Seven Reasons to Learn Guitar Scales

Learning scales can feel like a lot of work for little return. Honestly, you won't get a lot of adulation for jamming endless scales. But the truth is, learning your scales is essential. And with minimal investment, the rewards will be major. Here are seven reasons to suck it up and learn your scales:

Develop Your Ear
Learning scales will help you recognize the relationship between notes and the location on the guitar. Essential for just about anything you do on guitar.

Build Finger Strength
Walking up and down the fretboard will help your ability to learn songs, riffs and leads by learning to move quickly between the notes of a scale.

Learn Songs Easier
Learning songs is much faster if you practice scales because you will know how to find the notes you need to play.

Start Shredding
Many solos and riffs have notes and patterns that come directly from a scale.

Learn Chords
Faster Chords are constructed with the notes in a scale, so you’ll start to gain awareness of how to build them on your own.

Write Some Songs
Scales provide a framework that you can use to create melodies for original music.

Read Music
The first step in reading music on the guitar is knowledge of scales. As you start to see the benefits in action, you’ll get motivated to continue practicing scales.

Five Must Know and Most Commonly Used Guitar Scales For Beginners

Guitar scales are organized sequences of notes played in an ascending or descending order that help you build finger strength and dexterity. Practicing guitar scales also make you more familiar with the notes on your fretboard, develop your musical ear and provide a framework for creating melodies for your own original songs.

 For those that want to expand their scale horizons, the available Player Pack on the Fender Tune app features a dynamic scale library with a variety of diagrams and patterns for any variation, flavor, and key. And for those looking to brush up on the basics or just dive into scales for the first time, Fender Play has a wealth of videos that offer step-by-step guides of basic scales that will serve you well.

 A Minor Pentatonic Scale (Fifth Position)

A pentatonic scale is a popular five-note scale that you'll need to know for riffs, solos, and melodies, especially for rock and blues. For the A minor pentatonic scale, it's a snap to learn in two octaves in the fifth position, and it helps you with your fret-hand strength. Some common songs that utilize the A minor pentatonic scale are "Stairway to Heaven" from Led Zeppelin and "Hoodoo Bluesman" by Junior Wells, to name a few.

E Minor Pentatonic Scale

The E minor pentatonic scale in the open position is ground zero for soloing. For this version from Fender Play instructor Matt Lake, you'll play two notes on each string, an open string followed by a fretted note. Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," "Back in Black" by AC/DC and "Rumble" by Link Wray are a few popular songs that feature this scale.

C Major Scale (Open Position)

Getting down the C major scale will help you understand the key of C, and because it doesn't have any sharps or flats, it's a great entryway into a musical composition. To simply play it all on the B string, you'll need to follow a whole step / whole step / half step / whole step / whole step / whole step/half step formula. You can actually play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" using this method! While that is a good way to understand the C major scale, it's more commonly played in open position across multiple strings to get the notes.

G Major Scale (Open Position)

Like the C major scale, you can play the G major scale on a single string, also following the two-whole step/half step / three-whole steps/half step formula. But, again, it's more common to utilize all six strings to properly fret all the notes, and it also helps you build strength in your pinkie finger Learn to play the G minor pentatonic scale.

E Harmonic Minor (Open Position)

The E harmonic minor scale is used often in classical, jazz and metal music, as it can spice up your solos. One way to get to know the E harmonic minor scale is to play it all on the High E string, going from the open position to the second fret (whole-step), second to third fret (half step), third to fifth fret (whole-step), fifth to seventh fret (whole-step), seventh to eighth fret (half step), eighth to 11th fret (minor third) and 11th to the 12th fret (half step). But you'll find it's more practical to play the E harmonic minor scale on all six strings. Learn how to play the E harmonic minor scale in open position across two octaves.

Beginner Guitar Lessons - What is a Guitar Scale

If you are a beginner guitar player (or intermediate) and would like to master your instrument, there are essentially two fundamental skills that you need to learn: playing chords and playing scales. Chords are a collection of multiple notes played at the same time and scales are a collection of notes that are played sequentially. Scales are the fundamental building blocks of musical phrases, licks, and solos. If you know how to play all of the guitar scales and chords and can play them well, then you will be good at playing guitar.

So what is a scale? A scale is essentially a pattern of notes that can be played in sequential order or out of order tastefully, which go well together in certain modes of music according to music theory, which is the study of the types of musical modes that comprise western music. There are many different scales you might attempt to learn, but this website focuses on teaching you the basic guitar scales. The basic guitar scales are the fretboard note map (all of the notes played in chromatic order), the major scale, the harmonic minor scale, the melodic minor scale, the blues scale, and the minor/major pentatonic scales.

Below is an image representing the notes comprising the most basic scale, the chromatic scale or fretboard note map:

How do I learn the scales?

Now once you learn all of the names of the notes (the fretboard note map) you can start learning scales and start learning to recognize patterns. If, for example, you wanted to play the "C major scale" you would just have to play only the natural notes (no sharps or flats) contained in the fretboard note map. However, you would want to start the scale on a C and end the scale on a C. The chart below visually represents one version of the C major scale:

Now it just so happens that the A minor scale is the natural minor associated with the C major scale. To know what this means you have to get into some deep theory. But what it translates to is the fact that if you want to learn the natural minor scale in the key of A, you just play the same exact notes as the C minor Major scale but you start on a different note. Instead of starting and ending on a 'C' note, you start and end on an 'A' note. The chart below visually represents the A natural minor scale:

You will notice if you played both of the scales on your guitar that even though they contain the same notes, they sound very different depending on the order that you play them in. This is because it is the relations between notes (the changes from one note to another in sequential order) that gives music a 'mode' or feel to it. Learning to play guitar scales is essentially learning the various different modes (ordered note sequences) that sound good together in various musical key signatures and learn how to navigate around the fretboard so that you can readily play the right notes during the right song. If, for example, you want to play a melodic phrase, lick or solo during a blues song in the key of A, you will have to know how to play the A blues scale. And so on.

So how do you learn all of the scales. Learning the scales basically just requires you to patiently practice them over and over again until playing the patterns becomes second nature. You can use visual tools such as the scale diagrams above to learn scales, or better yet, you can put these scale diagrams right on the fretboard of your guitar using instructional guitar stickers.

Guitar Scales - The Foundation and Basis For Every Guitar Solo

Guitar scales are the foundation and basis for every guitar solo that has ever been played. You simply can’t escape the fact that the guitar scale IS the solo, as Joe Satriani once famously said. I’ve often heard people say that you can learn to solo well without knowing any guitar scales, but that simply isn’t true.

If the notes in your guitar solo come from the scale, then by default, it will help you to know what that scale is, right? Okay, so now that we’ve established that guitar scales are important, how do we go about learning them, and which ones do we start with? The first guitar scale to start with is the pentatonic minor scale.

Of all the various guitar scales, the pentatonic minor is both the simplest to learn and the easiest to apply. With the pentatonic scales, you’re only dealing with five notes, versus the seven that are found in a normal diatonic scale. Because the two notes most likely to conflict with other notes in that key have been removed, you can literally pick any note that you want in the pentatonic scale and solo over the top of a progression (as long as you’re in the right key!).

 So the pentatonic scale is bulletproof – as long as you’re in the right key, you can’t play a wrong note. That makes it an excellent place for beginners to get started. Once you’ve learned that scale, you’re going to want to start moving into the diatonic scales, or alternatively taking the pentatonic minor into other positions on the fretboard. Either path will help open up the fretboard to you.

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