Guitar Scales

Does drilling through guitar scales sound like a drag? No need to sugarcoat it because it definitely can be. But did you know that scales are the gateway to playing licks, riffs, and solos? Hopefully that sweetens the deal a little. So what is a scale? Here's a simple definition: a succession of notes played in a certain key determined by its root note.

You can certainly get by playing the guitar with just a handful of chords. But if you REALLY want to excel - like being able to jam along with other musicians and quickly pick up new melodies just by listening -you're going to need to know all your scales. Well, maybe not all of them, but at least these four: major, minor, pentatonic, and last but not least, blues. Different scales have different rules, like which notes to play sharp or flat, or how far you play one note to the next. So let's crack the code go through a few!

If you've ever seen The Sound of Music then you already know the classic C major scale with the song "Do-Re-Mi." It sounds happy, upbeat and is the easiest scale to play because none of the notes are sharp or flat. It's a simple C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. To transform this C major scale into a C minor, simply play flat the E, A, and B.

Now let's dive into the pentatonic and blues scales since they're the most common in rock and blues music. A pentatonic scale is aptly named because there are only 5 different notes. For consistency sake, let's stick with the key of C, which would make the pentatonic major scale C-D-E-G-A-C. To turn this into a minor pentatonic, nix the D, make flat the E, add the F, nix the A, and add a Bb, so it's: C-Eb-F-G-Bb-C. That was a mouthful but try playing it on the guitar a few times and you'll get the hang of it. The classic blues scale just takes the pentatonic minor and adds a Gb after the G, and a Bb after that: C-Eb-F-G-Gb-Bb-C.

At Guitar Tricks®, we have 24 lessons dedicated to the world of scales along with a slick Scale Finder app where you could hear up to 20 different scale types, in every root note, and in five different patterns all visualized on a fretboard. And if you feel confident with your pentatonic and blues scales, turn all that practice into play with these songs:


"Heartbreaker," Pat Benatar - minor pentatonic
"My Girl," The Temptations - major pentatonic