I like the 3NPS system, but not the way it’s normally taught. Seven patterns are way too many and life is too short. Let’s break it down and see if we can get rid of some of them, as in my humble opinion learning scales using 7 patterns turns it into a technical exercise rather than learning how to improvise, or indeed learning what notes are available, and where they are. By reducing the number of patterns things become more musical and less technical as we’re learning how to cover the whole fretboard instead of mindlessly running up and down scale patterns.
We’re going to be using the F major scale because it gets a little neglected by guitar teachers.
But my Guitar Teacher Said…
I know, you can blame me but guitar teachers say/repeat a lot of things without questioning the utility or redundancy of the very thing they’re teaching. This is how the CAGED system became so ubiquitous.
But what about the modes?
If you’ve been taught that each pattern of the 3NPS scales series corresponds to a mode then you’ll be studying modes forever. The 7 modes of F major (or any major key) all have the same notes as F major itself, they just start on a different one. Imagine F major as a circle (F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F), any of those notes can be your starting point. If you start the scale on A and A is clearly your root then you have A Phrygian; if you start the scale on Bb then you have a Bb Lydian, and so on. The three useful patterns contain all the notes of F major and by default, all of the modes since they are the same notes. Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about the modes check out our eBook.
Back to the three patterns
So we now have three useful patterns that cover the whole fretboard instead of 7, cutting your workload by over half. You’ll have to work this stuff out in other keys, well just the five other keys that guitarists play in at least. You may need a few open string patterns to tie up the loose ends, which you can work out from whatever pattern falls over the twelfth fret, but these three patterns should be more than enough to cover your ass when soloing.