Knowing the scales on your guitar is vital for many different reasons. They build strength in your fingers in a manner that isn’t possible by just playing songs. Playing guitar scales also train your ears to identify common note arrangements.
What Are Guitar Scales?
Guitar scales are series of notes jotted in an alphabetical order. The scales list them from the root note to the octave. The notes are used for playing and writing melodies. These notes are also the pillars for harmony since the chords are delivered from the scales.
The 6 Most Commonly Used Guitar Scales
1. The Minor Pentatonic Scale
The pentatonic scale is majorly an unusual combination of 5 notes. They are easy to play and are a perfect introduction to the scales for the beginners. They are of two types: minor and major.
It is due to their simplicity, and magically, that they are used widely in blues, country, jazz and rock music.
2. The Blues Scale
The blues scale is derived from the minor pentatonic scale, as it is alike with just a single addition – a flattened 5th note. As the name implies, the scale is significantly used in blues, although it is also used in jazz and rock-based styles too.
The blue scales sound a bit bluesy. If you keep in mind the notes, you can improvise your rhythm while playing records. Smart use of the Blues scale can add more thrill to the song you are playing.
3. The Aeolian Mode or the Natural Minor Scale
The natural minor scale, or the Aeolian mode, is merely a diatonic scale made up of seven notes. The natural minor level can certainly be used in different music styles such as pop, rock and other favorite music.
This scale is excellent when it comes to improvising over minor chords. It contains the major pentatonic scale as well as the relative minor pentatonic scale.
4. The Major Scale
The major scale is often used in different ways. The chords bent from this scale are frequently used to form chord progressions. Furthermore, this scale is also used to build modes.
Mainly used to play the solo over major seventh and significant sixth chords in jazz style songs, where the scale is used to change over different chords.
5. The Dorian Mode
When you eventually learn guitar scales, you will realize that the Dorian mode is used for soloing. Dorian mode is used frequently to form over minor chords infusion, mainly in jazz-based styles.
6. The Mixolydian Mode
The fifth mode of the major scale is called the Mixolydian mode. The Mixolydian mode is widely used in jazz and fusion based styles and produces fantastic results.
Acoustic Guitar Scales
When it comes to acoustic guitar scales, regardless of your music style, there are certain scales that you should know as a beginner (you will use them more than others).
The three main acoustic guitar scales for beginners are minor pentatonic, blues, and natural minor. The other three, the major pentatonic, the major blues, and the major are almost similar to the three since they use the same patterns and notes.
1. A Minor Pentatonic Scale
From the word Penta, you can easily notice that the minor pentatonic scale has 5 different notes. The scale degrees run from one, flat three, four, five, and flat seven. In the key of A, the notes are A, C, D, E, and G.
2. A Blue Scale
The blue scale is similar to the minor pentatonic but with one extra note. You simply add a flat five to the pentatonic scale notes. This gives you a scale degrees of one, flat three, four, flat five, five, and flat seven. In the key of A, the notes are A, C, D, E flat, E, and G.
3. A Natural Minor Scale
This is a seven notes scale. The scale degrees run from one, two, flat three, four, five, flat six, and flat seven. In the key A, the notes are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
4. C Major Scales
If you are keen, you will notice that the pentatonic minor scale is also present in the natural minor scale. As a beginner, you might or might not be accustomed to the C Major Scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.
The only difference between the A minor scale and the C major scale is where the notes start. For A minor, the notes start from A while the C major they start from C. This is why we said that the major scale is similar to the minor scales since they use the same notes.
Therefore, when you learn the A natural minor scale you can rest assured that you have also learned the major.
Electric Guitar Scales
The electric guitar scales has its unique scales. They include:
1. Major Scale
This is the mother and father of all music scales. Most of the popular music is based on this scale form heavy metal to classical music. For example, Songs by Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd are all based on major scales and pentatonic patterns. If you want to learn guitar, you need to know this pattern.
The fingers of the major scale in all the 12 keys are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A-sharp/B-flat, C-Sharp/D-flat, D-sharp/E-flat, F-sharp/G-flat, and G-sharp/A-flat.
2. Natural Minor
This scale is also called the aeolian scale or pure minor. It is mainly used in rock, jazz, classical music, and Latin to provide a darker sound than the major. It produces a more sad sound, contrary to the happier sound of the major scale. Some of the songs produced with this sound are Santana’s “Moon Flower” and “Europa” songs.
The fingerings of this scale in all 12 keys are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A-sharp/B-flat, C-sharp/D-flat, D-sharp/E-flat, F-sharp/G-flat, and G-sharp/A-flat.
3. Minor Pentatonic Scale
This scale is present in almost all kind of music from country to blues to jazz to rock. They are ideal for people who want to start witting their own solos. You can begin to make music using this scale almost immediately.
The fingerings of the minor pentatonic scales are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A-sharp/B-flat, C-sharp/D-flat, D-sharp/E-flat, F-sharp/G-flat, and G-sharp/A-flat.
4. Major Pentatonic Scale
This scale can present in country, melodic rock, jazz, and bluegrass music. It is mostly used to play progression in major keys.
It fingerings include A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A-sharp/B-flat, C-sharp/D-flat, D-sharp/E-flat, F-sharp/G-flat, and G-sharp/A-flat.
Why Learn Scales
There are different reasons why you should learn the above scales. They include:
- To get a better understanding of the music.
- To compose better music and write songs.
- To improve your hand synchronization and finger techniques.
- To learn how to play different melodies.
- To grow faster as a composer, writer, and singer.
Guitar Scales Chart
Here are a few tips to help you learn scales chart.
1. Don’t Learn Scales At Random
When you talk about music and the scales that exist, it is vital for you to plan which of them are more critical for you to learn and master. Only make a list of all the different scales that you are using in your style of music and do not go on to learn other unusual and obscure scales until you have an absolute command on the basic scales in your style of guitar playing.
2. Analyze Solo Guitar Playing And Focus On The Scales Used
It is essential to spend a few hours in a day monitoring how the different guitar players use scales in the music you hear. In addition to general ear training, spending this time will allow you to observe how the scales you are trying to master can be used to generate melodies and licks that merge to make guitar solos.
Fortunately, there are many great ways to master guitar that might help you to get more out of the efforts you put when learning scales.
Read More: Best Starter Guitar
3. Master The Guitar Fretboard Completely
When it comes to guitar playing the most common mistake the majority of beginner guitarists make while learning to play scales is only playing in a particular area of the guitar. The typical case of this for blues or say rock guitar players is to play the A minor pentatonic scale in the 5th point on the fretboard only and completely ignoring to learn it in other parts of the guitar.
4. Apply The Least Amount Of Pressure Necessary
Every beginner should try to play a series of notes quickly with the least amount of pressure to make the notes sound good. For this, a beginner needs to practice gradually and observe how much weight is perfect. This type of training and pressure exercise does take focus and patience. Once you start practicing, you will build up the habit of merely using suitable pressure in the long run. When the beginner applies less weight, this allows playing faster with less fatigue and much more fun.
How to Play Guitar Scales
Now that you have an idea of which scale you wish to learn, it is time to begin the fun part – practicing. The following tips will help you become a professional guitar player within days.
1. Move Up and Down the Whole Scale Pattern
This will help you to familiarize yourself with the scale and also act like a warm-up session. Examine all the patterns you want to learn and move down and then up without halting. Try using a metronome in order to ensure that your fingers move steadily.
2. Skipping Strings
This will help you to break out of down and up movement and enhance your management skills. By skipping strings, we mean that you begin with the 6th string or low E and play the notes on this string. Next, skip the 5th string, play the 4th string.
For example, you can play 6th string skip to 4th string move to 5th string skip to 3rd string move to 4th string skip to 2nd string move to 3rd string and finally skip to 1st string.
3. Speed Bursting Notes
Speed bursting involves playing the 1st note and then the next the three notes in quick sequences. Then start at the 2nd note and play the next three notes in quick sequences.
For example play 1-234, 2-345, 3-456, and so on. Also practice in descending manner 6-543, 5-432, 4-321, and so on.
4. Skipping Notes
Skipping notes in the scale will determine how well you have mastered the pattern. This trick works by beginning at the root note, skipping the following note, playing the next, then skipping the following one, and so on.
Once you have reached the end, start there as you move back toward the bottom while skipping notes. In short, play the odd numbers and then the even numbers.
See the figure below.
5. Randomize the Notes
This involves playing a random note to see how well you have mastered them. This will help you to break out of the predetermined sound that you might have learned when you started to learn how to play guitar scale.