Learn Guitar Scales

In this guide you’ll discover how to learn guitar scales, specifically the Major, Minor and Minor Pentatonic.

You’ll have an understanding of how the scales are made and how to play them as a basic 6th string shape in any key.

First, let’s take a look at the possible notes we can have, this is the Chromatic Scale, because it includes all of them:

A scale is just a collection of notes that sound “good” when played together, its governed by some musical theory but we’ll just dive in and learn some guitar scales.

The Minor Pentatonic Guitar Scale

This is a 5 note scale, and the way we build it is to apply a simple pattern to the Chromatic scale above. It also has a really easy corresponding shape on the guitar, we’ll take a look at that first, then talk about the notes in the scale.

And if you’ve been reading guitar chord diagrams you’ll need to tilt your head to one side to read this properly

This shape can be played anywhere along the neck of the guitar, I’m showing you how you should be using your fingers to play each note, so you start at the bottom left, let’s pretend you’re on the 3rd fret, 6th string… that’s a G.

Place your index finger on the G and play the note, now get your pinky 3 frets up (the number 4 represents your pinky in this case), this will bring you to the 6th fret, 6th string and play that note.

The pattern produces 5 notes, then repeats. We start off with G on the 3rd fret, 6th string, then move one and a half semitones up to an A# (6th string, 6th fret). Then we go a whole tone up to C, another whole tone up to D, then one and a half tones to F and a final whole tone back to G.

The pattern to remember is this

  1. One and a Half Tones (represented by TS – Tone Semitone)
  2. Whole Tone (represented by T)
  3. Whole Tone
  4. One and a Half Tones
  5. Whole Tone

Root note – TS – T – T – TS – T – Root note (octave higher)

The Major Scale on Guitar

The Major Scale is easiest to play if you start with your 2nd finger on the root note, then use your pinky finger 2 frets up, come down a string, back one fret from the root note with your index finger, then your 2nd finger one fret up and your pinky finger a further 2 frets up, check out the scale shape below:

It uses the pattern of

Root note – T – T – SemiTone (ST) – T – T – T – ST – Root note (octave higher)

If you start on the 3rd fret, the G note, the notes in the scale look like this:

G – A – B – C- D – E – F# – G (octave higher)

The Minor Scale on Guitar

Here’s the shape for the minor scale on guitar, once you start playing it you’ll notice how moody it sounds, you’ll get some good mileage using these notes in order when you play lead guitar, put a few slides in with a hammer on and you’ll get a nice rich sound out of it.

The pattern follows

Root note – T – ST – T – T – ST – T – T – Root note (octave higher)

If you start on the 5th fret, the A note, the notes in the scale look like this:

A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A (octave higher)

Once you’re at least familiar with these patterns you can return to my guide on how to play guitar. We’ll get more in depth on these scales a little later on.

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