Jump to content

Guitar Scales

  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 Nealio



  • Ombudsman
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 35,503 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Dundalk, Ireland
  • Donator:Yes, Once
  • Original Name: nealmac

Posted 15 April 2010 - 05:06 AM

Guitar Scales

Most Western music divides the musical octave (when one note is twice as high as another) into 12 sections, called semitones. On the guitar, each semitone is represented by a fret. Scales start and stop on the octave, and the most common scales (Major and Minor) consists of seven different notes, other scales may use more or less than seven notes.

It is important to remember that on the guitar, if you know the pattern of a particular scale, you can move that pattern anywhere else on the fret board and be playing in a different key. By this, I mean if you are playing a major scale, beginning on the low E string at the fifth fret, which is an A note and then you played the same pattern of notes, but you started on the 3rd fret of the low E string, you will be playing a G major scale. If this sounds confusing to you, read the entire article, and if it is still unclear, see the musical scale article on Wikipedia or the Music Theory wikibook.

There are many different scales: the major scale, three different forms of the minor scale, the blues scale, the pentatonic scale, the whole tone scale, the diminished scale and some scales that originated in Spain and India. There are also very interesting scales from eastern music. It is possible to create your own scales by altering another as you wish, or completely coming up with your own.

The "Circle of Fifths" is a memory aid for learning the major and minor scales which can equally be applied to all scales. The scales in common use have evolved over many centuries and the established major scale, followed by the natural minor and then the two variants: the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale form the basis of Western music. The "Circle of Fifths" and major scales in tab can be found in the Scale Manual section of this book.
All scales in this section are tabbed out for the key of A, meaning that the root note of the scale is on the 5th fret of the low E string. Starting the scale here provides lots of room up and down the neck to play, and helps you learn to make connections between different scale shapes.


1 Pentatonic Scales 
   1.1 A Minor Pentatonic 
      1.1.1 Learning the Scale 
      1.1.2 The Blues scale 
   1.2 Major Pentatonic 
2 Major Scale 
3 Natural Minor Scale 
4 Harmonic Minor Scale 
5 Melodic Minor Scale 
6 Hungarian Minor 
   6.1 Derived chords 
7 Church Modes

Pentatonic Scales
Pentatonic scales are the least complicated, because they only use five notes rather than the seven notes used in the major scale and the other scale modes (see below). Learning the major and minor pentatonic scale patterns is a good starting point, because they are used so frequently by guitarists in all genres.

A Minor Pentatonic
Most guitarists feel comfortable beginning with the A minor pentatonic, which is the single most popular scale for solos in Western music. Most guitarists know this shape of the Am pentatonic scale by heart, mainly because it is so frequently used in solos. It can also be used for pretty much anything, especially if you want to give it a slightly melancholy sound.

Remember that this scale pattern (and any other scale pattern) can be moved up and down the fretboard therefore allowing the guitarist to play in many different keys using the one shape.

Posted Image

In this diagram, the notes are ordered sequentially up the scale (going higher in pitch). The different octaves of the root note of the scale (in this case, the A note) are highlighted with a yellow dot.

Learning the Scale
When you are learning any scale, it is helpful to break it down into smaller chunks, which can be practiced and memorized much more easily. With the A minor pentatonic scale, it is most commonly broken down into these sections.

Section 1:
e |--0-------3--
B |-----1----3--
G |--0-----2----
D |--0-----2----
A |--0-------3--
E |--0-------3--

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic Ex1

Section 2:
e |-----3-----5--
B |-----3-----5--
G |--2--------5--
D |--2--------5--
A |-----3-----5--
E |-----3-----5--

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic Ex2

Section 3:
e |--5--------8--
B |--5--------8--
G |--5-----7-----
D |--5-----7-----
A |--5-----7-----
E |--5--------8--

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic Ex3

Section 4:
e |-----8-----10-
B |-----8-----10-
G |--7-----9-----
D |--7--------10-
A |--7--------10-
E |-----8-----10-

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic Ex4

Section 5:
e |----10----12--
B |----10------13
G |--9-------12--
D |----10----12--
A |----10----12--
E |----10----12--

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic Ex5

Practice these basic shapes, one note at a time, because if you learn them well, you will discover that they constantly reappear. Play the shape up and down, and practice things like alternate picking or tremolo picking. It will take a while to learn the shapes by heart, but once you do, practice playing the scale at different places on the fretboard. This is essential - and start early on, or instead of focusing on learning the pattern of frets, you will focus on the individual frets you are playing, and familiar patterns will seem unfamiliar at different places on the fretboard.

The Blues scale
You can easily modify the minor pentatonic scale by adding a single note and turning it into the blues scale. In the below digram, A blues scale is shown at the fifth fret. The number represent the frets played, and the numbers in parentheses represent the Blue Note which, as the name suggests, is the major source of the blues vibe in the scale. The blue note is not actually part of the Minor Pentatonic scale, although it is often added in for extra colour.

e |--5--------8--
B |--5--------8--
G |--5-----7-(8)-
D |--5-----7-----
A |--5-(6)-7-----
E |--5--------8--

Posted Image

A minor pentatonic including "blue" notes

Major Pentatonic
The major pentatonic is a little more complicated than the minor pentatonic, but if you look carefully you will notice some similarities to the minor pentatonic scale.

Posted Image

It may be difficult to notice immediately, but if you compare the A major pentatonic and the A minor pentatonic, you will notice that patterns are almost exactly the same. Once difference is that the minor pentatonic scale pattern is shifted to the RIGHT three frets to make the major scale pattern. Look carefully, and you will see that this is true for every single note.

The other major difference between the two scales is they use different starting notes, which is the main reason why one has a different sound than the other. Understanding this is important for understanding the Church Modes, and other aspects of how scales are related to one another.

e |-----5---------
B |-----5-----7---
G |--4-----6------
D |--4--------7---
A |--4--------7---
E |-----5-----7---

Posted Image

A major pentatonic scale - two octaves

Practice this the same way you practice the minor pentatonic scale. When you feel completely comfortable with both pentatonic scales, begin to explore the other different scales.

Major Scale
The pattern for any major scale is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1, meaning that the difference from the first note to the second is 2 frets, from the second to the third is 1 fret, etc. The difference in notes can also be called steps, 2 notes being a whole step, and 1 note being a half step. This pattern in steps can be shown as W-W-H-W-W-W-H.
Major scale in the key of A
A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A

W   W    H   W   W    W    H

Posted Image

A major scale - two octaves

Natural Minor Scale
The pattern for any natural minor scale is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2, shown in steps as W-H-W-W-H-W-W

Natural Minor Scale in the key of A


e |------------------------------5--
 B |------------------------5-6-8----
 G |------------------4-5-7----------
 D |--------------5-7----------------
 A |--------5-7-8--------------------
 E |--5-7-8--------------------------

Posted Image

A natural minor scale - two octaves

The first position movable shape for this scale is shown:


Harmonic Minor Scale
The harmonic minor scale is much harder than the pentatonic scales, but definitely satisfying over some minor chords. It gives you a rather "middle-eastern" kind of sound.

But the shape works in any key, just move the shape up or down the neck:

e |--4--5-----7--8--
B |-----5--6--------
G |--4--5-----7-----
D |--------6--7-----
A |-----5-----7--8--
E |-----5-----7--8--

Posted Image

A harmonic minor scale - two octaves

This looks a little more complicated, and is certainly more difficult to get to sound nice, but when you have mastered it it will sound great!

Melodic Minor Scale
This scale is actually two scales. Thus when one speaks of a "melodic minor" pattern, one refers to two patterns - one ascending and one descending.

e |-----4--5-----7--8--
B |--------5-----7-----
G |-----4--5-----7-----
D |-----4-----6--7-----
A |--3-----5-----7-----
E |--------5-----7-----

This is best illustrated by playing the melodic minor scale. Below is the A melodic minor scale in tab; note the sharps when ascending and the naturals when descending.

Posted Image

A melodic minor scale - one octave

The ascending pattern is constructed by raising the 6th and 7th steps of the natural minor scale. So, if you take the major scale, the 3rd will be flatted, while the normally flatted 6th and 7th are raised and become natural. Basically it is the major scale with a flatted 3rd.
The descending pattern is similar to the descending pattern except the 6th and 7th aren't raised. So it is basically a natural minor scale.

Hungarian Minor
The Hungarian minor scale is a type of combined musical scale. It is akin to the harmonic minor scale, except that it bears a raised fourth. Its tonal center is slightly ambiguous, due to the large number of half steps. Also known as Double Harmonic Minor, or Harmonic Minor #4, it figures prominently in Eastern European music, particularly in gypsy music. Melodies based on this scale have an exotic, romantic flavor.
e |--7--8-----10--11--
B |--7--8--9----------
G |--7--8-------------
D |--------9--10------
A |--------9--10--11--
E |-----8-----10--11--

Posted Image

C Hungarian minor scale - one octave

A Hungarian minor scale in the key of C would proceed as follows: C D Eb F# G Ab B. Its scale degrees are 1 2 b3 #4 5 b6 7, and its step pattern is w - h - + - h - h - + - h, where w indicates a whole step, h indicates a half step, and + indicates an augmented second, which looks like a minor third on a keyboard but is notationally distinct.

Derived chords
Chords that may be derived from the Hungarian minor scale are:

Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
C Minor             D7 Flat Fifth       E Flat Augmented         G Major           A Flat Seventh        B Minor Sixth

This scale is obtainable from the *Arabic scale by starting from the fourth of that scale. Said another way, the C Hungarian minor scale is equivalent to the G Arabic scale.

In the video game, The Illusion of Gaia (published by the Enix Corporation), the flute melody found in the Inca Ruins uses the C Hungarian minor scale (a #4 is used in the second phrase); this music is also quoted when the player reaches the Larai Cliff stage of the game, transposed to D.

Joe Satriani has composed several songs using the Hungarian minor scale.

Church Modes
Back when music was originally being standardized, music was divided into 8 sections, rather than 12, and all compositions were written in that scale. However, the problem with this is that eventually everything begins to sound the same. So in order to combat this problem, they developed different modes of the scale, which essentially just means playing the same notes, but choosing a different starting note.

For example, in the key of C, the notes are C D E F G A B C. If you wanted to play in the 2nd mode, called the Dorian mode, then you would just play the same notes, but start on the second note. So instead you would play D E F G A B C D.
The different modes are called:

• Ionian
• Dorian
• Phrygian
• Lydian
• Mixolydian
• Aeolian
• Locrian

The phrygian mode - E F G A B C D E - is of special interest to flamenco players. The third and seventh degrees are often sharpened, giving the scale notes E F G# A B C D# E. This arrangement is commonly used in descending form. The second degree of the scale is referred to as a leaning note, which means the note tends to fall one semitone. In this case F falls to E.

That's it for this lesson. If you spot any mistakes, just send me a PM.


#2 zauvekrock

  • Member
  • 9 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Serbia
  • Original Name: zauvekrock

Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:24 AM

great job ! :) Talking about scales, ive found great book about them ! its guitar book called : "Exotic Scales - New Horizons For Jazz Improvisation"

you can find it online for free on torents :D
book contains every possible scale. some are weird, but some are really interesting and usefull if you want to experiment and come out of monothony.
i can put direct link for download ,but you can also find it all over internet :D
book also contain some basic theory which will help you understand whats happening further in book .

#3 Nealio



  • Ombudsman
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 35,503 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Dundalk, Ireland
  • Donator:Yes, Once
  • Original Name: nealmac

Posted 09 November 2012 - 06:44 AM

Personally, I thought this book was aces: http://www.amazon.co...p/dp/1929395094

#4 zauvekrock

  • Member
  • 9 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Serbia
  • Original Name: zauvekrock

Posted 09 November 2012 - 12:08 PM

ive looked into that book, it has kinda same stuff in it as this i posted :) they cant really go much different on same subject ...
@Neal, check out my topic, ive posted basic lesson for modes . can you sugest any topics which this forum lack of, so i can maybe work on that ?

Edited by zauvekrock, 09 November 2012 - 12:09 PM.

#5 Nealio



  • Ombudsman
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 35,503 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Dundalk, Ireland
  • Donator:Yes, Once
  • Original Name: nealmac

Posted 12 November 2012 - 07:15 AM

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your contributions :)

As for stuff we are lacking, well basically, as you can see, we set up this area, but it never really got very far. As many tabs as we can get would be what we're really looking for. Obviously there are loads on the internet, but having them in here, in alphabetical order is what we're aiming for (ie one band per thread). Once a new tab is added, I (or another moderator) can add it to the index in the pinned thread.

#6 drvmusic

  • Member
  • 3 posts
  • Original Name: drvmusic

Posted 02 April 2013 - 07:54 AM

This is fantastic! Thank you! I have been looking for a study that breaks it down like this for a long time!!! - DRV

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

Please consider donating to GuitarZone.com.
With more and more people using ad blocking add-ons for browsers, ad revenue has plummeted.
If you can spare even US$5 it would mean a lot to help pay for GZ's monthly server bill.
Thank you to all. Cheers! --Rob

Method #1: PayPal

Click 'Donate' above
to donate with any
major credit card or
existing PayPal funds.

E-mail on record with PayPal
[ ]

Method #2: Bitcoin

Option A )  Scan Bitcoin QR Code

Scan above box with mobile phone, or click...

Option B )  Copy and Paste Bitcoin Address


Copy above address and paste into Bitcoin app...

Learn more about Bitcoin...