Beginner Guitar Scales
Quickly learn 5 essential scales on the guitar to improve your skills
Last Updated: June 2021
If you’re a new guitar player, learning scales is an essential skill you can’t ignore.
In this post we’ll go over the 5 most important beginner guitar scales around.
You’ll learn exactly how to play these scales in every single key.
Stuff You Need to Know
If you’re completely new to playing guitar, then the first thing you should do is read our complete beginner’s guide to learning guitar.
You’ll learn all the basics there. In addition to that, if you’re not familiar with what scales are, how they’re formed and what they do you need to brush up on basic music theory.
But since you’re here, a scale is a series of notes that sound like they all go together when played in a particular order. Songs are written with a specific scale (or “key”) in mind.
They are the basic building blocks to chords and songs.
How to Read the Guitar Scale Diagrams
The guitar scale diagrams below show you the basic pattern each scale uses.
The red dots are the ROOT notes (1st note/tone) of each scale. The black dots are the rest of the notes within the scale.
Read the diagrams left to right, starting at the left-most RED DOT on the bottom line, moving upwards to the last red dot. The bottom line is the 6th guitar string (thickest) and the top line is the 1st string (thinnest).
There are no note letters on any diagram. That means you can use that same pattern to play that scale in any key. For example, the C major scale uses the same pattern as the D# Major scale, it just starts in a different spot on the fret board.
The diagrams do not have any finger numbers on the dots, because depending on where you start on the fret board, different fingers may be easier to use than others. Play around until you find something you’re comfortable with.
Knowing Which Scale You’re Playing
So how do you know which scale you’re on? You know your guitar strings right? The 6th string is the low E if you play it open (no fret). Every fret up the fret board raises that E note up a half step.
If you’re using the scale patterns below starting on the first fret you’re playing the F scale, because the F note is a half step above E. If you start on the second fret instead, you’re starting on F#/Gb, since that’s a half step above F.
The same goes for all the other strings.
Each scale below spans 2 octaves and starts/ends on the root note of the scale you’re playing.
Want even more scales to practice? Check out these guitar lessons that have some extremely comprehensive scale libraries.
How to Practice the Guitar Scales Below
It’s always a good idea to start slowly and make sure you’re hitting each note cleanly. Then start speeding up while keeping good form and sound.
Make sure you’re playing the skill up (ascending) and down (descending) each time.
Start with one type of scale, and try to play it on each of the 12 notes available to you.
Practice for 15-30 minutes every day.
The Guitar Scales all Beginners NEED to Know
OK, now that that’s out of the way, here are the 5 most basic guitar scales you need to know.
Memorize these patterns, and you’ll be able to play the scale in any key on the guitar.
The Major Scale on Guitar
The major scale in music is extremely popular and widely used. It, along with the minor scale, is something you’ll come across when playing music over and over again.
Beyond this, if you know the major scale, you’re half way to unlocking a number of other more advanced scales (more precisely, modes).
The Guitar Natural Minor Scale
This is another very popular music scale, and is used a lot in hip-hop and rock. It’s got a very melancholy, sad vibe to it.
But it doesn’t have to be a “sad” song. It can work great in a lot of different contexts.
Major Pentatonic Scale on Guitar
The major pentatonic guitar scale may not be as popular as the major and minor scales, but it’s just as important to learn – especially for beginners.
It’s called pentatonic because it only contains 5 notes, but it’s known as the “grand master” of all scales.
Learn both this and the minor pentatonic below and you’ll be well on your way to being a great soloist.
Minor Pentatonic Guitar Scale
This is the minor version of the above scale we mentioned. Another essential one you should memorize the pattern of.
It’s great for soloing and songwriting.
The Blues Scale
Finally, to round out our list of absolute “must-know” beginner guitar scales in the infamous blues scale.
If you don’t know how to play blues, do you really know how to play guitar?
So many great songs were written using a blues scale, and when you learn it you’ll be channeling some of the greatest guitarists to ever do it.
Thanks for checking out our complete guide on the most essential beginner guitar scales every student needs to know.
There are more scales out there, but it’s important that you focus on these basic ones first and master them as much as you can.
Now that you’re done learning some basic guitar scales, be sure to download our free Guitar Chord and Tab Cheat Sheets so you can speed up your progress when learning how to play guitar.
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