The Major Scale: Part 11: Learning the fretboard with 7BP’s and 3NPS

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This is the place to be if you ever wanted to learn the entire fretboard. We are going to bring together the previous discussions detailing the 7BP’s and show how you can use them along side the 3NPS positions to make the unknown known. Let’s unlock the fretboard.

Chunking Down 

To unlock the fretboard we have to break things down into smaller chunks. To take on too much information at once will cause hesitation and eventually that quiting attitude sinks in. We want to stay away from that. To accomplish this we can adopt this simple strategy of learning in smaller chunks. 

For our purposes, these smaller chunks are the left hand scale positions I call the Seven Basic Positions or 7BP. You can think of it as a place to start. If you have gotten this far you should be familiar with them already. But before I get into the physical way of doing this let me introduce you to some additional supplementary strategies that you can use.

Paper, Pencil, and Visualization

You can do this waiting for the bus, at the library, or where ever you have some free time. First, get your hands on some fretboard manuscript (these are visual depictions of the fretboard multiple times on a 8 x 11 inch paper). Start with the key of C and physically write out the letter note names on each string for the entire length of the fretboard.


Try to do this until it becomes really easy. If you do it one hundred times in the key of C I think its safe to say you will know the spelling of the scale. So if I had five fretboards per page and do 20 pages, it would equal 100 necks in the key of C. You can do 1 page a day easy. If you were to do this for every key you would be in a different class among guitar players. But you don’t have to.

Visualization and Notation

This is another variation of the paper and pencil. Instead of writting the letter note names, you will use notation. In the key of C, write out the major scale notes that appear on the 6th string. As you do this, mentally see where the note will appear on the neck. Hold that image in your head for about 2 to 5 seconds. Do this for each note on the 6th string. Take a break if you have to. Make sure to do this at least once for the key of C. The 6th string “E” is important for us because it is the bottom line for the basic navigation of the 7BP’s.

Music Theory: 7BP to 3NPS Conversions and Linking

This is a long one so take a seat and relax. You’ll figure out the three-note-per-string positions by converting the 7BPs. It’s simple. Let just take a look at how this is done. 


Why 3NPS... Economy Picking

3NPS allow a certain style of picking that follows a very strict pattern. Essentially, the pattern is as follows for each string and stays the same for each of the 3NPS positions:

3NPS picking pattern

Economy Picking Pattern

If you want the real deal on economy picking or SWEEP PICKING, you should stop now, and learn from the master himself (click on the link):

Frank Gambale 

Here you will find an extensive 10 hours course that covers everything you need to know about Frank Gambale’s right hand technique. It’s worth it.

Practice Session

Now that we know how to get the 3NPS let’s play them shall we? Let’s practice (Special Note: my concentration broke down near the end of the C Major 3NPS - for some reason I started to go into Eb).

Practice Session: C Major Scale Positions 3NPS


Guess what? I feel like doing F Major 3NPS.... let’s keep going. 

Practice Session: F Major Scale Positions 3NPS



© John Culjak 2016-2017