AllgemeinArtist developmentGuitarMusic Theory

5 mandatory scales for guitar players

If you are a beginning guitar player who wants to upgrade to an intermediate level, so you can improve your songwriting as well, then understanding the following scales for guitar players and what they are useful for is a great starting point!

Carve out half and hour or so and grab your guitar to play around with the following scales. It will help you grasp the concepts a lot sooner than merely reading about it!

To begin with, we should recap what a scale actually is. A musical scale is defined as a sequence of specific notes within one octave. The notes on a scale can be played in ascending or descending order (walking up or down the scale like you would walk on a staircase). Once you know the notes by heart, you can play them in any given order and make up a melody or a fun solo riff. A scale can be applied to all keys. So you can move the scale shapes up and down across the guitar fret, if using a capo, or transposing it to other keys without the help of a capo as well. With regard to the Pentatonic Scales, there are actually 5 positions for both minor and major shapes, that will help you shift to any given key easily across the entire fretboard.

One basic scale for guitar players to begin with, would be the Major Scale (which we will apply in the key of C). Let´s go:

1) Major Scale in the Key of C

Why it is useful:

The Major Scale in the Key of C equals all white notes played on a piano. It is a very basic scale, which is often applied in popular music. The Major Scale sets a bright and happy mood and is useful when writing melodies.

How it is built:

The interval pattern of the Major Scale (doesn’t matter which Key), when moving from one note to the next is:

Wholestep, Wholestep, Halfstep, Wholestep, Wholestep, Wholestep, Halfstep

This results in 7 notes being played out: 

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-and back to 8 (=1, but once octave higher)

Notes comprised in the Key of C are therefor:

C -D-E- F- G- A- B- C

The Key of C has no sharps or flats, so it is a very clean key to play in. you can play it on the guitar in an open position starting on the 3rd fret of the A string, then pulling the D string, then the second and third fret on the D string, followed by the G string, the second fret on the G string, the B string and ending on the first fret of the B string.

2)  Minor Scale in the Key of C

Why it is useful:

The Minor Scale is like a moody sibling of a Major Scale. It sounds a little more dissonant and is often applied in melancholic balads in folk, pop and rock music, as well as in soul and jazz. Minor Scales sound rather dramatic. We will look at the C-Minor Scale today so you can play it against the C-Major scale and compare the feels.

How it is built:

The interval pattern of the scale, when moving from one note to the next is:

Wholestep, Halfstep, Wholestep, Wholestep, Halfstep, Wholestep, Wholestep

As with the Major Scale we use 7 notes:

1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and back to 8 (=1, but once octave higher)

Notes comprised in the Key of C are therefor:

C D D# (you could also call it Eb) F-G-G# (or Ab)-B-C

As you can see, this time around we have some sharps or flats in it. They make the scale sound a lot more dissonant.

To play on the guitar I suggest starting on the 3rd fret of the A string again, then hitting the D string, the first fret on the D string, the 3rd fret on the D string, the G string, the first fret on the G string, the 3rd fret on the G string and straight to the 1st fret on the B string.

3) Major Pentatonic Scale in A

Why it is useful:

The Pentatonic Scale is a scale that only comprises 5 notes. It is often used for soloing over certain chords, so learning the scale shapes so you can play them by heart is highly recommended.

The pattern for a Major Pentatonic shape is:

Wholestep, Wholestep, Wholestep + Halfstep, Wholestep

So the notes played out are:

1-2-3-5-6

Notes comprised in the Key of A are therefor:

A-B-C#-E-F#

There are plenty of options to play the scale on the guitar. You have 5 positions or “shapes” you can play this scale depending on where you want to play them along the fretboard. I recommend you check this out: https://deftdigits.com/2013/08/06/the-5-major-pentatonic-positions/

4) Minor Pentatonic Scale in A

Same concept as with the Major Pentatonic Scale. Just like the Major Pentatonic Scale, knowing this scale is helpful for soloing in genres like rock, funk, blues and many more.

The pattern for a Minor Pentatonic shape is:

Wholestep + Halfstep, Wholestep, Wholestep, Wholestep + Halfstep

So the notes played out are:

1-3-4-5-7

Notes comprised in the Key of A are therefor:

A-C-D-E-G

Find the Minor Pentatonic shapes here: https://yourguitarbrain.com/minor-pentatonic-scale-positions/

5) Blues Scales

The Blues Scales are scales comprising 6 notes and deriving from the Minor or Major Pentatonic scales, but just adding one extra note. This note is referred to as the blue note.

In a Minor Blues Scale, it is often a flat 5th note or a flat 7th note that is being added to the Minor Pentatonic scale.

In a Major Blues Scale, it is often a flat 3rd that is being added to the Major Pentatonic scale.

Conclusion

While this was some theory to help you build the scales in whichever key you like, I highly recommend practising the pentatonic major and minor shapes along the fretboard as well as the C-Major Scale. Eventually you will want to learn the blues scale shapes as well! But remember, once you understand how to build scales, you can always just count your way to the added flats and sharps that are so typical of blues.

Hope this was helpful! Once you can start soloing over certain chord shapes, you will be able to improve your songwriting by adding some fancy instrumental parts.

Since this blog is an unsalaried service, we would appreciate if you considered making a donation to help us sustain ourselves. Consider it a tip for a cup of coffee, which I´m sure we´re all passionate about!


And make sure to sign up to our newsletter right here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *