The Guitarist's Guide To Scales

Scales are the building blocks of music. They are a sequence of notes that provide a road map for just about everything including chord construction, chord progressions, songwriting, and soloing. Understanding scales is about as essential to a guitarist's survival as water is to a fish. Learning scales is kind of like learning what notes go together well when you're playing in a certain key.

The Scales section in the Guitar Alliance Member's Site will open up the world of scales to you and completely demystify any misconceptions you may already have about them.

While there are literally hundreds of scales, you won't have to memorize all them all. For the guitar you only need to know 1 scale pattern in 1 position to get started. That scale is the pentatonic.

The pentatonic scale is the most widely used scale by guitarists for soloing. It's the primary scale of choice in blues, rock, and country music soloing. Blues and Rock guitarists will use the pentatonic minor heavily and country guitarists will lean more towards using the pentatonic major.

The major and minor pentatonic scale share the same pattern. To change keys you'll simply move the pattern up or down the neck.

For the pentatonic scales (both major and minor) there are only 5 different patterns. By learning these 5 patterns (and realizing where the root note lies in the major and minor patterns) you are in fact learning 24 scales.

All you have to do to play them in a different key signatures is to play them so as the root note matches the key. For example if you're playing in the key of Am, you can play any of the minor pentatonic patterns so as the root note is on A. If you're playing in the key of C you can play the any of the major pentatonic patterns so that the root note is on C.

In effect you don't have to learn them in every key. You just have to learn the patterns. It's still a good idea to practice them in as many keys as possible, but at least your not learning additional patterns. The 5 patterns run the entire scale of the fretboad, so mastering all 5 will give you the means to play them anywhere on the neck.

Practice a scale pattern until you become familiar with all the tones in it, so you can move to whatever tone you want without delay. If you've noticed, a lot of great players like to toss lead licks in here and there during their rhythm playing. This is easier done if you use a scale that is on the same location of the neck as the chord your using.

Below is a sample lesson from the Scales section. In this sample lesson we'll take a look at 1 of the 5 basic major key scale patterns. To access the entire Scales section you'll have to become a Guitar Alliance Member at the bottom of the page.

Sample Lesson: A Look at the C Scale Pattern in Open Position

The C scale pattern is built around the open C chord pattern:

Here is the C scale pattern in open position:

See how the open C chord pattern fits right in (take special note of the root note marked by an "R"):

To practice the scale pattern: play an open C chord and then play up and down the scale pattern. Practice it over and over until you've got it memorized. Here's an example:

Now if we just played up and down the scale during a song, things would get dull quickly. Instead we'll mix and match the notes from the scale to create our own melodies, licks, and riffs.

Below are a few passages that I put together using the open C chord with the C scale pattern in open position. Notice how everything seems to gravitate to the C chord, or at least the root note.

Now that you've seen my examples, see if you can come up with your own! This will help you to solidify the pattern in your mind.

Learn more about the use of scales in the Guitar Alliance Member's Site. Click here to find out more!

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