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The

Spiral Galaxy Guitar Method


A Guitarist's Guide
to the Diatonic Fretboard

Written and Illustrated by


Mark Newstetter
All contents 2007 by Mark Newstetter

The Spiral Galaxy Guitar Method is the invention of Mark Newstetter


and represents a unique method for mapping and visualizing
the guitar fretboard. All of the concepts, diagrams, exercises
illustrations and text in this book are the sole work of the author
and may not be reproduced nor distributed in any fashion without
the author's express written permission.

Original terminology and methodology are described throughout,


and every effort has been made to clearly delineate such elements.

The author would like to thank


Lucy A. Hudson for her knowledge and patience,
all my students who have provided the inspiration for this book,
Elliot Schneider for making me hit all six strings,
and my daughter Tonya.

In memory of my father.

A Guitarpixel Book
2007 by Mark Newstetter
San Francisco, California
www.guitarpixel.com
The reader of this book is assumed by the author to have a basic understanding of conventional western music
theory.

Knowledge of the guitar and some proficiency with moveable chord forms and basic scale patterns is helpful.

This method is intended to provide an iconic framework for fully understanding and visualizing the Diatonic
system as it is arrayed across the guitar fretboard. There will be very little about musical styles or rhythm. We will
be concerned with the tonal symmetry of the Diatonic system and how that symmetry is expressed on the frets
and strings.

Where standard terminology is not used, new terms will be identified and explained. A glossary is included.

One example of a new term, found on page 29: Diatonic Module. In exploring modes and modal relationships,
we have grouped the mode patterns into pairs. These pairs are referred to as modules, which expresses the
nature of the symmetry upon which the interval relationships between the two modes is based.

Certain positions on the fretboard are given names based on their modal significance.

If what you have read so far is confusing to you even though you meet the requirements at the top of the page,
don't worry. You are already used to dealing with confusion just by playing the guitar. The fretboard is a puzzle,
confusion is the norm. But like any good puzzle - the fretboard can be solved.

This book offers a solution to the fretboard puzzle.

As a guitarist for over 40 years, I have learned to be ever amazed by the beauty of the guitar. And I have been
frustrated by its stubbornness. My chosen instrument was a mystery at the start, and is a mystery now, even though
it is less of a puzzle. What remains a mystery - even after solving the puzzle - is how it could ever be any less of a
puzzle without being less perfect.

The guitar is not one instrument, but two. It is a harp, and it is a machine that controls the length of the harp's
strings. The merger of the two basic instruments - the harp and the measure - into the guitar is not the result of
some whimsical inventor, it is the outcome of a long slow evolution driven by the formalization of the Diatonic
system.

It would be very strange if such a popular instrument were truly at odds with the very system of music which
gives it its form. In fact, it is not. But just how the guitar and the Diatonic system are supposed to be connected
is the subject of great discussion.

Methods of explaining the Diatonic fretboard are many.

This is one. Mark Newstetter


San Francisco, California
June 2007
The
Spiral Galaxy Guitar
Method
Contents

P.1 What is the 'Spiral Galaxy' Guitar Method?

P.2 The Invisible Maze

P.6 String Theory

P.8 The Upper Strings

P.9 The Lower Strings

P.10 Spiral Arms

P.11 Diatonic Symmetry

P.14 Core Symmetry

P.15 The Big Box = 3X3

P.16 Inverse Modes

P.19 Into the Void

P.22 Secondary Symmetries

P.29 The Diatonic Module

P.42 Pentatonic Modules

P.44 Pentatonic Phases

P.48 Parallel Dimensions

Glossary
1

What is the 'Spiral Galaxy' Guitar Method?


Anyone who plays the guitar and has decided to fully explore the fretboard will come across numerous methods
of organizing the various scale and chord forms. These methods frequently make use of mnenomic devices to
make it easier to remember note positions. One popular method is the 'CAGED' system, which derives its name
from the notes of the C pentatonic scale. The CAGED system is so widely accepted because it is based on easy forms
which any beginning guitarist will learn whether they plan to go further or not.

As useful as CAGED is, one problem with it is its use of note names to identify forms even when they are based
on other notes. Ie; you can play a 'C Form' B Flat chord, or an 'E Form' A chord. Also, the rote memorization of
CAGED forms without any knowledge of music theory will only paint the student guitarist into a corner when
faced with the prospect of jamming with pianists or wind players for whom the vocabulary of the CAGED system
is meaningless. The general cluelessness of the average guitar player to standard musical notation is widely known -
and begrudgingly accepted by most other musicians.

Avoidance of conventional music theory seems to be a major hallmark of many guitar methods. Rather than begin
with a basic overview of theory, too many methods present the beginner with a strategy designed to take shortcuts
around theory, giving them the impression that there is a natural antipathy between the guitar and the diatonic
system.

In fact, the guitar has evolved over centuries to be quite at home in the same diatonic universe as the piano, an
instrument with which it has more in common than is often recognized. It's really a matter of how you look at it.
And what you look for.

If we want to understand the guitar fretboard as a logical instrument in its own right, then we need to look at it
not as a linear sequence of chord and scale patterns, but as a symmetrical array. The guitar fretboard no more
'begins' with the open strings than the piano keyboard begins 3 octaves below middle C. Any beginning pianist will
start in the middle and learn to move outward from there as they progress. Why not approach the guitar the same
way?

The 'Spiral Galaxy' method is the result of many years of exploring this basic premise.

While not intended to supercede or contradict other methods, SG can provide an enlightening perspective for
beginners and experienced players alike. There is no reason why a complete novice cannot make immediate use
of this system while also working with any existing popular method providing they are open to learning a few
conventional theory concepts. SG makes extensive use of Roman numeral scale degrees and opens the door to
an understanding of modes.

Rotational Symmetry
If you've ever done a crossword puzzle you know what rotational symmetry is. The pattern of black squares in a
crossword can be turned upside down and still look the same. The shapes 'rotate' around a central axis. If you don't
already think of the guitar this way you may find the diagrams and exercises that follow very surprising. You might
discover that the patterns you already know are connected in ways you hadn't considered.

You will see that there is an over-arching pattern that connects all the notes on the fretboard in much the same
way that the constellations of the zodiac connect the stars in the sky. This pattern happens to resemble a spiral
galaxy, hence the name of the method.
2

The Invisible Maze

The piano keyboard is a template for the key of C. All the white keys are included, all the black keys are outside
the key. It really couldn't be simpler. As the interval relationships in C are the basis for all 12 keys, what you see
when you look at the keyboard is a map of the diatonic system. Where is there an equivalent map for the guitar?

I began thinking about this around 1985 when I was repairing guitars and giving lessons in my small San Francisco
workshop on Page Street. Though I had been playing for 18 years at that time, I hadn't come across a fully compre-
hensive explanation of the relationship between the natural symmetry of the diatonic system and the overall distri-
bution of notes on the guitar fingerboard.

I came to realize that the challenge of making sense of the seemingly random array of notes on the fretboard
is partly a matter of finding the right graphic style. After all, any fretboard map can only function as an analog to
the actual instrument, a visual metaphor which will have to be mentally superimposed over the grid of frets and
strings. It must make sense of the diatonic array. For such a map to succeed, it must be iconic. A simple graphic
metaphor that sums up the basic underlying pattern the way the black and white keys of the piano do.

Fret markers, usually placed at frets 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 and 12 in the form of dots or rectangular inlays, serve to provide
a set of landmarks to assist in navigating the invisible diatonic maze embedded in the grid strings and frets. Many
beginning students want to know what is the logic behind the placement of these markers on these specific frets,
and why some guitars include a 1st fret marker, while others only provide the 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th. Classical
guitars rarely have any fret markers at all, or only the 5th fret is indicated.

Three typical fret marker patterns.


0 3 5 7 9 12

Dots at 5th, 7th, 9th & 12th frets. Double dots on 7 & 12.

Dots at frets 3, 5, 7, 9 & 12. Double dots on 12.

Markers at frets 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 & 12. Double on 12. Least common pattern.

The most common configuration (in the center above) is 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 12. It is a clue to the symmetry of the
diatonic array. The first configuration shown above also has a sense of symmetry, with the 7th fret serving as a
focal point, indicating that the logic of the fretboard is based on the idea of symmetry. The design shown in the
bottom diagram is the least used of the three, and the fact that this is so suggests its apparent asymmetry is less
useful than the greater apparent symmetry of the other two designs.

The significance of the placement of the fret markers is generally overlooked. Couldn't they be placed on frets
2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 and still serve the same purpose? This question is often considered one of the "Mysteries
of the Fretboard." Sort of like the sound of one hand clapping. Again - it is a question of the graphic metaphor. If
there is a metaphor to be found, it is based on the concept of some kind of radial symmetry with a central focal
point - a hub of some kind. The middle design, with its central set of four markers seems the most balanced
overall, but with two of the three designs suggesting the same basic idea of polarity, we can be sure there is a
3

practical reason the 'counting by 2s' spacing - 2-4-6-8-10-12, would make little sense. It's symmetrical too, but it
lacks the essential focal point which is part of the diatonic system itself. In any case, the fretboard only hints at the
symmetry of the pattern of the Diatonic system.

The serious student of the guitar has to work hard to learn what pianists are given for free. Where are the notes?
Of course there are many very useful methods among the numerous charting and diagramming systems widely
available. Chord dictionaries and encyclopedic volumes of scale and mode patterns abound. But as thorough as
many of these texts are at cataloging practical fingering patterns - there seems to be a dearth of coherent explor-
ation of the fundamental overall layout of the fretboard.

Most methods approach the fretboard as inherently confusing, and the irregularity of the standard tuning as an
unfortunate compromise that guitar players just have to learn to live with. But nothing could be further from the
truth.

In fact the tuning of the guitar to EADGBE is an elegant solution to a worthy problem. Remember that the guitar
spans over half the total range of notes of the piano and remains quite portable. The fretboard is, in some ways, a
condensed piano keyboard. Like the keyboard, the fretboard is a mechanism. It is set up to produce specific pitches
when properly operated. Lets consider how the fretboard works.

The point at which the string is stopped against the fret-wire determines pitch. The fingers find their way from
fret-space to fret-space and string to string, connecting one note to another to another by moving along various
paths, so It is not enough to know where a note is located in an absolute sense. The guitarist has to know how to
get from one note to another.

A static diagram of note positions is inherently inadequate. What is really needed is a map of the paths which
connect the notes. Imagine taking a road trip and having to use a map that only shows the latitude and longitude
of each city and town, but omits the roads. The idea of movement needs to be part of the map. One significant
way the fretboard is different from the keyboard is its spacial nature. Left, right, up, down, top, bottom - all have
different meanings on the fretboard than on the keyboard when describing their physical structure - especially
when those terms must also relate to the music itself.

Common terminology for decribing the fretboard often seem at odds with the language of musical expression.
The classical system of naming hand positions for fret numbers is fine as a mechanical instruction, but musically
meaningless to anyone but the skilled guitarist. There is no real common language for describing the fretboard
array in diatonic terms. Such a language might connect diatonic naming conventions with areas - or zones - of the
fretboard.

=======
=======
== == == ==
== == == ==

====
====

The three images above all diagram the same range of notes. The bottom diagram is an attempt to combine the
graphic clarity of the keyboard with the grid structure of the fretboard using black and white rectangles to suggest
4

the visual metaphor of the piano keyboard. While somewhat useful for reference, it is certainly not a fulfillment of
the quest to clarify the fretboard. The graphical style of the keyboard does not adapt well to the fretboard, nor
does it provide an iconic visual pattern.

Of course indicating every concievable interval relationship, or interval path, on the fretboard would be useless.
There has to be a way of prioritizing certain paths over others. So rather than show every dirt road and side street,
our map will focus on the main arteries. Also, we will emphasize specific locations on the map; points of interest.
But first we might want to establish some general boundaries and get our bearings.

E =======
=======
F G A B C D E

== == == ==
== == == ==

====
====
B B
G G
D D
A A
E F G A B C D E
0 3 5 7 9 12

At the open strings and at the 12th fret are the same six notes, an octave apart. The system of notes repeats from
the 12th fret on up - so we only need to consider the first 12 frets in order to understand the entire fretboard,
which may have anywhere from 17 to 24 frets. Remembering that we are basing our map on the principle of
rotational symmetry, we will need to establish a centerpoint; an axis around which everything revolves.

Since we have a span of 12 frets, with 0 being the nut - or open string position, the 6th fret is the numerical
midpoint of the system. If we call the 6th fret the vertical center axis, then we only have to break the strings into
two groups of three in order to establish a kind of symmetrical division of the fretboard.

UP

=======
======= (string-wise)

== == == ==
== == == ==

====
====
UP
(fret-wise)

0 3 5 7 9 12

With a vertical and horizontal axis acting as a compass, lets look at the actual positions of all the notes in the key
of C - the white keys on the piano - as they are arrayed on the guitar.

=======
=======
== == == ==
== == == ==

====
====

0 3 5 7 9 12

Now we can see that it all makes sense! .... Notice how the relationship between the two axis lines and the array
of white circles clearly forms an easy to remember spiral galaxy pattern!

Oh ... it doesn't - does it? Hmm.

In fact, we have overlooked one essential factor in aligning our compass. While the fret marker pattern invokes
the idea of symmetry, it doesn't actually point out the precise pattern of the notes of the key of C. We'll have to
make one simple change in our calibration to really see where the pattern is hiding. First we have to throw away
a couple of extra frets - 12 is too many and here's why; The true middle of the diatonic system on the fretboard is
not on the 6th fret but the 5th. Why? We know that the 12th fret is the Octave point on each string. So why is the
5th fret more important than the 6th? Notice that there is only one note at the 6th fret, but the 5th has a note on
each string.
5

The notes line up at several other fret positions, but the 5th fret is not at the center if we call the ends of the
system the open position and the 12th fret. Before we can find the middle we really need to determine where
the ends are. Naturally the open strings serve as a lower boundary, but do we really want to use the 12th fret
as the upper boundary? Certainly the fact that the 12th fret gives us the octaves of the open strings makes it a
logical dividing line. However, since the notes of the 12th fret and the open strings are the same, EADGBE, albeit
an octave apart, they serve the same function in the system. They are the lowest position on each string in the
system, and the lowest position again when it repeats. What we need is a true boundary for the highest note
position on each string before the octave position of the 12th fret.

At 11th fret, we find an interesting phenomenon. Of all the fret positions, only the 11th fret has no natural tones.
Look again at the piano-style fretboard diagram on page 3. You will see that the 11th fret is all black piano keys. In
other words; there are no notes in the key of C at the 11th fret. Think of the 11th fret as the 'Void fret'.

=======
=======

== == == ==
== == == ==

====
0
==== 3 5 7 9
V
O
I
D
12

When we move one more fret toward the nut, we find another line of natural tones, one on each string. There
are three positions below the 12th fret where all six strings have a natural tone; the 10th fret, the 5th fret and the
nut. The equal spacing of these three lines of notes, or axes, gives us clear symmetrical boundaries. We can then
treat the 12th fret not as the upper border of the pattern, but as the lower border of a repeat of our diatonic array
one octave above the open strings. The 11th fret position is blank, so it acts as a kind of buffer zone.

lian ian
rygi
an Aeo axis Dor is
P h ax
axis Phrygian Zone Aeolian Zone

=======
=======
== == == ==
== == == ==
====
S
ORT V
P I O
EN
NG I
S D
0 3 5 7 9
Center Zone

What we are left with after eliminating the 11th and 12th frets is a system of two zones of equal size, bordered
by lines of notes. Let's call each border line an 'axis'. And so we can keep track of which is which, we'll give each
a name based on its tonal position in the key.

The first axis is based on the open E, which is the 3rd step of the key of C. The 3rd mode of any diatonic key is
the Phrygian mode, so we'll call the notes of the open strings the Phrygian Axis. At the other end of the system, on
the 10th fret, we have an axis based on D, the 2nd step of C. We'll call this the Dorian Axis, for the 2nd mode.
Finally, in the middle, an axis based on A, the 6th step. We'll call this the Aeolian Axis, and since it also represents
the fret-wise center, we can refer to it as the Center Axis. The Phrygian Axis becomes the lowest position of the
Phrygian Zone, and the Aeolian Axis likewise is the bottom of the Aeolian Zone.

Now that we have established the fret-wise symmetry of the system, we need to look at the strings. In our earlier
attempt to find the symmetry of the fretboard we did the obvious thing and created two equal groups of three, out
of the six strings of the instrument. But the strings are not all equal. The tonal relationships are not all the same
from one to the next. Because of the difference in the tuning between the 2nd and 3rd strings we cannot expect
that two equal numbered string groups will reveal the elusive diatonic symmetry which is our goal.
6

String Theory

At first it seems to make perfect sense to break the strings into two groups of three, but as with the fret positions,
there is a small calibration required to find the true string axis. Consider that there is an irregularity in the way the
strings are tuned. That is; the lowest four strings, E - A - D - G are tuned in Perfect 4ths, as are the two top strings;
B - E. But there is a Major 3rd between the 3rd and 2nd strings, G - B. We will have to consider this when group-
ing our strings.

How do we decide where the 'middle' is? How can we find symmetry within this seemingly imbalanced arrange-
ment? There is a tradition in the performing arts that if someone doesn't 'fit in' you kick them out, or you make
them the star of the show. So it is with our exceptional Major 3rd. We can't very well kick it out (Though some
have tried to do just that by retuning all the strings to Perfect 4ths.) Rather than relearn all our chords and scales
in a new tuning, our best option is to make the Major 3rd interval of the 2nd and 3rd strings the center of attention
... the main attraction. We can accomplish this by grouping the four top strings, thus placing the Major 3rd in the
center of its own zone. This will yield two string groups which will share the 4th (D) string. So the 4th string be
comes the border between the upper and lower string groups.

E E
Perfect 4th P4th
B B Upper
Major 3rd Ma3rd
String Group
G G
Perfect 4th P4th
D D
Perfect 4th P4th
Lower
A A String Group
Perfect 4th P4th
E E

E F G A B C D
B E A
G C F
D E F G A B C
A D G
E F G A B C D
0 3 5 7 9

While we can see the symmetry of the three vertical axes, it is still not totally clear how to make sense of the
rest of the notes. Though we have divided the strings between upper and lower zones we still need one more
element to complete the basic map. Another kind of landmark can be found if we study the notes carefully. By
looking only at the notes within the upper string group and highlighting the clusters of halfsteps (if we can call black
ovals 'highlighting' ) a very clear symmetry emerges. The four tones, B-C-E-F, in each cluster are the same B-C-E-F
found in the middle of the piano keyboard. Not only are all three 4-note clusters the same four notes, they are all
precisely the same four pitches.

E F A D
B C E F A
G B C E F
D G B C
A D G
E A D
0 3 5 7 9
7

Before continuing, lets revisit the piano keyboard to understand why B, C, E and F are such important notes.

Imagine each string on the guitar, from the open position to the 10th fret, as if it were a section of the piano
keyboard.

1st String
E F G A B C D

2nd String
B C D E F G A

Upper Group

3rd String
G A B C D E F

4th String
D E F G A B C

5th String
A B C D E F G Lower Group

6th String
E F G A B C D

0 10

The natural halfsteps, B - C and E - F, are important landmarks on the keyboard and in the diatonic system itself.
On the piano, the natural halfstep positions result in visual breaks in the black and white keyboard pattern, making
it easy to locate any note. As there are only seven tones in a key, being able to locate four of them by looking for
two landmarks is an effective navigation method. Once you know how to find B - C / E - F, the positions of other
three notes is much more clear. So, knowing two positions on the keyboard reveals the entire system.

The halfstep positions are equally important on the fretboard. Of course the diagram on this page cannot be
transferred directly to the guitar. But the idea of locating notes by looking for the connected tones of B - C / E - F
can be applied very easily if it is approached the right way.

There are no markings on the fretboard to indicate the positions of these notes, so we will have to find a way to
create a mental image of the pattern. There's no question that visualizing patterns is a big part of playing the guitar.
For a picture to be clear in the mind it helps to have a few important details clearly defined.

On the fretboard, the notes B - C / E - F are not simply arranged in rows as they are on the piano. On the guitar
they form a pattern of four-note clusters which can be thought of as anchor positions. These clusters define the
overall structure of the diatonic fretboard array within the Zones established by the three Axis positions

We have grouped the strings into upper and lower sets. The Upper String Zone comprises strings 1. 2. 3 and 4,
and all the notes on those strings. The Lower String Zone is strings 4, 5, and 6. The clusters form two patterns, one
for the upper strings and one for the lower strings.
8

The Upper Strings

Indicated below are the positions of middle B - C - E - F on the guitar and the piano. Notice that although the
notes are the same pitch on both instruments, the guitar notation places them an octave higher on the staff. This
is done so that guitar music can be written entirely in the treble clef, making it easier read.

The symmetry of these note positions on the fretboard is inescapable. By establishing the four top strings as a
distinct group centered around the major 3rd, and by establishing the 5th fret as the central fret axis, we can see
quite clearly how the natural symmetry of the diatonic system is expressed not as a random, chaotic jumble, but
as a rotationally symmetrical array with the middle C and E in the exact center.

E F
B C E F
B C E F
B C

0 3 5 7 9

A
A A A
o
=
Middle B - C - E - F written for the guitar.

B C E F

o =A =A A A
=
Middle B - C - E - F written for the piano.

In the Spiral Galaxy method, this middle C and E major 3rd becomes the starting point. By moving in equal
degrees out from the center we can reinforce the geometric relationships between note positions in a logical way.

This way of looking at the fretboard builds on conventional music theory. A basic understanding of the concept
of intervals is essential. We will see that not only does the Spiral Galaxy method simplify fretboard navigation, it
also simplifies the study of theory itself by revealing the natural connection between the symmetry of the diatonic
system as theory, and its expression on the frets and strings.

We have focused on the four top strings in order to delineate the primary tonal focal points. But what about the
lower set of strings, 4 - 5 - 6? In fact these strings have their own rotationally symmetrical pattern, and since we
are more likely to use these strings for bass lines and chord roots, it makes sense that they are treated separately
from the top four. Keep in mind that the 4th (D) string is shared by both groups. The significance of the 4th string
as a border between upper and lower zone forms not only relates to its geometric position, but also its role as the
2nd scale degree. (This will be further examined later in this book.)
9

The Lower Strings

Since the lower string zone contains fewer notes it is easier to take in the symmetry at a glance. By comparing
the positions of the indicated notes of the guitar and piano you can see that the symmetry is no accident, but an
inherent element of the diatonic system. Notice the range of notes in the lower zone, from the open E to the C
on the 10th fret of the 4th string. The same D is at the center of this range on the piano and the guitar.

Remember that D is not only the center of the lower zone, it is also the pitch of the 4th string which divides the
upper and lower zones. In fact the same D appears in three places on the fretboard and forms its own diagonal
axis from the open 4th string to the 10th fret of the 6th string. Compare the position of the three Ds with the two
lower halfstep clusters. Also look at the remaining unmarked notes and the rotational symmetry between the two
halves of the Lower String Zone.

D E F C
B C D E F
E B C D
0 3 5 7 9

o
= =A =A A A A A
=A
The halfstep clusters B - C - E - F are an octave lower than in the upper string zone.

E B C D E F C

o
=
A
A A A A =
= =A A
The range of notes of the lower string zone run from low E2 to middle C on the piano.
(The arrow above the keyboard diagram indicates Middle C.)

As you study the relative positions of the notes you will find that certain notes are found in opposite positions
from each other when viewed from the center. Look at the D in the middle, then go up and left to the F. Now
return to the D and go down and right to the B. The relationship between F and B is one of opposites, or we can
think of it as a complementary relationship in the same way that the colors red and green are complementary on
a color wheel.

Next we will return to the Upper String Zone and re-examine it with complimentary note relationships in mind.
10

Spiral Arms

Focus on the tilted oval at the center of the upper string zone. You will see that it connects four notes; B-C-E-F.
Now look at the unconnected notes, and the two halfsteps that are arrayed around the center. Notice that they
can be connected to form two symmetrical arms that radiate from the center like the arms of a spiral galaxy. The
five notes in one arm have a complementary relationship with those in the other. Also notice that both arms share
three notes, A - D - G, and that these are also unison tones. That is, the A - D - G in one arm are the same pitches
as those in the other.

E F G A B C D
B C D E F G A
G A B C D E F
D E F G A B C
A D G
E A D
0 3 5 7 9

A A A A
o
A A
= A A A A
==
Unison Tones
3 7 8
T 3 8
A 2 7
2 3 7
B

E F G A B C D
B C D E F G A
G A B C D E F
D E F G A B C
A D G
E A D
0 3 5 7 9

You might also notice that the two spiral arms collectively contain all seven notes of the key. Looking at the
position of the notes you will see that each has a counterpart on the other side of the Center Axis. G opposes A,
B opposes F, C opposes E, and D is opposite D.

These opposing, or complementary, relationships; G X A, F X B, C X E, D X D, are consistent within the upper


and lower string zones. If we replace the note names with scale degrees, the formula can be expressed as V X VI,
IV X VII, I X III, II X II. If this is still not clear, a look at the piano will illustrate that these symmetrical tonal
positions are not just an accident of fretboard geometry.
11

Diatonic Symmetry

D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D

Again, keep in mind that we are using D as the center because it is the only tone in the system which naturally
belongs there. The second scale degree of any key will always be surrounded by equal and opposite series of
intervals in both directions. So we can consider D to be the geometric center of the key of C.

D is the second note of the key of C, but it is also the first note of the Dorian Mode of the key of C. The note
upon which a mode is based is called its 'final', so D is the final of D Dorian - E is the final of E Phrygian, and so on.

The chart below shows all seven modes of the key of C spanning two octaves so that the finals (indicated by
outline fonts) are at the ends and center. There is only one mode which has perfect interval symmetry, that is, an
equal distribution of wholesteps (W) and halfsteps (H) in both directions from its final. It's also an interesting coinci-
dence that D is the alphabetical center of the key.

ol
ian Aw B H C w D w E H F w G wAw B H C wD w E H F w G w A
Ae

ocr
ian BH C w D w E H F w G w A wBH C w D w E H F w G w A wB
L

Ioni
an Cw D w E H F w G w A w B H Cw D w E H F w G w A w B H C
n
Doria
Dw E H F wGw A w B HC wDw E H F wG wA wB HC wD
ian
Ph
ryg EHF w G w A w B H C w D w EH F wG w A w B H Cw D wE
an
Ly
di
FwG wA w B H C w D w E H FwGwA wB HCwDw E H F
ian

M
ixo
lyd Gw A w B H C w D w E H F w Gw A w B H C w D w E H F wG
12

Lets look at the note positions on the 1st and 4th strings as shown below. Notice the relative positions of the
halfsteps E - F and B - C on those strings.

ng t
Stri len
t a
1s quiv E F G A B C D
E

1 E F G A B C D

4 D E F G A B C

0 3 5 7 9

g
rin t
St alen
h v
4t qui D E F G A B C
E

Notice that the complimentary relationships of F X B and E X C are repeatedly found across the entire Upper
String Zone even when spanning all four strings of the Zone. Also notice the inverse relationship of the overall
note position patterns on the 1st string; H W W W H W ... and the 4th string; W H W W W H.

E F G A B C D

D E F G A B C

0 3 5 7 9

It is no mystery why these notes line up the way they do. These juxtapositions are simply the logical expression
of the integral symmetry of the Diatonic System.

E F G A B C D

D E F G A B C

0 3 5 7 9
13

Now let's bring out the relationships between all the positions for D, or the 2nd scale degree of our key. D is now
indicated by a star-shaped outline so that all six positions can be studied more clearly. Notice how the D positions
to the left of the Center Axis - are the exact opposite of those to the right of the Center. For reference, the next
two diagrams include all the natural tone positions in the system.

E F G A B C D
B C D E F G A
G A B C D E F
D E F G A B C
A B C D E F G
E F G A B C D
0 3 5 7 9

So far, by grouping notes using this method we have already accounted for five of the seven notes of the key of
C. B - C - E - F are joined into halfstep clusters, indicated by black ovals, stars are D, so only G and A remain. A is
the first alphabetical note in the Diatonic System and G is the last. Of course G and A are also the 5th and 6th
scale degrees, and they are the Finals of the Dominant and Minor modes. Now that we know what they are, let's
see where they are.

E F G A B C D
B C D E F G A
G A B C D E F
D E F G A B C
A B C D E F G
E F G A B C D
0 3 5 7 9

The positions of G are precisely the inverse of the positions of A. As we established earlier, the 5th and 6th scale
degrees are complementary. Reviewing the complementary pairs, we have A X G, which are a Major 2nd or Minor
7th; F X B, the Tritone or Diminished 5th; C X E, a Major 3rd or Minor 6th; and D D, Unison or Octave.
These fundamental interval relationships point the way to a more comprehensive grasp of theory for the fretboard.

All of the tonal relationships can be studied by making use of these four pairings. And nowhere is it easier to see
this than by returning our focus to the center axis and the very interesting Core formation that appears there. This
structure is the crossroads of the fretboard. It embodies the symmetry of the entire system.

E A D
B E F A
G B C F
D G C
A D G
E A D
14

Core Symmetry

VI

III IV

VII I
V

At this point we will replace the note names of the key of C with scale degrees, indicated by Roman numerals.
C = I, D = II, E = III, and so on. All keys share the same scale degree patterns and understanding the fretboard
in this way is an essential part of fretboard fluency.

I III
IV VII
V VI
II II

Take some time to examine the scale degree relationships shown above. The diagram at the top of the page
shows only the Core. Remember that there are two separate symmetries - the upper and lower string zones,
divided by the 4th string, each has its own pattern. II is at the center of the lower string zone. The center of the
upper string zone is the point between I and III - or we can think of the major 3rd that those two tones comprise
as the center, just ast these same two tones are at the center of the piano keyboard, thereby giving greater weight
to this interval - and this fretboard position. The middle C major interval is the gravitational center of the fretboard,
and the I - III of the Aeolian axis is the center of every key, regardless of its position on the fretboard in a given
key.

Looking at the Lower String Zone and branching out from the three notes that form the stem of the Core, we
can see that the next note positions are equidistant from the Stem. Study all nine note positions and you will once
again see the complimentary relationships emerge. Notice that II (D) is at the center of this group of notes.

IV V VI
I II III
V VI VII
15

The Big Box = 3X3

VI
III IV
VII I
IV V VI
I II III
V VI VII
0 3 5 7 9

The nine notes arrayed around the Center position of the Lower String Zone form a rectangular configuration
which runs from the 5th scale degree (V) on the 6th string to the 6th scale degree (VI) on the 4th string (G to A in
the key of C.) This 'Big Box' pattern encompasses two modes; Mixolydian and Aeolian. The three notes played on
each of the three lower strings comprise a series of three Major 3rds. Each transition between strings is a halfstep.
On the bottom string we play V - VI - VII. Next we have I - II - III, followed by IV - V - VI on the 4th string.

Mixolydian Mode

o
V W VI W VII H I W II W III H IV W V W VI

= A A A A
=A =A =A =A A
Aeolian Mode

G D A
T
A 3 5 7
B 3 5 7
3 5 7

G D A

(Arrow above the keyboard diagram indicates Middle C for reference.)

o
=
A A A A A
= A A A A

The Big Box forms a base for the the Upper Core. Notice how it is positioned between the three central halfstep
clusters. This is a very easy pattern to remember because of its simple shape and its central position in the system.
The Big Box is the single most clearly symmetrical pattern on the fretboard.

Although it is shown in the key of C in the tablature and notation above, the Big Box pattern can be played in
any key by maintaining the relative scale degree geometry regardless of the fret position, as is the case with any
pattern that does not include open strings. Also, a reminder that though tablature is shown on this page, it will not
be used elsewhere in this book where it would merely duplicate the function of the diagrams.
16

Inverse Modes

VI
III IV
VII I
III IV V VI
VII I II III IV
V VI VII I
3 5 7

As we have just seen, the Big Box spans the Mixolydian and Aeolian Modes. Additionally, if we extend out in
both directions from the Box into the Halfstep Clusters on either side of it, we find patterns which clearly express
the natural inverse symmetry of these two modes.

VI VI
III IV III IV
VII I VII I
III IV V V VI
VII I II II III IV
V VI VI VII I
3 5 7 3 5 7

The Mixolydian mode in the Center Lower String Zone The Aeolian mode in the Center Lower String Zone
WWH W WHW WHW W HWW

o
= A A o
= A A A
=A =A =A =A A A =A =A =A A A

It's easier to remember the shapes of the seven modes when we think of them in relationship to their mirror
mode - or inverse mode. The intervals of the Mixolydian mode are; WWH W WHW. The Aeolian mode is;
WHW W HWW. The pallindromic character of the joining of these two modes will show up over and over in
the Spiral Galaxy system. This is caused by the complimentary/opposing nature of scale degrees V and VI, upon
which these modes are based. The two patterns shown above include the same notes found in the Big Box, but
simply allow those notes to be played in different hand positions.

Lets return to the Upper String Zone and look at how these same two modes are arrayed an octave higher,
around the Center Axis. Notice that although the outline of the patterns has changed, and they have switched to
opposite sides of the Axis, they retain the element of symmetry.

VI V VI

III IV V II III IV
VII I II VI VII I
V VI V
II II
VI VI
3 5 7 3 5 7

The Mixolydian mode in the Center Upper String Zone The Aeolian mode in the Center Upper String Zone
A A A A A A
o A A
= A A A A o
A
= A A A
=
17

Comparing the basic shapes of the patterns shown below with those of the Lower Strings on the previous page,
we can see that the mode patterns are based on similar geometric forms, but contain different internal structures.
One common element in all four patterns is that each one can be played without shifting the hand position, as
shown by the fingering diagrams at the bottom of this page.

III IV V VI II

VII I II VI VI V VI

V VI VI I
II II III IV
II V VI VII I
VI II V

III VI II
0 3 5 7 9

The Mixolydian mode on the Phrygian Axis The Aeloian mode on the Dorian Axis
of the Upper String Zone of the Upper String Zone
WWH W WHW WHW W HWW
A A A A A
A
=oA A A A A A
=oA A A A =

Now let's look at two more inverse/mirror mode patterns in the Upper String Zone. The Phrygian mode and
the Ionian mode. Once again the mode forms are based on complimentary scale degrees and have mirror interval
relationships with each other.

VI VI VII I
II III IV III IV V
VI VII I VII I II
III IV V V
II II
VI VI
3 5 7 3 5 7

The Phrygian mode in the Center Upper String Zone The Ionian mode in the Center Upper String Zone
HWW W HWW WWH W WWH
A A A A
A
o A A A A
= A A A A
o
= = = = A A A

The next two modes are the Lydian and the Locrian. It's just a coincidence that these modes both begin with
the letter 'L', but it's a good way to remember that they are also set apart from the other five modes in a couple
of very interesting ways.

Notice that the center interval in both of these modes is a halfstep. Only these two modes are centered around
a halfstep. Further, you can see that the first four notes of the Lydian mode comprise the Tritone WWW as do
the last four notes of the Locrian mode.

VI VI VII
II III IV III IV V
VI VII I VII I II
IV V V
II II
VI VI
3 5 7 3 5 7

The Lydian mode in the Upper String Zone The Locrian mode in the Upper String Zone
WWW H WWH HWW H WWW
A A A A A
o A A A A
=
A A A
o
= = = A A A A
18

The diagram below shows the basic patterns for mirror mode forms. They are divided into groups; skewed and
regular, the skewed patterns requiring a hand shift. The Dorian mode is not shown because it is self contained
and unique in its silhouette. Refer to pages 19 and 23 for the Dorian mode patterns.

Mirror Mode Pattern Fingerings

VI VII I 2 1 II III
III IV V 3 2 VI VII I
I II 4 3 III IV V

Ionian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only. Phrygian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only.

V VI 1 2 III IV V
III IV 2
II
'Skewed' 3 VII I II
VI VII I 3
Patterns 4 V VI

Aeolian - 1stth, 2ndth & 3rd strings only. Mixolydian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only.

1 VI VII II III IV 2
2 III IV V VI VII I 3
3 VII I II IV V 4

Locrian - 1st, 2nd & 3rd strings only. Lydian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only.

'Regular' Patterns

1 2 3 4 1 2 (3) 4 1 (2) 3 4
1 2 3 4
III IV V 1 III IV V V VI

VII I II 2 V VII VII I II II III IV

V VI 3 II III IV V VI 5 or 6 VI VII I
4 VI VII I
Mixolydian - 1st, 2nd & 3th strings only. Mixolydian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings Aeolian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings
or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings. or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings.
Aeolian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only.

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
VI VII I II III 1 VI VII I
III IV V VI VII I II III 2 III IV V
I II 5 or 6 III IV V VI VII I 3 I II
III IV V 4
Ionian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings Phrygian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings
or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings. or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings.
Phrygian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only. Ionian - 1st, 2nd & 3th strings only.

1 (2) 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
1 2 (3) 4
1 II III IV II III IV VI VII
VI VII 2 VI VII I VI VII I III IV V
III IV V 3 IV V IV V 5 or 6 VII I II
VII I II 4
Lydian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings Locrian - 4th, 5th & 6th strings
Locrian - 2nd, 3rd & 4th strings only. Lydian - 1st, 2nd & 3th strings only. or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings. or 3rd, 4th and 5th strings.

These patterns can be played in any fret position but must remain within the indicated string groups.
(Numbers above each mode diagram indicate fingering)

Fingering for skewed patterns is not indicated but can be deduced by studying the 'regular' pattern fingerings.
Compare the arrangement of notes on each string of the same modes of skewed and regular forms. For example;
if the lowest note of a pattern is not on the lowest fret of the pattern it is played with the second finger, in which
case the fourth finger will play the next note. From there on each of the next two strings will have three notes.
This holds true for skewed and regular patterns.
19

Into the Void

At the begining of this book we established that the outer boundaries of the array of diatonic notes on the
fretboard were at the open strings and the 10th fret; the Phrygian Axis and the Dorian Axis. Our next mode leads
us to those boundaries. The Dorian mode is based on the 2nd diatonic scale degree and pairs with itself.

Phrygian Aeolian Dorian


Axis Axis Axis
III VI VII I II

VII I II III III V VI

V VI VI I II III IV

II III IV V I
VI II V

III VI II
0 3 5 7 9
The Dorian mode at the Phrygian Axis The Dorian mode at the Dorian Axis
of the Upper String Zone. of the Upper String Zone.
WHW W WHW
A A A A
A A
o A A A A A A
=
A A
o
= = = = = A A

Aeolian Void Phrygian Aeolian


Dorian Fret
Axis Axis Axis Axis
Position
VI II III VI

III VI VI VII III IV


VII I IV V VII I
V VII I II V

II V VI II

VI II III IV VI
5 7 9 12 15 17

The Dorian mode at the Dorian Axis


of the Lower String Zone - The 'Void' Position.

o A A A A A A
=
A A

Below we see the same two Dorian mode patterns as at the top of the page. This time we see them from the
perspective of the Void Fret position. Notice how the Center Axis has been moved to the edges of the diagram.
The fret numbers below the diagram now indicate the key of G, so II is now no longer D, but A. For reference,
all the notes are shown, not only those in the string zone of the mode patterns.

E VI VII I II III VI

B III IV V VI VII I II III IV

G I II III IV V VI VII I
D V I II III IV V

A II V VI II

E VI II III VI
0 3 5 7 9 12

The Dorian mode at the Dorian Axis The Dorian mode at the Phrygian Axis
of the Upper String Zone. WHW W WHW of the Upper String Zone.

! A A A A A A
!
A
=oA A A A = o
A
= A A A A =
20

Void Zone

E F# G A B C D E

B C D E F# G A B

G A B C D E F# G
D E F# G A B C D

A B C D E F# G A

E F# G A B C D E
0 3 5 A 7 9 12

!
Aeolian Zone
o= =
Phrygian Zone

=A

The low and high notes of the Void Zone in the Key of G
(Circled numbers indicate strings)

Our transition from the key of C to G is linked to the shift in the positions of the Axes which define the Fret
Zones. The Void is in the middle of the fretboard in this key, at the 5th fret, so there are no notes on the 6th.

Because the Void is as important as the Center Axis and the Core, we will treat it as the heart of its own zone.
We will define the Void Zone as all the notes arrayed around the Void position which do not directly connect to
the Core position. In the key of G the Void Zone extends from the 2nd fret to the 10th and overlaps most of the
Aeolian and Phrygian Zones.

The notes span from the 7th scale degree (F# on the 6th string) to the 5th scale degree (D on the 1st string) over
two octaves higher. Like all the Zones in the Spiral Galaxy Method it is divided into an upper and lower String
Zone, as shown below.

VII I II III IV V

VI VI VII I II
II III IV V VI

VI VII I II III IV

3 5 7 9
! A A A A A A
o
= A A A A
A A A A
= = = =
The Upper Void Zone in the Key of G

VI VII I II III IV

III IV V VI VII I
VII I II III IV V
3 5 7 9
!
o= =A =A A A A A A A A
=A =A =A
The Lower Void Zone in the Key of G
21

Now let's look the other symmetrical mode patterns that border on or cross the Void Position. Remember that
although the notation and fret numbers are in the key of G, the scale degree relationships, and thus all the scale,
chord, interval and mode (...etc.) relationships remain the same as for every other key. We are using the key of
G at this point primarily because in that key, the Void position is in a more accessible 6th fret position - while in
C it is at the 11th fret. Also nothice that in the key of G, Aeolian Axis is at the 12th fret and Open String positions.

VI II III IV V VI

III VI VI VI VII I II III

I II III IV V VI VII I
V VI VII I II V

II V VI II

VI II III VI

0 3 5 7 9 12

The Aeolian mode at the Dorian Axis The Mixolydian mode at the Phrygian Axis
of the Upper String Zone. of the Upper String Zone.
A A A A
! ! A A
o A A A A A
=
A A A
o A = = = = = =
=
A

VI II III VI

III VI VI VII III

I IV V VII I
V VI VII I II III IV V

II III VI V VI VII I II

VI VII I II III IV V VI

0 3 5 7 9 12

The Ionian mode at the Dorian Axis The Phrygian mode at the Phrygian Axis
of the Lower String Zone. of the Lower String Zone.

! !
o
= =A A A A A
A o
= =A =A A A A A
A A
=A =A

VI II III

III VI VI VII The Locrian mode Crossing the Void


I III IV V of the Upper String Zone.
V VII I II
! A A
II

VI
V

II
VI

III
o
= A A A A A A
0 3 5 7

The Lydian mode Crossing the Void II III IV VI

of the Upper String Zone. VI VII I III

IV V VII I
A A A A
! A A A A
o
I II V

= = = = V VI II

II III VI

5 7 9 15
22

Secondary Symmetries

Because the four bottom strings are all tuned in 4ths, there is a natural symmetry within this string group.
The three top strings are now an asymmetrical group and will be examined separately.

As with the primary symmetries we have already studied, there are two positions which can serve as dividing
lines around which the symmetry based. Interestingly, the Aeolian axis and the Void, which are the primary
axes for symmetry, have different roles in this view.

The Void and the Center (Aeolian) Axis are pushed to the sides of both secondary symmetries. They are now
adjuncts to the Secondary Void and the Phrygian Axis as shown below.

III IV V VI VII I II

VII I II III IV V VI

VI VI VII I
II II III IV

II III IV V VI VII I
3 5 7 9 12 15
Void Secondary
Phrygian Secondary Core Aeolian Void
Axis Axis

! A A A
fl fi A
o
= = A A A
A = A A A A A A A A

VI III
VII I II III IV V VI VII

III IV V VI VII I II III IV


VII I II III IV V VI VII I
IV V VI VII I II III IV V
3 5 7 9 12 15

Aeolian Secondary Void Phrygian


Axis Void Tritone Crossing Axis

A fl fi
o
= =
A =
A A A A A A A A A A

The top diagram on this page shows the secondary lower symmetry in the key of G. The Aeolian axis is at the
12th fret and the void is the 6th. Notice that the Phrygian and Aeolian axes are equidistant from the cluster.
Also, because there are no notes in the lower four strings on the fret above the Aeolian axis it can be thought of
as a secondary void. The secondary core pattern comprises the lower portions of the III and V zones. Notation
shows the notes on each string of the pattern.

The lower diagram, shown in he key of C, has at its center the Tritone Crossing. It is at this juncture that we
find a tritone at the precise center of the system. It is a kind of crossroads between two halfstep clusters. Notice
that the complimentary tonal relationships ( I x III, IV x V etc. ) give rise to a set of complimentary mode patterns,
just as in the previously examined primary symmetries.
23

Dorian Mode, being the most symmetrical, has a prominent position in the secondary symmetry. The dia-
gram below shows the Secondary Core at the center. Forming its own vertically oriented spiral, it sits within
the space defined by the two identical Dorian patterns.

IV IV V VI VII I II

VII I II III IV V VI

VI VI VII I
II II III IV

II III IV V VI VII I
3 5 7 9 12 15

The Dorian Mode - Key of G The Dorian Mode - Key of G


WHW W WHW
Cossing the Void Crossing the Secondary Void
A A A A
! ! A A
o A A A A A A
=
A A
o A
= = = = =
A

III
VII I II

V VI VII I II

II III IV V VI

II III III
3 5 7 9 12 15

The two Dorian Mode patterns - Key of C


Around the Tritone Crossing

o A A A A A A
=
A A

Viewed with the Tritone Crossing at the center, another spiral pattern forms the juncture between two unison
tone dorian patterns. The shaped gap which runs between these Dorian forms comprises a wholestep on
each of the four strings.

VII I II

V VI VII I II

II III IV V VI

II III
5 7 9 12

This view of the Dorian mode forms a kind of module , in that the two identical Dorian forms are tied to one
another in a repeating symmetrical pattern. This Module can be played either as two patterns based on the same
octave, or an octave apart, contingent upon the practical fret positions in a given key

The keys of G and C are shown to highlight the relative symmetries of either view of the Module within the
same practical fret range.
24

Notice that the basic silhouette of all the mode patterns can be the same shape. We have examined several
forms so far, but the shape seen on this page and the next is the simplest, most practical form.

Review the previous forms and compare the relative positions of all the paired mode forms based on this
shape.

IV I II

I II III V VI

V VI VII I
II II III

II III IV V VI VII

5 7 9 12

Phrygian Mode
Aligned on the Phrigian Axis Ionian Mode
! Aligned on the Aeolian Axis
o =A =A A A A A A A
= o !
A A A A A A
A A
=

IV V VI VII I II

I II III IV V VI

V VI I
II II III

II III VII

5 7 9 12

IV V VI I II

I II III IV V VI

V VI VII I
II II III

II VI VII

5 7 9 12

Aeolian Mode
Aligned on the Phrigian Axis Mixolydian Mode
! Aligned on the Aeolian Axis
o
= A A A A
A A A A
o !
A A A A A
= A A A

IV V II

I II III IV V VI

V VI VII I
II II III

II III V VI VII

5 7 9 12
25

Here we see two sets of Lydian and Locrian mode patterns. Symmetry can be found between any pairing
of Lydian and Locrian within the four lower strings, as is the case with all paired mode forms.

IV I II

I II III IV V VI

VI VI VII I
II II III

II IV V VI VII

5 7 9 12

Lydian Mode
Tied to the Phrigian Axis
!
o
= =A A A A A A A A
Locrian Mode
Tied to the Aeolian Axis
! A
o
= A A A A A A A

IV V VI VII II

I II III IV V VI

VI VI VII I
II II III

II III VII

5 7 9 12

I V

V VI VII II

II III IV V VI

VI VII I II III

5 7 9 12

Locrian Mode
Tied to the Dorian Axis

o =A =A A A A A A A
= Lydian Mode
Aligned on the Dorian Axis

o A A A A A A A
= A

I II III IV V

V VI VII I II

II IV V VI

VI III
5 7 9 12
26

Mixolydian and Aeolian modes can also be played using the 'Big Box' pattern (page 15) in two secondary
symmetry forms where they encompass all but ten note positions. Like the Dorian patterns, these can be
treated as unison tones or an octave apart.

With V as the lowest note and VI at the top, the Big Box comprises two complete modes.

IV V VI

I II III IV V VI

V VI VII I
II II III

V VI VII

5 7 9 12

Big Box - Key of G Big Box - Key of G


Centered on the Phrigian Axis Centered on the Aeolian Axis
!
o A A A A A A
=
A A A

IV V VI

IV V VI I II III

I
II II III V VI VII

V VI VII

7 9 12

Big Box - Key of C Big Box - Key of C


Centered on the Aeolian Axis Centered on the Phrigian Axis
A A A
o
= =A =A A A A A A o
= A A A A A A =
=A =A

The Top Three

So far we've grouped strings as the top four, bottom three and the bottom four in order to find diatonic
symmetry. These groupings are effective beacause they are either based on uniform intervals or place the
odd interval in the center of the group. So what can be gained by examining the top three strings, which are
based on a major 3rd and a perfect 4th, a clearly asymmetrical arrangement?

III IV V VI VII I II III IV V VI

VII I II III IV V VI VII I II III

V VI VII I II III IV V VI VII I

3 5 7 9 12 15 17

In fact, by breaking the three top strings into to groups, 1&2 and 2&3, we can see the essence of the
entire system. Now that we know how to look for Diatonic symmetry, it will be very clear when only two
strings at a time are studied.
27

The diagrams below shows two complete repetitions of the notes on the three top strings broken into two
sets of two.

1 III IV V VI VII I II III IV V VI VII I II

2 VII I II III IV V VI VII I II III IV V VI

0 3 5 7 9 12 15 17 19 21

2 VII I II III IV V VI VII I II III IV V VI


3 V VI VII I II III IV V VI VII I II III IV

The Tonic 3rd ( Major 3rd, I - III ) is the focal point of each string set. In the top two strings ( and between any
two adjacent strings of the lower four) major 3rds run diagonally between two fret positions. Between the second
and third strings ( and only between them ) major thirds are based on a single fret.

The other aspect of symmetry is the Void position (11th fret in the key of C ). The Void is at the center of the
diagram above. Notice how the 2nd-3rd string group seems to revolve around the Void position while the 1st-
2nd string group seems more centered around the halfstep cluster on the 12th and 13th frets.

1 VII I II III IV V VI
2 V VI VII I II III IV

1 V VI VII I II
2 II III IV V VI

2 V VI VII I II
3 II III IV V VI

2 VII I II III IV V VI
3 V VI VII I II III IV

Look carefully at the diagram above. The two symmetries of each two-string group are shown. These patterns
can be seen as modules. Each one encapsulates the juncture of opposing diatonic modes. Notice the raltive po-
sitions of II in each of the modules, then re-examine the other complimentary tones; I & III, IV & VII and V&VI.

The pattern of the top two strings is the same as any two adjacent strings within the lower four, so the groupings
we see here encapsulate the entire system.

Examine each pattern from the center outward in both directions equally and play them that way, ie; If you play
VII - I - II ascending, play IV - III - II descending on the other side of the pattern, etc.
28

Reviewing Primary and Secondary Symmetries

Primary Symmetries include the the Core and Void positions of the top-four and and bottom-three string
groups as shown below.

Core;
V VI VII I

II III IV V

VII VII I II

III IV V VI
VII I II III IV
V VI VII I

Void;

I II III IV

V VI VII I
III IV V VI

VII I II III
IV V VI VII
I II III IV

Secondary Symmetries are based on the Tritone Crossing and Secondary Core positions of the bottom-
four string group.

Tritone Crossing;

II III IV

VI VII I
III IV V
VII I II

Secondary Core;

V VI VII I
II III IV V

VI VII I
II II

III IV V VI

Though the Secondary Symmetry does not include the top two strings, The relationship between these string
groups is a kind of skewed symmetry due to the unique tuning of the 2-3 string group. Study the 2-3 string group
diagrams on the previous page keeping in mind that the 3rd string is the top of the Secondary Symmetry.
29

The Diatonic Module

When two mode patterns compliment each other symetrically, such as the Aeolian and Mixolydian patterns which
align around the Void in the upper string group, they can be taken as a single Module. Combining patterns this
way, linking them geometrically and in complimentary diatonic relationships simplifies the process of memorizing
them in practice.

The exercises which follow are accompanied by icons representing each module. Simply, the icons represent
the basic geometry of the pattern on the fretboard. Try using the icons to visualizing the patterns' sillhouettes as you
practice. A complete guide to the icons can be found at the end of the book.

Compare the icon below with the detailed patterns of the Phrygian and Ionian modes from page 17, shown above
it. Simply having the idea of the shape of the pattern in your mind will assist you in memorizing and playing it. As
you work through the Module exercises, try to associate the shape of each pattern with its tonal character. Is it a
major mode? A minor mode?

III I
The Phrygian mode in the Center Upper String Zone The Ionian mode in the Center Upper String Zone
HWW W HWW WWH W WWH

VI VI VII I
II III III IV V
VI VII I I II
III IV V V
II II
VI VI

I
III

Icon representing the Phrygian /Ionian Module

The essence of this method is the deliberate attention given to diatonic relationships as both auditory and geo-
metric. Music is not simply sound. Music is also spacial. Various sizes and shapes of instruments produce unique
sounds. Generally, smaller forms produce higher pitches, larger is eqivalent to deeper, etc. The fundamental con-
nection between music and physical form is clear.

Music invokes motion and can evoke a sense of place and time. Music is a physical experience, though invisible
to the eye. Putting the diatonic system into perspective as a symmetrical form within which are further layers of
symmetry and examining these elements gives us a much clearer path to joining the idea and expression of music
on the guitar.

Seeing each theoretical element (note - interval - scale - mode) not as separate concepts, but as integral parts of
a whole is easier when we can really see the overall form of the system. This requires a somewhat non-linear view
of things. We are generally biased to think of the Ionian mode as the 'basic' scale. But a full understanding of modes
shows that the Dorian mode is more tonally central and centered (WHW W WHW). Looking at the Phrygian mode
we see that it's a mirror image of the Ionian (WWH W WWH x HWW W HWW). Ionian and Phrygian together form a
mirrored pair I call it a diatonic Module.

Modules break the fretboard into tonal forms that connect the zone patterns in different ways. First we'll look at
the diatonic modules, then the pentatonic forms.
30

Phrygian \ Ionian (upper center) Module

Fingering is an essential part of this exercise - read the indicated fingering


carefully. if necessary, refer to the detailed diagram on page XxX to study I
the note positions. The icon at the right provides a reminder of the general III
shape of the modal patterns around the Center Axis.

As you read the notation and tablature be aware of the note names and
scale degree for each note you play. Don't rush - speed is less important 5
than precision.
Phrygian \ Ionian
If you are using a pick, alternate direction every note.
(Detail on Page 18)

I ascending III descending

44
C C C C
o
= = = = C C C C
C C C C
C C C C

1 3 1 2 4 1 3 4 4 2 4 3 1 4 2 1

T
5 7 8
5 6 8 5 3
A 5 7 5 4 2
5 3 2
B

I descending III ascending

44 = = =
C
o
C C C
C C C C
C C C C
C C C C
=
4 3 1 4 2 1 3 1 1 2 4 1 3 4 2 4

T
8 7 5
8 6 5 3 5
A 7 5
2 3 5
2 4 5

44
Back and Forth C C C C
o
= = = = C C C C
C C C C
C C C C

1 3 1 2 4 2 4 3 4 1 3 4 1 4 2 1

T
5 7 8
5 6 5 3 8
A 5 7 5 4 2
5 3 2
B
31

Aeolian / Mixolydian (upper center) Module

These two modes cross the Center Axis, each one having one note on the
opposite side. They overlap each other on the 2nd and 3rd strings - sharing VI
four note positions. V
Within each mode pattern there is a hand position shift when crossing be-
tween the 2nd and 3rd strings.
5

Aeolian / Mixolydian
(Detail on Page 18)

VI descending
V ascending

o 44 C C C = C C C C C C C C C C C
C C
=
2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 3 1

T
5 3
5 6 8 6 5 3
A 5 7
4 5 7 5 4 2

V descending
VI ascending

o 44 C C C C C
C C C C
=
C C C C C
C C
=
4 2 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 3 4 1 3 4 1 3

T
3 5
8 6 5 3 5 6
A 7 5 4
7 5
2 4 5

44 C C
Back and Forth

o
C C C C C C C C
= C C C
=
C C C
2 4 1 2 3 1 4 3 3 1 2 4 2 4 3 1

T
5 3
6 5 5 6 8 3
A 5 7
4 5 7 5 4 2

B
32

Lydian \ Locrian (upper center) Module

Like the upper Mixolydian/Aeolian Module, the mode patterns here cross
over the Center Axis and require a hand shift. VII
IV

Lydian \ Locrian
(Detail on Page 18)

44
VII ascending IV descending

o
C C C C
C C C C
C
= = C C C C C C C
=
1 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2

T
5 7
5 6 8 6 5 3
A 4 5 7 5 4 2
5 3
B

VII descending IV ascending

o 44 = = C C C
C C C C
C C C C C
C C C C
=
3 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4

T
7 5
8 6 5 3 5 6
A 7 5 4
3 5
2 4 5

44
Back and Forth

o
C C C C
= = = C C C C C C C C C C C C
1 2 4 1 4 3 1 4 2 4 1 3 3 1 4 2

T
5 7
5 6 5 3 6 8
A 4 5 7 5 4 2
5 3
B
33

Dorian (Upper Void Position) Module

Since the Dorian mode has its own internal symmetry, it is found opposite
itself. As indicated by the icon at right, it occupies two inverse positions II
around the Void. II
In this case, both mode patterns are the same notes - played in different fret
and string positions. Shifting between the two patterns within the Module 5
maintain a consistent tempo.

Dorian \ Dorian
(Detail on Page 23)

II descending (sttings 1-2-3)


II ascending (strings 4-3-2)

4 !
o
C C C C C C
4 C C C
C
C == C C C C C
=
1 3 4 1 3 1 2 4 4 2 1 4 1 4 3 1

T
5 3 2
7 8 10 5 3
A 7 9 10
7 9 5 4 2

II descending (str. 2-3-4) II ascending (str. 3-2-1)

4 !
o4 =
C C C C C C
C C C C
C
=
C C C C
=
C
4 2 1 4 2 4 3 1 1 3 4 2 4 1 2 3

T
2 3 5
10 8 7 3 5
A 9 7
10 9 7
2 4 5

4 !
Back and Forth

o4 C C
C C C C C C C C
= = C C C C C C
=
1 3 4 1 4 2 1 4 3 1 2 4 1 4 3 1

T
5 3 2
5 7 8 10 3
A 7 9 10
7 9 5 4 2

B
34

Ionian\Phrygian (Lower Void Position) Module

Shown here in the key of G, this module is aligned around the Void on
the three bottom strings.

I III
5

Ionian \ Phrygian
(Detail on Page 18)

III descending
I ascending

4 !
o4 C C C C
= =C C C C C = =
C C C C
=
=C =C C
2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2 1

T
A 2 4 5 9 7
B 3 5
2 3 5 10 9 7
10 8 7

I descending III ascending

4 !
o 4 C C C C =C =
C C C C
= =
C C C C
= C =C =C
4 3 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 3 4 1 3

T
A 5 4 2 7 9
B 3 5 2
5 3 7 8 10
7 9 10

4 !
Back and Forth

o4
= = =C = = C C C C
C C C C
C C C C
=C =C C
2 4 1 2 3 1 4 3 4 1 3 4 1 4 2 1

T
A 9 7 2 4 5
B 3 5
2 3 10 9 5 7
10 8 7
35

Mixolydian \ Aeolian (lower center) Module

The mirror modes of the lower Mixolydian\Aeloian Module overlap the


Aeolian axis so they share three notes on that fret. Also, they are aligned
on the same three strings.

V VI
5

Mixolydian \ Aeolian
(Detail on Page 18)

V ascending VI descending

o 44 C C C C C
= =C =C C C C C =C =C
=C =C =C
2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 3 1

T
A 2 3 5 7 5
B 3 5
2 3 5 8 7 5
8 7 5

V descending VI ascending

o 44 C C C
= C C C =C =
C =C =C C C C
=C =C =C
5 2 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 3 4 1 3 4 1 3

T
A 5 3 2 5 7
B 5 3 2
5 3 5 7 8
5 7 8

44
Back and Forth

o
= =C =C
C C C C
C C C C C =C =C
=C =C =C
2 4 1 2 3 1 4 3 4 1 2 4 1 4 3 1

T
A 7 5 2 3 5
B 3 5
2 3 8 7 5 5
8 7 5
36

Locrian \ Lydian (lower void) Module

VII IV
8

Locrian \ Lydian
(Detail on Page 18)

VII ascending IV descending

4
o 4 = =C C C C C C
" "
C C C C C C C C
=
=C C
1 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2

T
A 5 7 13 12 10
B 5 6 8
5 6 8 13 12 10
13 11

VII descending IV ascending

4 "
o 4 C C C C C =C = C C C C
" C C C C
= C =C
3 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4

T
A 7 5 10 12 13
B 8 6 5
8 6 5 11 13
10 12 13

44 " "
Back and Forth

o= =C =C C C C C C C C C C C C C C
=C
1 2 4 1 4 3 1 4 2 4 1 3 3 1 4 2

T
A 13 12 10 5 7
B 5 6 8
5 13 6 8 12 10
13 11
37

Dorian - Secondary (Tritone Bridge Position)

II
II
3 8

Dorian \ Dorian
(Detail on Page 23)

II ascending (strings 5-4-3) II descending (strings 4-5-6)

4
o 4 =C C C C C C
" "
C C C C
= C =C
C C C C
1 3 4 1 3 1 2 4 4 2 1 4 1 4 3 1

T
A 3 5
4 5 7
10 8 7
B 3 5 6 10 8
11 10 8

II descending (strings 3-4-5) II ascending (strings 6-5-4)

o 44 " " C C C C C
= C =C =C C C C C
C C C C
4 2 1 3 1 4 3 1 1 3 4 1 3 1 2 4

T
A 7 5 4
5 3 7 8 10
B 6 5 3
8 10 11
8 10

44 " "
Back and Forth

o
= =C C C C C C C C C C C =C C C C C
1 3 4 1 4 2 1 4 3 1 2 4 1 4 3 1

T
A 3
10 8 7
10 5
4 5 7

B 3 5 6 8
11 10 8
38

Phrygian \ Ionian (Secondary Core Position)

I
III
55
12

Phrygian \ Ionian
(Detail on Page 18)

!
III ascending I descending

o 44 C C C C C C C
= =C C C C C C C C C
1 2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 2 1 4 2

T
A 7 9
12 11 9
12 10 9
B 7 8 10
7 9 10 12 10

!
III descending I ascending

4
o4 C C C C C C
C C C C
= C C C C
C = C
3 1 4 3 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 3 4

T
A 9 7 9 10 12
9 11 12

B 10 9 7
10 8 7
10 12

44 !
Back and Forth

o
= =C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C
1 2 4 1 4 3 1 4 3 4 1 3 2 1 4 2

T
A 12 11 9
12 7 9 10 9
B 7 8 10
7 9 10 12 10
39

Aeolian / Mixolydian (Secondary Core Position)

VI
V
51
8

Aeolian / Mixolydian
(Detail on Page 18)

V ascending VI descending

4
o= "
4 "= =C C C C C C C
" C C C C C C
C C =C
2 4 1 2 4 1 2 4 3 1 4 3 1 4 3 1

T
A 5 6 8
5 3
6 5 3
B 6 8
5 6 8 6 5 3

V descending VI ascending

44 " " " C C C


o= C C C =C = =C C C C C C
C C
C
4 2 1 4 2 1 4 2 1 3 4 1 3 4 1 3

T
A 8 6 5 3 5 6
3 5

B 8 6 5
8 6
3 5 6

44 " " "


Back and Forth

o= =C =C C C C C C C C C C C C
C =C =C
2 4 1 2 3 1 4 3 4 1 2 4 1 4 3 1

T
A 5 3
6 5 5 6 8 3
B 6 8
5 6 8 6 5 3
40

Lydian \ Locrian (Secondary Core Position)

VII
IV
55
12

Lydian \ Locrian
(Detail on Page 18)

IV ascending VII descending

o 4 4! C C C C C C C C C C C C
= =C C C C
2 4 1 3 4 1 3 4 3 1 4 2 1 4 2 1

T
A 7 9 10
11 9
12 10 9
B 8 10
7 9 10 12 10 9

4!
IV descending VII ascending

o4
= C C C C C C
C =C C C C C
C C C C

4 3 1 4 3 1 4 2 1 2 4 1 2 4 1 3

T
A 10 9 7 9 10 12
9 11

B 10 9 7
10 8
9 10 12

4!
Back and Forth

o 4 =C C C C
= C C C C C C C C C C C C
2 4 1 3 3 1 4 2 4 1 3 4 1 4 3 1

T
A 11 9
12 10 7 9 10 9
B 8 10
7 9 10 12 10 9
41

Dorian \ Dorian (Secondary Core Position)

II
II
5
12

Dorian \ Dorian
(Detail on Page 23)

II ascending (strings 6-5-4) II descending (strings 3-4-5)

o=
4 4! C C = C C C C C C C C
=C =C C C C
=C
1 3 4 1 3 1 2 4 4 2 1 4 2 4 3 1

T
A 4 5 7
14 12 11
14 12
B 5 7 8
5 7 15 14 12

!
II descending (strings 4-5-6) II ascending (strings 5-4-3)

4
o 4 C C C C C =C = C C =
C C C C
C C
= C =C
4 2 1 4 2 4 3 1 1 3 4 1 3 1 2 4

T
A 7 5 4 12 14
11 12 14

B 7 5
8 7 5
12 14 15

4!
Back and Forth

o 4 =C =C C =
= C C C C
C C C C C C C C
=C
1 3 4 1 4 2 1 4 3 1 2 4 2 4 3 1

T
A 14 12 11
14 4 5 7 12
B 5 7 8
5 7 15 14 12
42

Pentatonic Modules

The Pentatonic system is based on the same symmetry as the Diatonic. On this page we see the Pentatonic
Zone patterns viewed from the Center (Aeolian Axis) and the Void position.There are five zone patterns, each
with an upper and lower sub-pattern.

Pentatonic
II Zone
VI II III VI

III VI III

I V I
V I II V

II V VI II

VI II III VI

Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic


II Zone V Zone VI Zone II Zone
II III VI II III

VI III VI VI

V I V

I II V I II

V VI II V VI

II III VI II III

Pentatonic Pentatonic
I Zone III Zone
VI II III VI

III VI III

I V I
V I II V

II V VI II

VI II III VI

For now no fret positions are indicated in these diagrams. You decide the key. If you are already familiar
with Pentatonic scales you will recognize the shapes of these patterns, but you may not have deliniated them
into the upper and lower strings groups and thus, may not be aware of the embedded symmetry.

Notice that of the three Diatonic Axes, only the Aeolian remains complete. The Dorian (II) and the Phrygian
(III) are each missing one note (IV and VII). In the pentatonic system there is only one Axis. The Void remains,
but its boundaries are changed on the 2nd and 3rd strings due to the missing IV and VII.

Notice that the Pentatonic II Zone is the most symmetrical. It forms its own Module. Look at the upper
string group of the V and VI Zones. Notice that they are the same shape, rotated 180. This is also true of the
lower string forms of these two Zones. When the upper string group of the V Zone and VI zone are joined
they form a Module. Same for the lower V and VI. They are each a symmetrical pairing. This can be done
with the I and III Zones as well, though they are never in direct contact, they are symmetrically paired.
43

Here are the Pentatonic Zone patterns broken into upper and lower forms and paired symmetrically into
Modules. The first Module (V and VII) is notated in the key of C major/A minor.

3 5 7
V VI T
II III VI
VI T II
III V VI

The Upper Pentatonic V Zone The Upper Pentatonic VI Zone


A A A A A
o A A A
= = A A A
o A A
= = = A A A

III V VI
T II III
V VI T
3 5 7

The Lower Pentatonic V Zone The Lower Pentatonic VI Zone

o
= A o
= A A A
=A =A =A A A =A =
A A

The second Module (I and III) is notated in the key of G major/E minor.

3 5 7 9
T II III V
V VI T II
II III V VI
VI T II III

The Upper Pentatonic I Zone The Upper Pentatonic III Zone A


! A A ! A A A
o A A A A
= = A A
o A A
= = = = A A

VI T II III
III V VI T
T II III V
3 5 7 9

The Loweer Pentatonic I Zone The Lower Pentatonic III Zone


! !
o
= A o =A A A A A A
=
=A =A =A A A
44

The symmetry of the Pentatonic II Zone is self contained. It is notated here in the key of C major/A minor.

II III
VI T
III V
T II

T II
V VI
II III

The Lower Pentatonic II Zone The Upper Pentatonic II Zone


A A A
A A
o A A A A
=
A A
o A A A = = = =
=
Pentatonic Phases

Interestingly, because the interval relationships within Pentatonic scales, the Pentatonic zones each correlate
with three Diatonic zone patterns. Below you see comparisons of the Pentatonic II zone with the Diatonic II
V and VI zones.

Pentatonic Phase III Pentatonic Phase I Pentatonic Phase II


Pentatonic II Zone Pentatonic Pentatonic II Zone
Applied to VI II Zone Applied to V
VI VII II III V VI

III V VI I II IV

VII II III IV VI I
V VI I II IV V
II III V VI I II

VI VII II III V VI

Diatonic Diatonic Diatonic


VI Zone II Zone V Zone
VI VII I II III IV V VI
III IV V VI VII I II III IV

VII I II III IV V VI VII I


V VI VII I II III IV V

II III IV V VI VII I II

VI VII I II III IV V VI

Dark circles are the Diatonic tones which are excluded from the corresponding Pentatonic form. Notice
that the same pentatonic pattern remains within the diatonic range but omits a different note in each position.

We will refer to each of the three placements of the Pentatonic pattern as Phases. We could call them
modes, but there is no standard system in western music for naming the five possible Pentatonic modes
and here we are only concerned with three of them. In fact we are combining two modes, one Pentatonic
and one Diatonic so a new term is needed.

Phase I is the central pattern above and on the facing page. It comprises five of the seven diatonic tones,
excluding IV and VII. It is the most commonly used form. Phase III excludes IV and I. Phase II excludes III
and VII.

Notice that only Phase I is in synch with the Diatonic symmetry. Study the positions of the omitted notes,
indcated by dark circles. Notice that they are symetrically arrayed in Phase I but not in the other two Phases.
That the Pentatonic scale can be placed three ways in the diatonic system is math. More art than math is the
question of why the most symetrical expression of this scale is also the most widely used and so essential in
Blues, Rock and Jazz. Rather than attempt to answer that question here, lets simply study the geometry.
45

Here are the three complete Pentatonic Phases;

Diatonic T II III IV V VI VII T II III


W W H W W W H W W

Phase III V VI T II III V VI

Phase I T II III V VI T II III

Phase II V VI T II III V VI

By placing the tritone in the center of the diatonic pattern above we can see the symmetry of the Pentatonic
Phases. With Phase I in the middle, Phase II below and Phase III at the top, the three Phases are arranged in
4ths like the strings of the guitar. The numbering used above maintains the original scale degrees for each Phase
while shifting it within the Diatonic key. Below, the actual Diatonic scale degrees are maintained while the
geometric patterns are shifted. Notice the triangles indicating the Void and Center Axis positions.

Pentatonic Phase III - (Diatonic I is Pentatonic V ... Pentatonic I and IV are omitted)

III V VI VII II III


VII II III V VI VII
V VI VII II III V
II III V VI VII II
VI VII II III IV V
III V VI VII II III

Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic


VI Zone I Zone II Zone III Zone VZone
Applied to III Applied to V Applied to VI Applied to VII Applied to II

Pentatonic Phase 1 - (Diatonic I is Pentatonic I ... Diatonic IV and VII are omitted)

VI T II III IV V
III IV VI T II III
T II III V VI T
V VI T II III V
II III V VI T II
VI T II III V VI

Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic


VI Zone I Zone II Zone III Zone VZone

Pentatonic Phase II (Diatonic I = Pentatonic IV ... Diatonic III and VII are omitted )

II IV V VI T II
VI T II IV V VI
IV V VI T II IV
T II IV V VI T
V VI T II IV V
II IV V VI T II

Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic Pentatonic


VI Zone I Zone II Zone III Zone VZone
Applied to II Applied to IV Applied to V Applied to VI Applied to I
46

Layers of Symmetry

Keep in mind that when Pentatonic scales are used in contemporary music, they are often applied outside their
natural Diatonic position. Minor Pentatonic scales are played against Dominant 7th chords in Blues forms. Major
Pentatonic is applied to both Major 7th and Dominant 7th chords, that is; it is applied to I, IV and V respectively.

These are fairly tricky juxtapositions to keep track of in the midst of a jam session. The geometric relationships
are easier to grasp, figuratively and literally, when thought of symetrically.

Remember that each Pentatonic Phase is acually based on the notes found in the Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian
axes of the fretboard. These axes, being based on VI, II and III respectively, have the same interval relationships
as I, IV and V, a sequence of perfect 4th, major 2nd. This I - IV - V relationship is also found between each of the
five tones of the axes on a given string ;

Strings 6 5 4 3 2 1

Aeolian Axis Based


(Phase I) VI II V T III VI
Perfect 4th
Dorian Axis Based
(Phase II) II V T IV VI II
Major 2nd
Phrygian Axis Based
(Phase III) III VI II V VII III

Relative Scale Degrees I IV bVII -III V I


Perfect 4th Major 9th Perfect 4th

When pentatonic scales are shifted within a key Pentatonic symmetry remains intact, but its juxtaposition in
the key changes the patterns' harmonic character. It's for the player (and the listener) to decide what notes sound
'right' in a given context. Our concern here is the study of the symmetry itself, not the artistic application of that
symmetry.

Also consider that the three Pentatonic Phases we have examined here collectively include all seven notes
of the key. This amounts to a way of using Pentatonic scales Diatonically.

To review;

Because I, IV and V are the roots of major triads, the major Pentatonic scale can be applied to each of these
scale degrees. In doing so within a given key, playing the Pentatonic scale against the I chord is Phase I. Playing
the scale based on the IV chord places the V of the scale on the tonic. This is Phase II. Basing the scale on the V
chord places the III of the scale on the VII of the key which eliminates the tonic. This is Phase III.

While Phase I is naturally in synch with the diatonic symmetry, the other two phases, individually, are not.
However, their relationship to each other is in fact symmetrical. Compare the geometry of the Phases on page 45.
Pay particular attention to the positions of the excluded notes.

On the next page the Pentatonic tones are examined in two-string groups. All three Phases can be superimposed
over the patterns shown. Below are the Phase II (top) and III (bottom) on strings 1 and 2.

1 VI I II IV V VI I II IV V

2 IV V VI I II IV V VI I II

1 VII II III V VI VII II III V VI

2 V VI VII II III V VI VII II III


47

The diagrams below show the Pentatonic system played as two sets of double-stops. The 1-2 string group
pattern is the same as that found on any two adjacent strings from 3 to 6, allowing for the fret positions of the
given key. The 2-3 string group pattern is, of course, unique to those strings.

1 III V VI I II III V VI I II

2 I II III V VI I II III V VI

0 3 5 7 9 12 15 17 19 21

2 I II III V VI I II III V VI
3 V VI I II III V VI I II III

An interesting pattern is revealed by focusing on the two diatonic notes excluded from Pentatonic scales. The
diatonic IV and VII, the tritone, are spaced regularly on any two-string group in a repeating series of inversions
going from IV-VII to VII-IV over and over.

four fret spaces

1 IV VII IV VII

2 VII IV VII IV

0 3 5 7 9 12 15 17 19 21
three fret spaces

2 VII IV VII IV
3 VII IV VII I IV

Though Pentatonic scales do not include the IV and VII, the tritone is an essential part of the chord struc-
ture of Blues, Rock and Jazz. They are applied in either inversion as the 3rd and 7th of Dominant chords.

Notice that the number of fret spaces between each instance of IV-VII and VII-IV is the same as the fret
span of the tritone itself on the 2-3 string group. On the 1-2 group the space between each tritone is double
the span of the tritone itself.

Carefully study the tonal neighborhood of the root tritone (IV-VII) and compare it with that of the tritone
inversion (VII-IV). The notes surrounding each tritone position form their own symmetrical patterns.

Duality
We have explored the various symmetries embedded in the Diatonic fretboard of the guitar. All of them
are based on the two forms below. One in which the halfstep cluster is at the center, and one which is
centered between two diagonally positioned halfstep clusters.

IV VII
VII IV

VII IV
IV VII

The two basic forms are shown as they are arrayed on the 2-3 string group (top) and any other set of two
adjacent strings.
48

Parallel Dimensions

The complete primary and secondary symmetries are shown below. The diagonal dotted lines between them
connect the common fret positions. The center of each pattern is the hub around which the symmetry re-
volves.

III IV V VI VII I II

VII I II III IV V VI
V VI VII I II III IV

II III IV V VI VII I

IV IV V VI VII I II

VII I II III IV V VI

VI VI VII I
II II III IV

II III IV V VI VII I

VI VII I II III IV V VI

III IV V VI VII I II III

I II III IV V VI VII I
V VI VII I II III IV V

VI III
VII I II III IV V VI

III IV V VI VII I II III IV


VII I II III IV V VI VII I
V VI VII I II III IV V

Making transitions between the primary and secondary patterns you may do without the lower primary forms
since these are embedded in the secondary patterns. This approach treats the four top strings; 4-3-2-1 and the
four bottom strings; 6-5-4-3 as distinct but overlapping groups, sharing the 3rd and 4th strings. Each of these
four-string groupings provide the maximum number of consecutive strings in which an unbroken symmetry is
maintained.

Compare the four top strings on the topmost pattern with the four bottom strings of the pattern below it, then
do likewise with the next two patterns above. The first two patterns represent the same basic diatonic idea; a
single halfstep cluster in the center . The bottom two patterns place two clusters diagonally across from each
other.
49

Visualize the patterns as you play. Begin with the halfstep clusters. Once you have established where they are,
move away from them in equal degrees, ascending and descending. Return to the cluster at the center of the
riff.

There is no substitute for careful, methodical practice. Take your time. Think about what you are playing. Name
the scale degrees and the notes. You can use the Module exercises in this book or you can improvise, what's
important is that you're aware of tonal symmetry. The tonic may not be the lowest note in a riff, but it is the note
on which a phrase is expected to resolve. You can descend to or away from the tonic. You can ascend to or away
from the tonic. Or you can take the music somewhere else as you transition from one chord to another.

For too many people, playing the guitar is like being a visitor to a strange country where they can't speak
the language except for a few useful phrases. The geometric language of the fretboard is simple at heart.
The patterns stem from their connection to the tonal system which itself is based on natural harmonic
relationships. These same harmonic relationships are found throughout the physical universe. They are in
ocean currents, atmospheric wind patterns and the movements of planets and stars. It's only natural they
are also found in the strings and frets of the guitar.
Glossary

anchor position : Any position on the fretboard which serves as the center of a symmetrical pattern.
axis, fret axis : A fret position in a given key at which there is a diatonic note on every string. These axes are named
for the modes based on the note of the 6th and 1st strings of the axis. The three axes are; Phrygian, Aeolian (also
called the Center Axis) and Dorian.
big box : A pattern based on the 5th scale degree which comprises three strings and spans five frets on each string,
encompassing nine notes from V to VI in the next octave. In the key of C, the big box is frets 3, 5 and 7 on the
6-5-4 string group, as well as frets 10 ,12 and 14 on the 5-4-3 string group.
complimentary notes, c. tones, c. modes : Sets of notes or modes paired by their symmetrical diatonic relatonships.
I & III, IV & VII and V & VI are each pairs of complimentary tones upon which c. modes are based. See also; in-
verse modes.
core : The group of note positions in the upper string zone centered around the Aeolian axis.
four-note cluster : See halfstep cluster.
fret-space : The position on the fretboard between two frets as opposed to the fret itself. Fingers are placed within
fret-spaces adjacent to a given fret. Seeing the fretboard as a set of fret-spaces simplifies navigation because it
puts the focus on the shape of the spaces between notes, ie; the 7th fret is not a fret-space, but the position
between it and the 6th fret is. When moving between the 8th and 6th fret you cross the 7th fret-space, so instead
of thinking about three frets, you need only consider skipping one fret-space.
halfstep cluster : The arrangement of the tones VII, I, III, and IV of a given key on the fretboard in adjacent positions
on two adjacent strings. Also; 4-note cluster.
interval path : The linear form of a musical interval, or a series of connected intervals, on the fretboard.
inverse modes : Two modes which are symmetrically opposite. Ionian and Phrygian modes are inverse to one
another; Ionian = WWH W WWH, Phrygian = HWW W HWW. Also; mirror modes
mirror modes : See inverse modes.
module : Two symmetrically opposite modes considered together as a single musical structure. Modules may be
based either on Diatonic or Pentatonic scales. See inverse modes.
primary symmetry : Diatonic patterns defined by the primary string groups 1-2-3-4 and 3-4-5.
pentatonic phases : Any of the three possible Pentatonic scale patterns within a key, each based on different notes.
Ie; in the key of C the three phases are CDEGA, FGACD and GABDE, all of which are based on the same interval
sequence; W - W - m3rd - W - m3rd including the ocatve.
secondary symmetry : Diatonic patterns defined by the secondary string group 3-4-5-6.
string group : A set of strings considered as a group for purposes of isolating a particular musical idea. String zones
are one type of string group, but a string group need not consist of adjacent strings, ie; strings 1, 3 and 5 can be
grouped in an arpeggiated pattern.
string zone : A group of adjacent strings which together form the basis of a set of diatonic patterns following radially
symmetrical relationships. There are two primary string zones; upper; 1-2-3-4 and lower 4-5-6, and one secondary
s. zone; 3-4-5-6. Though these zones overlap, they can each be considered independently to express certain
theoretical concepts. See also; string group.
tritone crossing : A set of four strings; 6-5-4-3 spanning four frets at the center of which is a tritone. It is based on the
secondary lower string group.
void : The fret position in every key at which there are no noted belonging to the key. The void is at the 11th fret in
the key of C.
zone : A span of frets and strings defined primarily by the scale degree of its lowest note and or the name of the
mode based on that scale degree.
Module Icons

There are two icon types which are used in the Diatonic Module exercises beginning on page 22; Center Axis and
Void Zone. Below are examples of both forms with explanation for each element.

Arrowheads denote Center Axis Inward pointing triangles denote


Primary; Void position.

I Horizontal lines
III represent strings.
I III
Fret position Scale degree of mode. 5
5

Icon representing the Phrygian /Ionian Module Icon representing the Phrygian /Ionian Module
in the Center of the Upper String Zone. in the Void position of the Lower String Zone.

Secondary;
Only the bottom four strings
are used in Secondary patterns

II II
II II
8 35
3 11
Phrygian Axis Secondary Void
Icon representing the secondary Icon representing the secondary Dorian/Dorian
Dorian/Dorian Module around the 4x4 Block. Module around the Secondary Core.

Silhouette;
Notched corner indicates
two notes on top string.

III
Longer section of silhouette
indicates three notes on each of two adjacent strings.

Here are the basic icon templates;

Center Axis Void Axis 4x4 Block Secondary Core