Guitar Scales

What is a Guitar Scale?

The goal of learning guitar is to be able to play songs. All songs are comprised of notes and chords. Sometimes the notes in songs are played in specific patterns. Sometimes these patterns are played in quick succession. Patterns of notes played in order according to pitch are called 'scales.'

Learning to play scales is useful in at least three ways. First, the act of practicing scales will actually provide you with much needed finger dexterity. Practicing scales will allow players to become very skillful very quickly.

Second, scales are actually the building blocks for melody. If you know which scales can be played in a given song, based on the song's key signature and mode, then you will know which notes you can play to form melodic hooks, guitar solos, and riffs.

Third, memorizing scales will actually teach you the basics of guitar modes, which provides the foundation for being able to write solos, riffs, and songs.

Scales are an important fundamental that every guitar player should learn.

How does one learn to play guitar scales?

As discussed, a guitar scale is simply a pattern of notes played in succession according to pitch. They can be played on a single string or across multiple strings in designated areas or sections of the fretboard.

To learn a scale, one simply has to memorize the pattern of notes and to learn to play the notes in a skillful, articulate manner.

The first step in learning to play a guitar scale, therefore, is learning to play guitar notes. If you haven't mastered this step, go back to the lesson on guitar notes and practice before continuing with this lesson.

If you feel comfortable playing individual notes, then you are ready to begin learning scales. The best way to start learning is to identify a scale you want to learn and find a visual tool that tells you the pattern of notes contained in that scale. Then you can pick up the guitar and start practicing playing the specified notes contained in the scale in the order specified.

Which Scales Should I Learn?

There are hundreds of possible scales to learn. But if you know a handful of the most important scales then you can apply them in almost any genre of music.

The Major Scale is perhaps the most basic scale. It is the scale used in classical music very often and contains the notes used in all songs written in major keys. A lot of country music and pop and folk music make heavy use of the major scale. It is very important to learn this scale as it is a fundamental building block of Western music.

The Minor Scales are a collection of somber or 'dark' sounding scales. If you are feeling a bit melancholy, or if you would like to learn how to play classic rock or metal music, then you will want to learn the minor scales. These include the Harmonic Minor Scales, the Melodic Minor Scales, and the Natural Minor Scales.

The Blues Scale is used a lot in blues music and in rock music. A slight variation of this is the Minor Pentatonic Scale. The Minor Pentatonic Scale is a very important scale for guitar in popular music and is certainly one of the most fundamental and important scales to learn. It omits the passing tone found in the Blues Scale to create a completely different and unique sound.

Once you learn the scales above and learn how to put them into effect, you will be well on your way to mastering the guitar.

What is the Best Way to Learn Scale Patterns?

After you have selected a scale to learn (I highly recommend choosing one from the list above), you will need to reference a visual learning tool which teaches you the notes comprising the scale you have selected. There are a ton of great tools in books and online that can teach you these notes. I recommend using the Instructional Guitar Stickers, which are sold on this website to learn the patterns. These will give you the added advantage of being able to put the patterns directly on the fretboard of your guitar for up to six months without ever having to open a book or turn on your internet connection. You will find them very useful. But if you would rather save some money, try Googling the scales you are looking to learn and start memorizing them.

A Blues Scale