How did you learn 7 shapes?

Hey fellow guitarists. Can you share your experiences with learning the shapes?

I’ve been stuck on this exercise for months. How do you think about the shapes? Do you remember them visually? Do you count intervals every time? Do you derive them from CAGED shapes?

This is the only way that more or less worked for me:

  1. I practiced 8 notes scale for every case starting from strings 6, 5, 4, 3
    – R23, 456, 78
    – R2, 345, 678
    – R, 234, 567, 8

  2. Then practiced the scale the opposite way from strings 1, 2, 3, 4
    – R76, 543, 21
    – R7, 654, 321
    – R, 765, 432, 1

  3. Now I can relatively quickly derive the shape starting from the note I want. But I still don’t think about it in terms of shape. I just know what interval I am on and where other notes of this octave are located.

Should I just practice these shapes more and more until I remember them? Do you know a better approach?

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First time I did it, I just tried to memorize them like “boxes”, even drew them out on a piece of paper. Then when I got my first 7 string guitar and started to draw the shape boxes for that, I realized that I really dont need to. You are cycling through a repeating pattern, so things are just shifting (like an open reading frame, if you’re into molecular biology :wink: ), not changing completely. For example compare the Mixolydian/5th shape with the Dorian/2nd shape, let the key be G Major! Take the fingering pattern (1,3,4) from the high E string in the Mixolydian shape, put it on the low E, shift everything else to the A string and you have the Dorian shape. Dunno if it makes sense like this, but it helped me a lot.
Then the next step would be to practice things horizontally, using only one string or two strings. I’ve found/find this a lot more difficult. Then you can definitely level up by making sure that you are aware of the scale degree you’re playing. In every shape. In every mode. In every key. :smiley: :D:D:D:D

But I believe there is no right or wrong way. We should do it from every possible angle and direction, as I think that is what will provide the most fluid knowledge.

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I’ve got kind of overwhelmed when I first tried to learn the shapes because there are so many of them. I started with the shapes of the CAGED system by learning one shape per week and also associating the respective arpeggio and chord to the shape. I’ve tried to start on a different note in order to remember the intervals and so on. It surely also helps to draw the shapes on a piece of paper to better remember them. I’ve also played the scales in sequences (e.g. thirds, fourths, fifths, … or triplets etc) and after two or three months I knew the shapes of the CAGED system pretty well. I did this with the other shapes as well trying to derive them from the CAGED system by changing only one interval at a time for example deriving the Mixolydian shape from the Ionian shape and so on. But I usually only took one shape per week by applying the above mentioned exercises and even trying to improvise over the shapes and connecting one shape with the next and so on. This whole procedure took me some time but it seems to work for me. :smiley:

Of course, there are many ways to practice and learn the shapes. :relaxed:


@nexion218, haha, I didn’t expect to get a reference to molecular biology here.
Thanks for your explanation, it encouraged me to spend more time comparing the shapes. On a 7 string guitar, the pattern is even more noticeable! It just shifts the shape 2 strings down every time.

Thanks for sharing this, @florifeidt! One shape per week sounds reasonable, probably I should do the same way. Did you play scales in sequences around CAGED shapes or just randomly choose a root note and move from it?

Well @kiko started out as a biologist too, so it’s fitting. :wink: I also like to trick myself into believing that just because of the biology similarity thereis hope for me to get good at guitar too, just like him. :joy::rofl::joy::rofl::joy::rofl:

But to be on topic too, what @florifeidt said is VERY useful: derive each shape from the Ionian by altering just one note/interval and in the long haul it will make more musical sense.

Sharpening the 4th makes it Lydian, flattening the 7th makes it Mixolydian. Flattening the 3rd together with 7th makes Dorian, flatten the 6 too its Aeolian, flatten the 2nd its Phrygian and finally the if the 5th is flat too, its Locrian.

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@nexion218 That’s the idea. My guitar teacher told me to learn the scales this way but I think the most important thing is to use them once you’ve nailed them, by learning a couple of licks based on the respective scale or trying to improvise over it. And once you’ve gone through the whole CAGED system, you can use this method for the 7 major shapes or the harmonic minor modes and so on. Hope this makes sense. :grin: :grin:

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