Zones and Metazones

I introduced the zone concept to label the order that the scale forms appear in as they move up the neck for a given key. Zones take the numbers from 1 to 5 in order, to the limits of the fingerboard. Each key starts in a different zone at the nut. For instance, at the nut, the key of:

  • E major is zone 4
  • A major is zone 2
  • D major is zone 5
  • G major is zone 3
  • C major is zone 1

Scale forms and zones are tied together on a 1:1 basis. This means that:

  • zone 1 – form 5 – tonic on strings 5 and 1 – “C” pattern
  • zone 2 – form 2 – tonic on strings 5 and 3 – “A” pattern
  • zone 3 – form 4 – tonic on strings 6, 3 and 1 – “G” pattern
  • zone 4 – form 1 – tonic on strings 6, 4, and 1 – “E” pattern
  • zone 5 – form 3 – tonic on strings 4 and 2 – “D” pattern

Note that the pattern names spell CAGED. This is also the name of a well established guitar system, and this notion of scale order is at its core.

Zones were introduced because although there is a 1:1 correspondence between the scale form and the zone, each scale supports multiple chord forms. Thus a zone carries more information than just the form of its scale tonic notes. Each note of the scale has its own associated chord form. By knowing a zone, you can move the scale and the chords in the zone to a different position, and it will be a new key. The zone number however will be the same. When a zone is abstracted so that it is not fixed to a key, is movable, I call it a meta-zone. When you move a meta-zone to a new position, you are transposing all chords and the scales.

Since the order of zones is fixed, when you know all zones for one key, you can easily transpose all zones in the key up or down the neck to play in a new key. Regardless of the key, the scales and chord shapes in a particular zone are the same. If you learn one zone, you have almost learned fifteen keys. You may have to work a bit to remember the names at each position, but the shapes will be identical, except at the nut, where there is a little bit of variability.