Four Notes Per String from Three-Notes-Per-String Patterns

Three-note-per-string patterns are extremely useful for playing heptatonic scales such as those in the major, harmonic minor and melodic minor modal groups. In the previous lesson we looked at some different patterns we can use to play these to break up the usual straight-up-and-down approach. In this we look at some more.

As before, we start with a standard 3-notes-per-string ascending pattern for the Aeolian scale in A:


This time we'll play four notes on each string, sticking with the same fingering, which will mean repeating at least one of them. We'll never repeat the note we just played: after all, we don't need to learn a new fingering pattern to just double-pick one or more notes. You might want to practice that double-picking technique if you like the way it sounds, but it doesn't need much thought. We'll also always make sure we've played each of the three notes at least once, so that we're still playing the full scale.

Here's an example of the kind of pattern I mean. We're playing the notes on each string exactly as we did before but then adding the middle note before going onto the next string:


Although we're playing four notes on each string now, I hope you can see why I'm still calling this a "three-notes-per-string" pattern. We're just repeating one of the three notes each time.

Now, how many possibilities are there for this? Well, the first note could be any of the three, so that's 3 possibilities. The next note could be any of the two that aren't the one we just played, and that continues for the other two notes as well. This gives us 3x2x2x2=24 possibilities. We'll then find we need to remove the following, which break our rule about including all three possible notes somewhere in the pattern:

|--5--7--5--7--|              |--7--5--7--5--|

|--7--8--7--8--|              |--8--7--8--7--|

|--5--8--5--8--|              |--8--5--8--5--|

Here are the remaining 18, for the sixth string only (I'm sure you can apply the idea to the other strings):

|--5--7--8--7--|              |--5--7--8--5--|

|--5--7--5--8--|              |--5--8--5--7--|

|--5--8--7--8--|              |--5--8--7--5--|

|--7--8--5--8--|              |--7--8--5--7--|

|--7--5--8--5--|              |--7--5--8--7--|

|--7--5--7--8--|              |--7--8--7--5--|

|--8--5--7--5--|              |--8--5--7--8--|

|--8--7--5--7--|              |--8--7--5--8--|

|--8--5--8--7--|              |--8--7--8--5--|

If you want additional technical practice material, try aplying these to the scales you already know. You can use alternate-picking, legato (hammers and pulls) or even tap the highest note. This last approach is a very efficient way to play some of these patterns, and rather awkward for others, verging on the impossible for patterns such as


that begin and end on the same note because of the difficulty crossing strings without picking.

If you're looking to develop flexibility, try combining different patterns in the same run, producing results like this:


The whole of which can, of course, be repeated exactly backwards to give the equivalent descending run.

Have fun with these shapes -- there are more variations to come in later lessons.