Instant Whole Tone Scale

This is a tutorial on how to easily play the Whole Tone Scale everywhere on the fretboard, using an amazing fretboard organization system called SFS, or the String Fragment System.

Watch the Video Lesson:

Backing Track for Practice:

Lesson Notes:

    For most guitar players, just memorizing fingering patterns is not only hard, but also extremely boring. It can be fun in the beginning, when you are just learning your first few scale shapes, but as you realize how much memorization is required to cover all the scales you want to learn in every possible position, it can be overwhelming. That’s why many players compromise and end up limiting their options to just a few areas on the fretboard.

    SFS is an excellent solution to this problem. It’s an approach that promotes understanding instead of memorization. I have been teaching it since 2010, with great results. My students literally learn a new scale in every possible position within minutes. Instead of memorizing full position fingering shapes, with SFS we break down a scale into small String Fragments which we can map in any area of the fretboard using a few simple skills.

    We don’t need to go into detail with this right now, because when it comes to symmetric scales, like the half-whole diminished, or the Whole Tone scale, SFS becomes even simpler, due to the symmetric nature of these scales. You will understand what I mean as I walk you through constructing the Whole Tone scale in the key of A:

    Put your 1st finger on fret 5, string 6. That’s an A, so it’s one of the Root Notes for our scale play. Those of you that studied SFS with me before, know that SFS location is based on root notes, so make a mental note of this A.

    Now play this note and then the one a whole step up from it. This is SF1, our first string fragment. To play SF2 on the next string, move a fret back and play two notes to form another whole step. Repeat the same process on the next string to play SF3.

    We have just completed one octave of the scale, because the whole tone scale is made of just 6 notes.

    Now when you keep moving one fret back, the scale starts again and you can repeat the same process on the next 3 strings, because SFS is a cycle. In other words the system restarts after the last string fragment, so you can apply this to any number of strings, including 7 or 8 string guitars, 5 string bass and so on. The only catch is the notorious SFS shift. If you are familiar with SFS, this is old news, but if you are new to this, just make sure that when you cross from string 3 to string 2 you move up one fret from where you would normally go. So with this particular Whole Tone scale system you end up staying in the same fret.

    This shift in the system is caused by a discrepancy in the standard tuning of the guitar and as you practice SFS, it kind of becomes second nature, so when you use SFS to learn more and more types of scales it’s really a non issue because you already have the skill on autopilot.

    Now that you learned how to instantly construct this, you can go to any A on the fretboard and repeat the process ascending and descending. You can also place either the 1st or 3rd finger on an A to build the scale. You always end up with the same shape, just in different positions, as long as you make sure that the SFS includes an A. Here is an example using the A on string 4, fret 7, on my 3rd finger.

    That’s it. You can just slide 2 frets up or down to the adjacent position, or jump to any A and build the system there. In just a few minutes you have learned a way to construct  fingerings that cover the whole fretboard, without any memorization. You can use this backing track to practice improvising with this.

    Off course, there is a lot more to Whole Tone scales, and you can actually use a couple of different SFS configurations (including 3NPS etc) to create any Whole Tone shape you have  ever seen, and all without memorization.

    Thanks for watching and have fun practicing this!