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SCALES - Chromatic Scales

The word chromatic in music means 2 or more consecutive notes that are a half step apart from one another. A
chromatic scale contains all 12 possible pitches before arriving back at the starting note name an octave higher.

Here are the notes in a C chromatic scale. You will see that there are only 12 different pitches before coming back to C.
There are 12 different pitches, but you also see that the 2nd note in the scale is a C or a D . That is because C and D
are just different ways to spell the same pitch. What you will call that pitch really depends on the situation.

C chromatic scale

C C /D D D /E E F F /G G G /A A A /B B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1

Often sharps are used when ascending in the scale, and flats are used when descending.

When it comes to playing chromatic scales on the guitar, you are not necessarily starting and stopping on the "root" of
the scale. In fact, you should not really think in terms of there being a root for this scale. Any note could be considered
the root, and you are not really going to hear all of the notes in relationship to any one note. Playing chromatic scales is
really just an exercise in understanding how the notes are arranged on the neck of the guitar. Understanding where the
next note higher or lower is, even when switching strings. They are also excellence technique builders.

Chromatic scale form #1


4 notes per string

The first chromatic scale form contains 4 notes on every string. As you move to the next higher string you will shift
back one fret, except between the 3rd and 2nd string for which you will stay on the same fret.

If you want to stay in one position when playing a chromatic scale you will use the following forms. Use form #2 when
ascending, and form #3 when descending.
Chromatic scale form #2
In position, ascending

Chromatic scale form #3


In position, descending.

Here is a graphic that shows how the notes in form #2 and form #3 compare to each other. The red line is drawn
between the notes that are the same.

You certainly could play form #3 when ascending, and form #2 descending. But it is easier to have your first finger
start on a lower fret and move up than it is to do the opposite. You are starting out of position, and moving into
position.

A position is a 4 fret area where a finger is assigned to each fret. Notes that are one fret lower than the position are
played with your first finger. Notes that fall one fret higher than the position are played with your fourth finger. When
playing chromatically it is always easier to play a note that is out of position and move into position than it is to start in
position and move out of position. That is why it makes the most amount of sense to use form #2 while ascending, and
form # 3 when descending.
Click Here for a printer friendly version of the scale forms

Chromatic scale forms