Guitar Scales for Beginners

The wonderful world of music is for everyone. Anyone can learn to play an instrument if they put forward the heart and determination necessary to do so. Take it from us that there is no reason for not undertaking this beautiful practice. There are no excuses: you can do it. As you are learning to handle your new instrument, one of the first things you are likely to come across is the use of guitar scales. Guitar scales are the building blocks of any composition, essential tools that will teach you all about the instrument while helping you attain proper technique and knowledge of music theory.

If you are reading this article, you already have taken a great step towards your goal by seeking knowledge. We will take time here to show you some basic guitar scales that will have you sharpening your skills in no time. Learning the technique and poise necessary to be a great guitar player comes down to your level of commitment. What are you waiting for? Grab your instrument and keep on reading because we are about to get geeky about this.

What Is a Guitar Scale?

guitar chords

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A guitar scale is a series of notes that form part of an octave and that represent a variation of the chromatic scale of Western music. As a guitarist, you will learn to identify each semitone found in a scale by the frets on your guitar. The twelve semitones that make up the chromatic scale are as follows C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, and A#/Bb. You can play this scale by starting on the third fret of your A string and playing the fretted note of C then following the neck down one semitone at a time.

Building Blocks

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Guitar scales are building blocks because they not only help you better understand music theory but they also serve as excellent practice tools. Learning different scales will push you and test your technique, timing, posture and everything else. The more scales you learn the more you will build a strong repertoire of options when called upon to play. Scales can change the mood of a song, add flavor, highlight a piece of the music and so much more. There is nothing more essential to a guitarist than his knowledge of different guitar scales.


Guitar Scales Add Flavor


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A lot of the music you listen to has its feel and flavor from the scales that are being used to accompany the chords. The major scale is the most used scale in Western music, but there are exotic scales out there such as the E Persian (E-F-G-A-Bb-C-D3) which gets its flavor from its b5 or tritone interval. Give this scale a try, and you will surely hear the middle eastern feel it has. Guitar scales all have a feel of their own and pair with certain types of chords, the more scales you know the more flavor you can add to a song, and you can trust us that your band mates will love you for it.

What Guitar Scales Should I Learn First?

With so many guitar scales out there you may wonder which scales you should tackle first, no need to worry as we are here to help you with the essentials. The guitar scales we selected here are some of the most commonly used scales in the world and also some of the most recognizable. We will list the notes that form part of these scales so you can follow along and practice them on your own time. The most important step towards learning something new is visualizing what you will be doing.

Chromatic Scale

We have already mentioned the chromatic scale, but we wanted to emphasize the importance of learning the twelve notes that make up Western music as we know it today. Did you notice that B jumps to C without a semitone in between? The same occurs with E and F. It's remembering small things like these that can make you an excellent guitar player. Remember that for example C sharp (C#) is also D flat (Db) and so on with every sharp or flat note. Understanding the order of the chromatic scale will help you remember all these things.

Major Scale

We absolutely have to start with the major scale which is perhaps one of the most well-known scales around. The popular C major scale, for instance, contains the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B and then C again completes the eight notes or octave. The reason for the C major scale's popularity is that it includes no flats or sharps and therefore is easy to remember and excellent for beginners. The C major scale can be played anywhere on the fret board where a C is found and once you got the pattern down, you can start the major scale in any key you wish. Write down the notes that each scale contains.

Minor Scale

The minor scale has a beautiful tone to it and you have surely heard it in most of your favorite sad songs as it lends itself to that. As an example, the A minor scale is also popular with beginners as it contains the notes A,-B-C-D-E-F-G. It really gets no easier than the A minor scale and is a wonderful way to express a multitude of emotions through music. If you have not noticed yet the C major and A minor scales have the same notes in them which make them relative scales and interchangeable in songs. By experimenting with these two scales you will notice the differences in emotion.

How to Play Guitar Scales with Ease

Do not be intimidated by guitar scales as they are there to help you grow and not to frustrate you. There are a few things that can make them easier to play and make the whole experience more rewarding. Proper posture while playing, placing your hand on the neck and the position of your fingers are all crucial. It is always better to tackle good form early on, otherwise, you will find yourself with bad habits that will be very difficult to correct. Be strict with yourself and do not look for any shortcuts here as learning thoroughly at this stage and truthfully at any stage of guitar playing is important.


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Posture influences how you play. If you are sitting, you will want to stick your chest out slightly and straighten your back, sitting up straight essentially as we are sure your teacher told you more than once in school. The guitar should rest on your knee and you can lean forward just slightly but without losing that lengthening of your back and chest. When you are standing you will want to keep straight and have your chest slightly raised, your shoulders should be relaxed. You should set your guitar at the right height so you avoid bending your wrist too much if it is low or raising your shoulders if it is high.


person playing music on his guitar

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A good example of where your hand should be placed at all times is to place your thumb on the back of the neck and then use your middle finger as a guide to that thumb. Using your thumb and middle finger as the center point of your hand as it wraps around the neck will force your fingers to naturally curl and hover over the strings. Before you know it, this position will become second nature to you.


To play the C major scale for example, you will want to start with your middle finger on let's say the third fret of your A string, then your pinky should go down two semitones and land on the fifth fret which is D. Move over to the D string and set your index finger on the second fret which is E, then your middle finger one semitone down F, use your pinky to land two semitones down at G. To finish move over to the G string and use your index finger to play the note of A on the second fret, two semitones down you will land on the fourth fret which is B with your ring finger and finish with your pinky at the octave C.


We hope we covered the basics here and that you can discover the wonderful world of guitar scales on your own now. That C major scale you learned can be played in different keys and in various places on the fret board so have fun. We stress that you have fun as music is a beautiful way to spend your time and will surely teach you many valuable lessons along the way. Music connects us culturally and helps bring people together unlike anything else in the world. We are sure you will make the most out of your experience and will achieve your goals. We will leave you now, you've got some practicing to do.

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  1. Lesson 23: Here is where we really blow the fretboard up and you’ll learn how to move the blues scale all around the guitar to any key, major or minor, without learning any new patterns or shapes.

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