3 Notes Per String Minor Scale Patterns

We talked about the 3 notes per string major scale in an earlier post, and now it’s time to talk about its minor equivalent – the 3 notes per string minor scale, or the aeolian mode (if you like calling scales by their fancy names!)

It’s an essential tool that will let you phrase awesome solos with expressiveness. There’s just one major scale but hey, there are three minor scales – the natural minor (aeolian), the melodic minor, and the harmonic minor.

We’re just talking about the natural minor here; after you’re familiar with one, learning the other is super easy. So let’s get started, shall we?

3 Notes Per String Minor Scale Patterns

We’re going to take a look at the F minor scale so it’s easier for you to see how the 3nps pattern relates to the notes within the F minor scale all across the fretboard.

Notes of F minor scale

F – G – Ab – Bb – C – Db – Eb – F


  • F (root)
  • G (major second)
  • Ab (minor third)
  • Bb (perfect fourth)
  • C (perfect fifth)
  • Db (minor sixth)
  • Eb (minor seventh)
  • F (octave)


F Minor (i – tonic chord): F – Ab – C

G diminished (ii° – diminished chord): G – Bb – Db

Ab Major (III – major chord): Ab – C – Eb

Bb Minor (iv – minor chord): Bb – Db – F

C Minor (v – minor chord): C – Eb – G

Db Major (VI – major chord): Db – F – Ab

Eb Major (VII – major chord): Eb – G – Bb

F minor scale in two octaves

Shown below is the F minor scale in two octaves starting from the sixth string first fret.

F minor scale in 2 octaves

First Position

3nps F minor scale first position

While you play this shape, pay attention to where the root notes lie on each string. That will help you while improvising!

The same shape can also be played starting at the 13th fret. The numbers inside the circles represent what fingers you should use to finger the pattern – feel free to use the ones that feel comfortable to you.

3nps F minor scale position 1 at 13th fret

Second Position

3nps F minor scale position 2 at 3rd fret

Third Position

3nps F minor scale position 3

Fourth Position

3nps F minor scale position 4

Fifth Position

3nps F minor scale position 5

Finally, this is how the scale looks all across the fretboard!

F minor scale full fretboard with note names

Approaching the 3nps Minor Scale

Just like the major scale, the minor scale has some fingerings – the positions may be tricky to remember if you are anxious, but if you give it some time and get familiar with each position -you will get it down in no time at all. You’re just playing three consecutive notes per string before moving to the next string in the pattern.

Of course, when you’re improvising and composing something melodic, you don’t want it to sound scale-ish. You should try string skipping and think about phrasing, including pauses and melodic ideas – and ideally, that’s what you should be doing while practicing as well.

The goal isn’t to remember all the patterns as fast as possible – what you want from the patterns is to be able to play smoothly so all notes sound clear and experiment with phrasing ideas. Trust me, you’ll remember the shapes of the 3nps minor scale after you play it a couple of times anyway!


Can I use other chords outside of these primary chords in the F minor scale?

Yes, you can use additional chords, including seventh chords, borrowed chords from related scales, or modal interchange chords, to create more complex and interesting harmonic progressions within the key of F minor. Modulating to other scales is also an option if that’s something you’re interested in!

Are the 3 notes per string minor scale patterns movable to other keys?

Yes, of course. You can move the root around and play in other keys. The same is true for the 3nps major scale patterns as well.

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