Discover Essential Guitar Scales

The term guitar scales seems to be the new way of saying major, pentatonic and blues scales or any other scale all rolled into one. Whatever you call the musical scales they all work on the guitar.

Learning scales isn't the only way to know how to improvise over different chords and chord progressions but they are very important.

The major scales are the most important. They contain the pentatonic scales and the natural minor scale, so if you learn one major scale you will also know a natural minor scale and a major and minor pentatonic scale.

The major scale is also home to 7 modes or scales within scales.


What Guitar Scales Do

Music scales are like a section of the alphabet that you stay in to make words or in our case music. They give us structure and a place to start from with basic guidelines.

Scales can and do go into other scales within a song without changing key signatures. It would get really boring if we had to stay diatonic that is within a scale all of the time.

This is where our melodies and chords come from, by knowing scales you can build melodies and chords in that scale. They are also used to create great riffs and solos that you hear in your favorite songs.

How Scales are Made

All scales are made from a series of intervals. An interval is the distance between two notes.

For right now all we need to know is a half step or semitone is one fret from the first note and a whole step or tone is two frets away

Every guitar scale has its own set of intervals making it distinct from any of the others. Some are very close in sound and with some ear training you will be able to tell them apart.

If you want to understand any guitar scale you have to understand what intervals are. Check this page out

Understanding Musical Intervals

The Major Scales

The Major scale is the most important scale because it is the parent scale for most other popular scales used in music today. Most music theory and chord building is based on the major scale.

If you are new to the guitar and music in general check out the major scale primer page.

Major Scale Primer

By learning one major scale you also learn 7 modes(a scale within a scale), a major and a minor pentatonic scale.

C major scale notation and tab

Learning the major musical scales will make the rest of your learning and understanding about other scales, chords, playing styles and improvising much easier.

If you have been playing for a bit you may want a little more info click on the links below.

The Major Scale Structure

This page links to the individual major scales.

All The Major Scales

The Pentatonic Scales

The pentatonic scale comes in two flavors major and minor. These guitar scales are everywhere in popular music from country to blues to hard rock. Both of these guitar scales come from the major scale.

These scales are shortened versions of the major scale. The notes they leave out aren't normally used as much as the other 5 notes.

The notes left out in the major pentatonic is different than the notes left out in the minor pentatonic.

Check out the pentatonic scales page to see where these scales come from and how they are made.

Pentatonic Scales

The Major Pentatonic

The major pentatonic scale which is a major scale without the 4 and 7 notes is used in country music quite a bit but that's not it's only use. It can be used in blues and rock also.

To learn some more about the major pentatonic click on the link below.

The Major Pentatonic Scale

Major and Minor Pentatonic scales in notation and tab

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

This is really a guitar scale that gets used in every style of music. You can even hear it in Country Western music which used to use the major scale and major pentatonic scales.

The minor pentatonic comes from the natural minor scale which also comes from the major scale. This scale is very popular in the rock and blues music. BB King pulls a lot of his licks from this scale.

Check out the link below for more on the minor pentatonic.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The Minor Scales

There are three main minor scales that are used today. Every minor scale is built with it's own individual set of intervals giving each one it's own unique sound.

All three forms are related to their relative major scale despite the extra flats or sharps. In the key of G the relative minor scales such as natural, harmonic and melodic would all be E minor. See Below.

G Major - G A B C D E F♯ G

E Minor Natural - E F♯ G A B C D E

E Minor Melodic - E F♯ G A B C♯ D♯ E

E Minor Harmonic - E F♯ G A B C D♯ E

These scales share the same key signature having one sharp F like below.


G Scale key signature

The Natural Minor Scales

A Natural Minor Scale written in notation and tab

A scale coming directly from the major scale without any changes, unlike the melodic and harmonic minor scales.

Check out the natural minor scales. there is one in every major scale.

Natural Minor Scales

The Melodic Minor Scales

C Melodic Minor Scale written in Notation and tab

The melodic minor was created for singers making certain notes easier to sing. This scale is supposed to be played with the melodic scale notes ascending and the natural minor notes coming back down.

This scale is also used for improvising over a wide assortment of chords.

Melodic Minor Scales.

The Harmonic Minor Scales

A Harmonic Minor Scale written in Notation and tab

This scale is the easiest to recognize because of it's minor 3rd interval between the 6th and 7th notes. To me it has a Latin sound.

Check these scales out they can also be used for improvising.

Harmonic Minor Scales.

The Blues Scales

A Major and Minor Blues Scales written in Notation and tab

The Blues scales are very similar to the pentatonic scales but they add a blues note, the flatted fifth. If you want to improvise the blues scales are a must.

Even if you don't play blues on a regular basis, these are fundamental scales for improvisation.

Blues Scales.

Symmetrical Scales

The C Chromatic Scale - A Symmetrical Scale

This is one of the Symmetrical scales. There are a few others. These scales are good for improvising.

C Chromatic Scale written in Notation and tab

These scales are used for improvising mostly. They can be used over dominant 7th and chords with altered 5th, 9th and 11th notes. They are used in many styles of music and you should be aware of them as a guitarist.

They usually don't last more than one measure in Pop songs but in Jazz and Blues/Jazz they can last longer.

As the name implies these scales are equally or evenly spaced scales. Here is a page to check them out.

Symmetrical Scales.

I hope you found this page useful.

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