for any D chord or scale is at the 2nd fret. This makes sense: the tuning is based on a C chord in the open position, so we move up 2 frets to get the basic D position. Now do a basic search on the D major scale for the basic C6th tuning. You notice that the scale form that starts at the 2nd fret is called the Root Form because the form starts at the root position for D. The form that starts at the 5th fret is called the +3 Form because it starts 3 frets up from root position. A couple of things to note about the root form:

  • Interestingly, not all scales have a root form. To see this, do a search on the basic C6th tuning for the F natural minor scale. For the common tunings, minor scales often do not have a root form.
  • The root form isn't necessarily the best or easiest way to play a scale. The form names just give us an easy way to talk about what scale shape we are playing.