Learning Guitar Scales – A 3 Step Guide

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

Love the sound of lead guitar? Find out who the best guitarists of ALL time are here:100 Greatest Guitarists | Rolling Stone

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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.

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