By: Adam Rice email: adamrice@musician.org

©2004. All Rights Reserved. http://www.adamrice.cjb.net

I know what you’re thinking…what the hexatonic? (haha…guitar joke) …Hexatonics are possibly a cure to all of your problems! These simple scales (or scale fragments) encompass many of the properties of the guitar that allow you to play with a greater ease and knowledge. Read on!

Fretboard Mastery

Hexatonics are six note scales. Just like penta- is a prefix meaning “5” (pentatonics), hexa- is a prefix meaning “6.” Theoretically, this could mean a combination of any 6 notes, but for this article, the scales and licks will be derived from the modes of the major scale in the key of C. Hexatonics are much simpler done than said. I’ll clarify with some examples:

Here is a three-note per string version of the ionian mode:

To create a hexatonic scale, we cut out the last note of the scale in one octave (or use the first six notes…however you want to look at it). So, in one octave you end up with this shape:

Now, the beauty of the guitar comes into play. Discovering the ways patterns and shapes repeat across string groups will make playing the guitar MUCH easier!!! For instance, hexatonics use shapes that require 2 adjacent strings, and since the guitar is arranged in octaves diagonally from any root, we are able to repeat this shape across the neck, like so:

Now, if you are not familiar with the modes, most instructors would probably tell you to go learn all of them before you start doing this stuff, which is a good idea. BUT learning where these essential notes fall for each of the modes and for an entire harmonic system (a group of 7 modes such as the major scale) will help making learn the modes easier!

Hexatonics are a vital insight that most players don’t discover until much later down the road. However, they teach important facts about the guitar such as the convenience of repeating shapes. Hexatonics also give you a sense of navigation. This means when you feel trapped in a single mode or a pentatonic box, simply let the guitar take you somewhere more interesting. They also make you look like a genius because you can play the right notes FAST in a diagonal shape across the fretboard. Doing so allows you to link ideas from all over the fretboard with ease. Hexatonics are also an excellent tool to use to practice techniques such as legato or sequences:

Adam Rice is a primarily instrumental guitarist specializing in the styles of rock, funk/fusion, and jazz (though he has been in several vocal bands of varying styles as well).

More on Hexatonic Scales

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Updated: 3/6/07