Learning Guitar Scales – A 3 Step Guide

Wondering how you start learning guitar scales? This guitar lesson will show you 3 simple-steps that will turn you into a scale master. 

learning guitar scales

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • 6 scale hacks that will turn you into a lead guitar guru.
  • 4 essential guitar licks that will make you sound amazing.
  • The no1 secret to learning scales fast.
  • 2 quick & easy tricks which will accelerate your scale progress.

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Step 1) Understanding and Learning Guitar Scales

So, what is a guitar scale?

  • A guitar scale is a group of notes which can be played together.

Scales can be used to create catchy or rippin guitar solos. They are heard EVERYWHERE in music.

Major And Minor Scales

Guitar scales can be broken up into two categories. Those are:

  • Major scales.
  • Minor scales.

The first scales that you should learn are:

  • The ‘major pentatonic’ scale.
  • The ‘minor pentatonic’ scale.

Let’s learn them.

The Major Pentatonic Scale

 

learning guitar scales

This example is in the key of ‘G’. Therefore it is a ‘G major pentatonic scale’.

Here’s what it sounds like:

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

learning guitar scales

The minor pentatonic scale is an essential scale for blues and rock. This minor pentatonic scale is in the key of ‘G’. Therefore it’s a G minor pentatonic scale.

What Is A Pentatonic Scale?

A ‘pentatonic scale’ is a 5 note scale. The best way to understand pentatonic scales is to think of them as smaller versions of their related scale types.

  • The major pentatonic uses the same notes as the major scale.
  • The minor pentatonic uses the same notes as the minor scale.

Let’s take at a look at the difference major and minor scales and their pentatonic siblings.

Here’s a major scale:

learning guitar scales

Here’s a major pentatonic scale:

learning guitar scales

Can you see how they both use the same pattern? However there are less notes in the major pentatonic.

This is the same for the minor scale. Let’s compare.

Here’s the minor scale:

learning guitar scales

Here’s the minor pentatonic:

learning guitar scales

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again. Click here to download your copy.

 

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Notice how the minor pentatonic uses the EXACT same notes from the minor scale, it just uses less of them.

Let’s learn how to play the major and minor scale in more detail.

The Major Scale

The major scale is one of the most commonly used guitar scales in music. Let’s learn it.

This example is in the key of ‘G’. Therefore it is a G major scale.

learning guitar scales

The numbers bellow the tab relate to what fingers you should use. For example, on the 3rd fret of the low E string. (6th string.) You must your 2nd finger. On the 5th, use your 4th finger.

learning guitar scales

To learn more about how to read guitar tabs, go here: How To Read Guitar Tabs

Using individual fingers for each note in a scale is a great way of enhancing your dexterity and technique.

The Minor Scale

There are many different variations of the minor scale. However, in this lesson we’re going to learn the ‘natural minor scale’.

For this example, we’re going to learn this scale in the key of ‘G. Therefore this is a G minor scale.

learning guitar scales

Pro Scale Tip!

When you learn guitar scales, you MUST play each note slowly. Learning scales slowly makes it easier to remember each pattern.

Now we’ve learned how to play each scale, let’s take a look at how we can practice them.

Step 2) How To Practice Guitar Scales

One key aspect which many guitarists miss when learning scales is how to practice them. This is often why scales get seen as being boring.

In most cases it’s because they’re not being practiced in the right way!

We’re going to show you four awesome ways to help you get great at learning guitar scales.

1) Learning Guitar Scales – Going Up And Down The Scale

This is the first technique that most people go for when learning guitar scales. All we do is go up the scale then come back down.

Make sure you take your time with each of these scales and go through each note slowly and precisely.

We’re going to be using the G major scale for all of our examples today, but you can apply this to ANY of the scales we’ve learnt so far.

Here’s the tab:

learning guitar scales

2) Learning Guitar Scales – The String Skipping Trick

The next exercise we’re going to look is what’s known as string skipping.

All we’re going to do here is:

  • Play the first string (The low E string)  in the scale.
  • Skip over the A string. (5th string.)
  • Go to the next string (The D string) and play the notes of the scale on that string.
  • Go back to the string before. (The A string.)
  • Then skip again!

You repeat this until you get to the end of the strings!

So it would go like this.

  • Scale Notes on E string. (6th string.)
  • Scale Notes on D string. (4th string.)
  • Scale Notes on A string. (5th string.)
  • Scale Notes on G string. (3rd string.)
  • Scale notes on D string. (4th string.)
  • Scale Notes on B string. (2nd string.)
  • Scale notes on G string. (3rd string.)
  • Scale notes on E string. (1st string.)

Here’s the tab:

learning guitar scales

If you master this, try doing the same exercise but backwards.

Learning Guitar Scales – Ascending Up 4 Notes At A Time

This one is a finger twist, but is perfect for enhancing your dexterity and technique.

In this exercise we’re going to go up 4 notes of the scale, and then go back and start at the next note in the scale.

If you think of the notes in the scale as 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

The pattern would go like this.

  • 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • 4, 5, 6, 7.

Bearing in mind too that the scale is two octaves, this means that the notes appear twice throughout the scale, but on the second time round they are an octave higher.

learning guitar scales

This scale pattern is tricky, so take it one step at a time. If you have to learn it in smaller chunks that’s absolutely fine.

Learning Guitar Scales – Playing The Scale In All 12 Keys

This is one of THE most useful skills that you can learn on the guitar. Learning guitar scales in all keys is essential if you want to enhance your musical knowledge.

Guitar scales are moveable shapes. This means you can use the same scale ALL over the fret board. All you have to do is, move it to a different fret.

Try this, play a G major scale. (Starting on the 3rd fret.)

Move the exact same shape up two frets.

Here’s the tab:

 

learning guitar scales

When you play this scale, you are playing a major scale in the key of ‘A’.

Why does this work?

This works because you have changed the root note of the scale. The root note of the scale, determines what key the scale is in.

To learn more about root notes go here: Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

This is a powerful tool, as it means we can use the same shape anywhere across the fretboard. All you have to do is move your scale to a different fret.

To do this, you must know what ALL of the root notes are on the low ‘E’ string (6th string) are. Here they are:

 

learning guitar scales

Whenever, you change your starting note, you are changing the key of scale. For example, if you move your major scale to the 6th fret. Your major scale now becomes a ‘Bb major scale’.

As a challenge, try this:

  • Play the major scale in ALL keys.
  • Play the minor scale in ALL keys.
  • Play the major pentatonic in ALL keys.
  • Play the minor pentatonic in ALL keys.

To learn more scales, go here: Learn Guitar Scales In 8 Easy Steps

learning guitar scales

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3) Using Scales To Improvise

The one mistake that many students make when learning guitar scales, is that they don’t improvise or experiment with guitar scales. This is the BEST way to learn guitar scales.

Let’s take a look at how we can learn to improvise with guitar scales.

How Do I Use Guitar Scales To Improvise?

Before you use guitar scales in a solo, you MUST understand how musical keys works. This will help you understand where and when you can use your guitar scales.

Here’s a simple trick that you can use to become a scale master:

  • Anything that is in a major key. Use a major scale or major pentatonic.
  • Anything that is in a minor key. Use a minor scale or minor pentatonic.

The key of the piece, relates to the key of the scale.

For example, if something is in the key of C major, use a C major scale or C major pentatonic.

Or if something is in the key of A minor, use a A minor scale or A minor pentatonic.

To learn more about guitar keys, go here: How To Play Lead Guitar

Experiment And Have Fun!

Once you’re comfortable with your major and minor scale shapes. Find a backing track on YouTube and experiment with using these scales.

The best way to learn how to improvise is to try and experiment with the shapes you know. By doing this, you start to become creative with using the scale that you’ve learnt.

Try and improvise over the following backing tracks.

G Minor Backing Track

You can use the following scales over this backing track:

  • The G minor scale.
  • The G minor pentatonic.

G Major Backing Track

You can use the following scales over this backing track.

  • G major scale.
  • G major pentatonic.

Remember, the beauty of improvisation is that there is no right or wrong!

However, if you find improvising difficult, you might find it easier to learn some guitar licks. We’re going to show you 4 awesome guitar licks which will make you sound amazing. Let;s get started,

Lick 1 – The Major Scale Lick

The first lick we’re going to learn uses the major scale. This example is in G, so will work of anything in the key of G.

learning guitar scales

Lick 2 – The Major Pentatonic Lick

The major pentatonic is a great scale to create licks out of! The notes are spaced well together and can create all sorts of interesting combinations.

Check out this burnin’ guitar lick.

learning guitar scales

This would sound great over a G major blues or a E minor backing track.

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Lick 3 – The Minor Scale Lick

This lick is fantastic and has a bit of a spanish texture to it, this would sound great over a slow ballad or a latin track in the key of G minor. Experiment with it and see what tracks you can fit it over.

learning guitar scales

Lick 4 – The Minor Pentatonic Lick

This is another great lick, it would sound awesome over a fast rock track or a blues in the key of G.

This lick will take your guitar playing to a new level.

learning guitar scales

Practice Licks In All 12 Keys

All of these licks are in the key of ‘G’. However make sure you experiment using them in all 12 keys. To do this you just start each lick from a different position on the fretboard.

Each lick was created using a scale, so if you’re unsure of what key it’s in,you can revert back to the original scale shape.

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

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