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Three Octave Scales (Guitar Lesson)

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Matt Brown

Three Octave Scales

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play three octave versions of the minor pentatonic and the major scales in all 12 keys.

Taught by Matt Brown in Rock Guitar with Matt Brown seriesLength: 16:56Difficulty: 2.0 of 5

Lesson Overview / Objectives

-Learn and memorize the 3 octave scale patterns for the major scale and the minor pentatonic.

Note: Three octave patterns for the natural minor and harmonic minor scales will be taught in a future lesson.

-Play these scale patterns in all 12 major keys by using the circle of fifths as a guide. A circle of fifths diagram is provided under the "Supplemental Content" tab. If you need help interpreting this diagram, refer to Matt's sixth jazz lesson.

Reasons for Practicing 3 Octave Scales

-3 octave scales provide an opportunity to practice position shifts.

-In almost every possible tonality, 3 full octaves worth of notes can be utilized. Consequently, playing 3 octave scales is a logical way to utilize the full range of the guitar.

-Many beginner and intermediate guitarists are afraid to utilize the higher, smaller frets. 3 octave scales function as a solid stepping stone toward playing guitar solos in upper fretboard positions.

-They increase your overall knowledge of where available notes are located within a specific key.

Three Octave Major Scales

Tablature and standard notation to all lesson exercises can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Unlike the 2 octave versions of the scales that you have learned, the same fretboard pattern cannot be used for all 12 major keys. Rather, three different patterns must be learned. The first pattern presented in Scene 2 can be used when playing in all of the keys with the exception of E major and F major. Both of these keys utilize their own unique scale pattern.

3 Octave Major Pattern #1 - Keys of C, G, D, A, B, F#(Gb), C#(Db), Ab, Eb, Bb

A. Demonstration

Matt demonstrates the most prevalent 3 octave pattern in the key of G major. This example is provided at 00:30 in Scene 2.

B. Important Features to Note

-Unlike all other scale patterns that Matt has taught to date, this 3 octave pattern uses different patterns when ascending and descending the scale.

-Within the ascending portion of the scale, position shifts are performed on the third and first strings.

-When descending, position shifts are performed on the first and fifth strings.

-As you play through a 3 octave scale pattern, make a note of the 2 octave patterns that are found within it. Keep in mind that the entire 2 octave pattern of the scale will not be used within the 3 octave pattern. Rather, only a portion of a 2 octave pattern is used within the full 3 octave pattern.

3 Octave Major Pattern #2 - Key of E

A. Demonstration

Matt breaks down the 3 octave pattern for E major in Scene 3.

B. Important Features to Note

-Just like the first 3 octave pattern taught in the lesson, the ascending and descending forms of the E major pattern are different.

-Within the ascending portion of the scale, position shifts are performed on the sixth and third strings.

-When descending, position shifts are performed on the first and fifth strings.

-Once again, make a note of which 2 octave scale patterns are found within this 3 octave pattern.

3 Octave Major Pattern #3 - Key of F

A. Demonstration

The 3 octave pattern for F major is demonstrated at the beginning of Scene 4.

B. Important Features to Note

-The ascending and descending patterns are the same.

-Position shifts are performed on the fifth and first strings.

-When descending, position shifts are performed on the first and fifth strings.

-Make a note of the 2 octave scale patterns found within this 3 octave pattern.

3 Octave Minor Pentatonic Pattern

For additional instruction on this 3 octave scale pattern refer to lesson 78 of Hawkeye Herman's Phase 2 Blues series.

A. Demonstration

Matt breaks down the 3 octave minor pentatonic pattern in the key of Am. This demonstration is provided at 00:36 in Scene 5.

B. Important Features to Note

-The ascending and descending patterns are the same.

-Position shifts are performed on the fifth, third, and first strings.

-This pattern utilizes notes from all five of the minor pentatonic patterns.

Scale Practice Guidelines

-Practice scales in all possible keys.

Note: The three octave minor pentatonic pattern cannot be played in the key of F minor unless you have a guitar within an extended range. Examples of guitars with extended ranges are 7 string guitars, 8 string guitars, or guitars with more than 24 frets. The 3 octave minor pentatonic pattern can be played in the key of E minor only if your guitar has 24 frets or an extended range. In summary, you may have to omit a few keys if you are limited by the number of frets on your guitar.

-Since scales and technique can be rather boring to practice, work on them at the beginning of your daily practice routine when you are most attentive. Most people gradually lose their focus as a long practice session progresses. You must avoid going through the motions when practicing scales. Otherwise, you will not make much improvement and you may even reinforce some bad habits.

-At this point in the series, Matt has taught a wide variety of technical exercises. Due to time constrictions, it is impossible for most people to squeeze all of these exercises into a single daily practice session. Many guitarists find it beneficial to set up a practice routine in which a handful of technical exercises are delegated to each day of the week.

-All scales and technical exercises must be practiced musically. Practice them as though you are playing a beautiful melody. In addition, always make sure that you are playing with perfect time. Practice with a metronome as much as you can stand it!

-Do not play these scales faster than you can! This common sense piece of advice is ignored by many players. Playing too fast will most likely result in sloppy position shifts.

-Practice scales in a wide variety of tempos. After all, music is played in a wide variety of tempos.

-Play in various rhythms. Apply the rhythm exercises provided in the "Supplemental Content" section of lesson 29 to all three octave major scales. These rhythm exercises only work with seven note, diatonic scales. Unfortunately, they cannot be used with the 3 octave minor pentatonic scale pattern.

-Do not deviate from the left hand fingerings that Matt has indicated in Supplemental Content.

-Say each note name aloud as you practice the scale. This will greatly increase your knowledge and understanding of the fretboard. It will also prevent you from taking a "connect the dots" approach to playing the guitar.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

kosovishkosovish replied on May 12th, 2018

This is the first lesson I check here. Very good material. I have a question and would hate to sound like an uncultured swine: Is the Segovia 3 octave major really the best distribution we can get along the 6 strings? Seems like the high e is getting a lot of shifting that could be evenly distributed throughout the lower strings. Any suggestions on alternatives? Thanks!

efecheverriaefecheverria replied on January 21st, 2017

The minor scale reminds me of a led zepelin song.

ry_naylorry_naylor replied on January 8th, 2010

Good lesson Matt. I found a typo on the tab. Bar 3 of the E Major scale. 3rd beat A should be 2nd finger.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on January 8th, 2010

Glad you liked it! Thanks a bunch for the heads up on the typo! Matt

mattbrownmattbrown replied on January 7th, 2010

That's a really good question. Practicing scales and technique can be very overwhelming. Basically, throughout this series, I'm going to teach all of the technical exercises and scales that I actually practice myself. I definitely don't do them all in one day. I basically just pick a couple of scales and exercises to play each day as part of my warm-up. I keep rotating the scales and exercises throughout the week. h I think practicing 2 and 3 octave scales both have their own unique benefits. I've found that practicing the 2 octave scales is more beneficial for improving right hand speed. The 3 octave versions are great for developing left hand accuracy and your overall knowledge of the fretboard. Plus, they give you some good ideas in terms of how you can shift positions within a solo.

rarsenrarsen replied on January 7th, 2010

Hi Matt, Great lesson; But I'm a little overwhlemed, after learning the normal scales ie: AM 1st,2nd, 3rd and 4th positions, now you're showing us these 3 octive scales which makes more since to me; whch type of scales are better to use?

Rock Guitar with Matt Brown

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Chuck Berry among others pioneered the style of rock and roll in the 1950's. Today, rock and roll remains the most popular genre of music. Over the years the genre has progressed & spawned many sub-genres: soft rock, classic rock, punk rock, and more. Dive into this Phase 2 set of lessons to become a master of rock.

Lesson 1

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Introduction to Lead

Matt Brown discusses some of the fundamentals to playing lead.

Length: 15:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Figuring Out Notes

Matt shows you the basics of figuring out any note on the guitar.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4


Learn the basic minor, natural, and major scales. Quite a few techniques & ideas start with scales - they're an essential building block.

Length: 34:15 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Major Scales

In this lesson, Matt takes you through the major scales & helps you to understand how they can be used.

Length: 20:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Minor Scales

Matt teaches the most common natural minor scale patterns.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7


Learn & master the most popular types of bends.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sweep Picking & Rakes

Learn sweep picking and string rakes.

Length: 18:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Solo Techniques

Learn various techniques to use when improvising / soloing.

Length: 12:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Tuning Down

Matt explains the most effective way to tune your guitar down.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Barre Chords

Learn how to establish finger independence and a few tips and tricks with barre chords.

Length: 37:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Rock Licks

In this lesson, Matt Brown introduces a rock lick and shows how several famous players have modified it.

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Rock Sequences

In this lesson Matt teaches some crucial rock sequences. He also explains how these sequences can be integrated in to your playing.

Length: 34:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

String Skipping

Matt Brown focuses on string skipping technique. He provides several exercises designed to improve this aspect of your playing.

Length: 33:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15


Lesson 15 in Matt's rock series is all about intervals.

Length: 34:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Rock Lead Guitar

Matt Brown demonstrates lead guitar techniques using Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" as an example.

Length: 29:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Solo Using Diatonic Scales

Matt Brown explains which scales can be used when playing a solo over a diatonic progression in a major key. As an example, he teaches the solo section to Candlebox's song "Far Behind."

Length: 33:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Diatonic Natural Minor

This lesson covers the natural minor scale and diatonic natural minor progressions. Matt uses the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" as an example.

Length: 24:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 19 Matt provides instruction on developing right hand skills including string skipping.

Length: 26:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Non-Diatonic Progressions

In lesson 20, Matt discusses chord progressions that don't follow a diatonic tonality.

Length: 29:07 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Harmonic Minor

Matt begins to discuss and demonstrate the harmonic minor scale.

Length: 29:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Improvising Over Harmonic Minor

In lesson 22, Matt continues his discussion of the harmonic minor tonality.

Length: 14:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Sweet Child O' Mine

In lesson 23, Matt takes a look at the solo section for the song "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Length: 19:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 24


Matt will be taking a look at the solo section from the live version of the Smashing Pumpkins song "Today".

Length: 7:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Back In Black Solo

Matt Brown reviews and discusses the solo section to AC/DC's hit "Back In Black".

Length: 9:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26


In lesson 26, Matt covers the solo section from the Alice in Chains song "Brother".

Length: 9:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Matt's Rock Manifesto

Matt Brown discusses lead guitarists, what makes a good solo, and tips for your own lead playing.

Length: 41:06 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Legato Playing Exercises

Matt Brown teaches a number of exercises aimed at improving your legato playing technique.

Length: 37:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Right Hand Exercises

Matt Brown demonstrates a few exercises to build skill and speed in your right hand.

Length: 15:06 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

String Skipping Etude

Matt Brown teaches Heitor Villa-Lobos' 1st Etude as a lesson in string skipping.

Length: 38:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

Three Octave Scales

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play three octave versions of the minor pentatonic and the major scales in all 12 keys.

Length: 16:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

Diatonic Intervals

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play all seven of the diatonic intervals within the framework of a horizontal major scale.

Length: 23:01 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Matt Brown discuss diatonic arpeggios as a theory lesson as well as demonstrating the technique.

Length: 9:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Diatonic 7ths Across the Neck

Matt Brown explains how to play the diatonic seventh chords of the major scale. Similar to lesson 32, this lesson takes a horizontal approach to the fretboard.

Length: 10:46 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Solo Ideas #1

Matt Brown teaches a progression and accompanying solo to demonstrate ideas for creating your own.

Length: 21:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Solo Ideas #2

Matt Brown takes a look at another chord progression and solo.

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Legato Playing Ideas

In lesson 37 of the Rock Series, Matt Brown demonstrates and talks about legato playing ideas.

Length: 21:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Rhythm Concepts

Matt Brown switches gears in lesson 38 to start talking about rhythm concepts for rock playing.

Length: 27:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

Compositional Techniques

Matt Brown discusses some often used techniques to build effective rock compositions.

Length: 17:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Creative Chord Voicings

Matt Brown shows off some ways to add some creativity and originality to your rock chord voicings.

Length: 11:59 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 41

Lead Approach

Matt Brown takes another look at his approach to soloing. He demonstrates ideas you can use in your own playing.

Length: 12:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 42

Lead Approach #2

Matt Brown adds practice to his lead approach by giving you another chord progression to solo over.

Length: 7:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Lead Approach #3

Matt Brown has another chord progression and solo exercise to go over in this lesson on lead approach.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

String Skipping Revisited

Matt Brown takes another look at string skipping. He breaks down some key areas of Matteo Carcassi's Allegro as an exercise.

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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