Melodic Patterns

Melodic Patterns on the Guitar 

Becoming familiar with any mode or scale on the guitar means knowing how all the notes on the guitar sound and being able to change direction or skip any number of notes easily. Going straight up the sequence of notes and straight down again will only take a player so far. Hopefully he or she will become bored when that becomes easy and want to try some trickier combinations of notes. This is a great place to start, and will lead to becoming a more mature and developed guitar player. 

As stated on the home page, I prefer to use numbers to indicate the tones in the modes. There are a few good reasons to use this approach. 

Instead of 


I use

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

This way, the player can use the same terms when thinking or playing in any key. He or she will also be able to begin to distinguish the difference between tones; the 3rd tone of the scale should start to sound like a 3rd to them, and so on. Thinking of the tones of the scales in numbers will develop a guitar player’s relative pitch — a musician’s abilty to discern the relationships and distances between notes. 

3 Note Ascending Melodic Pattern 

Lets just play 3 notes starting from the bottom of the scale: 1 2 3 . That in itself is a 3 note melodic pattern. Now, we can play another, but this time starting on the 2nd tone of the scale: 2 3 4. Playing a series of these 3 note patterns in succession would be like this):

and so on. 

After going all the way up the scale, you can practice going back down across the fretboard using a 3 Note Descending Melodic Pattern: 7 6 5 6 5 4 5 4 3 4 3 2 etc. 


The Thirds basically come out of the 3 Note Pattern; just play the first and last note of each 3-note group. Like this:

and so on. 

Inverted Patterns 

Once you can play the ascending and descending 3 Note Patterns and 3rd, you can try inverting the patterns. Instead of 1 2 3, you would play 3 2 1 as the first pattern — each group will be 3 notes, going downward, even though we’re starting each group one note higher. This will give us an Inverted 3 Note Melodic Pattern:

3 2 1 4 3 2 5 4 3 6 5 4 etc.

Inverting the 3rds, we’ll again play the first and last of each group:

3 1 4 2 5 3 6 4 etc. 

4 Note Ascending Melodic Pattern 

As you can probably imagine at this point, one could also play 5 Note, 6 Note, 7 Note and so on and the associated intervals — 5ths, 6ths, 7ths. As with the 3 Note and thirds, each can be played ascending and descending, and inverted ascending and inverted descending.

The 4 Note Patterns are put together the same way as the 3 Note Patterns. Each group is 4 notes long and each successive group starts one note higher:

1 2 3 4 2 3 4 5 3 4 5 6 4 5 6 7 etc.

And from these, by only playing the first and last note of each group, we get the 4ths:

1 4 2 5 3 6 4 7 etc. 

More Complicated Patterns 

Once you’ve mastered groups and intervals from 3 Note and 3rds up to 10 Note and 10ths, there are many, much more complicated patterns to practice. You can make up your own, or if you like, I’d recommend Slonimsky’s “Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns”as further reading.