Essential Concepts


In this article, I present some essential concepts that must be learned in order to understand Metafrets. There are concepts from standard music theory, concepts coming from Metafrets, and concepts coming from the world of guitar players. These are just introduced here.

There are a number of ideas needed for understanding that are from standard music theory. These include:

  • Note Naming
  • Intervals
  • Scales
  • Chords
  • Melodies
  • Keys
  • Harmonization of the Scale
  • Cycle of 4ths and 5ths

There are several idiosyncratic concepts required to understand the Metafrets system. These go beyond standard theory, and are somewhat unique to Metafrets. They are:

  • Meta as a concept
  • Metaforms
  • Metascales
  • Metachords
  • Metazones

In addition, there are ideas that come from standard guitar practice. These would include the following:

  • String numbering
  • Standard tuning
  • Position of notes on the fretboard, including open notes
  • Intervals on the fretboard – on and across strings
  • Scales on the fretboard
  • Chords on the fretboard
  • Melodies on the fretboard

Below, a little more detail is given on each concept.

Concepts from Standard Theory

Note Naming:

Each pitch in music is given a name. In the dominant system, the names use the letters A through G. This group repeats as many times as necessary, as there are many more than seven musical pitches. Each note with the same name sounds very similar, and can function in a similar fashion when used musically. Notes may have their pitches altered up or down by the use of the devices of sharps (#) and flats (b).


Notes in western music are separated by mathematically precise differences. The musical distances in the dominant system of music are called intervals. These may be played simultaneously or consecutively. Each distance is given a name consisting of a size, based on the number of letter names it contains, and another qualifier based on how many half-tone intervals it contains.

Scales: These are the fundamental basis for all music, and are not specific to Metafrets. There are many,many types of scales, but major, minor, and pentatonic scales are the most common today. Scales can be classified with a form number, explained below.

Chords: These are fundamental to most music. When several notes of a scale are played at the same time, these notes are called chords. Chords can be classified by form number, explained below.

Melodies: These are fundamental to most music. When several notes of a scale are played consecutively, this is called a melody.

Keys: When a particular scale is used as the basis for chords and melodies, it is called a key. There are fifteen keys for each scale type in western music.

Harmonization of a Scale: This is the practice of using the notes drawn from a scale to make chords based on each note of the scale.

Cycle of 4ths and 5ths:

The interval known as the perfect 4th contains 4 letter names and 5 half-tones. The interval known as the perfect 5th contains 5 letter names and 7 half-tones. These intervals are extremely significant in music, and also figure prominently in the standard guitar tuning system, and the Metafrets system.

Concepts from Metafrets

Meta: The prefix meta means in this context something like “beyond” or “more comprehensive”. It could in most contexts in Metafrets be replaced by the word “movable”. It carries a little bit more meaning than the word “movable”suggests.

I suppose that I could have called my system “Movafrets”, but it seems somewhat leaden to my ears.

Metaforms: These are movable patterns. They may be moved up and down the fretboard. Metaforms are defined by the position of the scale tonic notes and the chord root notes. Metaforms are classified with a number based on the strings containing the tonic or primary note of the scale within a region of the fretboard. The numbers go from 1 to 5, and then cycle from 1 again. Metaforms can also be changed sequentially from one to the next by transposition across the strings to the next set of strings. They then will take on the next form number.

Forms: These are patterns now associated with a particular place on the fretboard. Chords, scales, melodies and zones can all be abstract and movable, and therefore prefixed with “meta”. Forms are defined by the position of the scale tonic notes and the chord root notes. Forms are classified with a form number.

Metascales: These are movable scale templates or patterns. Metascales can be classified by form number.

Metachords: These are movable chord templates or patterns. Metachords can be classified by a form number.

Metazones: These are movable templates for zones, described below. Metazones can be classified by a form number.

Zones: These are regions on the fretboard containing a configurations of chords, melodies and scales. The scale form is the basis for the zone. The upper and lower boundaries are a bit indeterminate, and the patterns overlap with preceding and following zones. Zones use the numbers 1 through 5. They cycle from 1 again after 5. Zones capture the essential sequence, the order, of scale forms on the neck. The order is repetitive, as the forms move along the length of the neck.

Zones can also be classified by a form number. The order of the numbers is different when zones are classified by form numbers. Zones are defined by the position of the scale tonic notes, an inherit the form number from the underlying scale form.

Scale FormZoneCAGED EquivalentStrings with Tonic Notes of Scale
51C5, 2
22A5, 3
43G6, 3, 1
14E6, 4, 1
35D4, 2

Standard Guitar Practice

String numbering: Strings are numbered from 1 to 6 on a guitar, from thinnest to thickest.

Standard tuning: Starting from string six, the tension of each string is adjusted until the following notes are produced by the strings: E, A, D, G, B, E. This is called standard tuning, and Metafrets only works with standard tuning at present.

Position of notes on the fretboard, including open notes: Each fret on each string has a letter name. These should be memorized. The pattern repeats after 12 frets.

Intervals on the fretboard – on and across strings: Each string contains a series of notes separated by the interval of a half-tone. This type of pattern is called a chromatic scale. All intervals can be found on the scale either by going from note to note on one string, or by going from a note on one string to a note on another.

Scales on the fretboard: There are any number of possible scales, but by playing on one or more strings, all scales can be produced.

Chords on the fretboard: There are a very large number of possible chord variations. Not all can be played on the guitar, but a related variation will always exist. Any chord will appear in multiple places on the neck.

Melodies on the fretboard: Melodies are like chords – a given melody may be played in many ways on the guitar, since a given note can appear in numerous places. This makes learning the guitar a chore, but also provides opportunities for interesting playing and creating sonoroties.