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The circles indicate positions on the fingerboard for tones in the specific scale (circles with darker color represent root notes, the first note in the scale). The numbers above the diagram indicate the frets.
The horizontal lines are representations of the strings. From lowest to the highest string, these are E, A, D, G, B and e. The vertical lines are representations of the frets, including the nut as the thicker line. And lastly, the dots on the bottom represent the typical configuration of fret inlays on the guitar fingerboard.

C Major scale diagram

The picture is a schematic representation of a fingerboard. The purpose is not to create a realistic representation in a graphical sense, but a conception by which the needed information quickly can be identified.
You may encounter, especially in books, symbols such as squares and triangles. These are standardized symbols in black and white presentations, but when color is an option, this way of distinction is no longer demanded. Moreover, Guitarscale.org uses additional color codes in some specific situation for educational purposes.

Notes refer to pitches, which are distinguished by the variation of sound waves.
In Western music, there are 12 unique pitches and in total 17 names of notes. The names of the notes are:

  • C
  • C# (C sharp)
  • D
  • Db (D flat)
  • D# (D sharp)
  • E
  • Eb (E flat)
  • F
  • F# (F sharp)
  • G
  • Gb (G flat)
  • G# (G sharp)
  • A
  • Ab (A flat)
  • A# (A sharp)
  • B
  • Bb (B flat)

The reason behind the difference of unique pitches and names is due to the circumstance that five of the pitches has two names. C# and Db are actually the same tone from a pitch perspective. The names are interchangeable depending on the musical context.  

When "##" and “bb” turns up among listed notes, it can be confusing for some that haven’t seen the use of this notation before. For example, C## (spelled C double sharp) is a theoretical way for describing D. Info about this on GuitarScale.org can normally be seen under the "Scale degrees" tab.
The reason behind it is a practice that dictate against including the same letter twice in scale notations. This becomes practical in sight reading, there double sharps and double flats are needed in some situations in which notes otherwise couldn’t be interpreted.

The purpose with a scale formula is to explain how the scale is constructed based on intervals. This can be helpful information since all scales in a category share the same intervals.
The formula is described by steps, which are called semi-notes or steps. The Major scale can be described by these methods as follows:

  • Semi-note intervals: 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 1
  • Steps: Whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half

In both cases, it starts from the root note and continues to the next octave.

The diagram shows the G Major scale on one string and numbers indicating semi-note intervals:

Scale diagram with intervals

The intervals of a scale can be described with half and whole steps. This is the same as one and two frets:

  • Half step: one fret
  • Whole step: two frets
  • Whole and a half step: three frets

A degree is the place a tone has in a scale when counted forward from the root. A Major scale includes seven tones and can be written as one to seven.

Major scale degrees: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

Degrees are sometimes written to include the next octave tone and is usually written with “R” as the first degree, signifying the root note.

A second way to write Major scale degrees: R - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

The root note is the note after which the scale (or chord) is named. For example, in the C Major scale, the note C is the root note. The root note is the first note in a scale.

"Scale type" is in this case used to describe the scale based on how many notes it contains. Names such as pentatonic, septatonic and octatonic describe scales from this viewpoint. For example, septa- and octa- are prefixes for seven and eight, respectively.
Pentatonic is a type of scale that contain five notes, but the name pentatonic is also especially associated with the two scales called Pentatonic Major and Pentatonic Minor. To summarize, pentatonic can both refer to a five-notes scale in general and specific scales.  

All scales that don’t include notes on open strings are movable, meaning they can be repositioned up and down the fingerboard. For example, the C major scale shape with vertically stacked notes over six strings and the first root on 8th string can be move two frets up and become a D major scale.

A scale in first position refer to that the first root note, or the position of the index finger, for the actual scale shape is positioned on the first fret. The same is true for second, third, fourth position and so on.

The diagram shows the A Blues scale in 5th position.

A blues scale diagram

For example, C Major is a parent scale to D Dorian. Dorian is a mode of the major and in the case of D Dorian does it consist of the same notes as C Major.

Short notation for chords is used on this site when chords related to a scale is presented. This notation is not as visual as chords presented in pictures, but is a great way to present a chord quickly and within short space.
Six figures are used, either a number or an “X”. The numbers tell which frets to play on and X means don't play. The short notation is used for the six strings and from the lowest (6th) to the highest (1st) string.


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