Scales are the basis for advancement in guitar. An added bonus that comes with learning scales is that you can use them to solo and create riffs and licks – in other words, you can improvise and make the music your own rather than just sticking to the musical scales. Who doesn’t want to rock out, with the ability to know the notes you are playing? It is one thing to strum a guitar, but it is a bigger accomplishment to actually know the notes you are playing; learning the names of the notes is the most vital part of learning musical theory. In general, learning theory is the step that takes you from a beginner to an advanced guitarist.
The first scale you need to learn is the Chromatic scale. It is the easiest of all the scales to remember, because you play each note up to the fourth fret on the guitar. The only exception is that on the third string, 4th from the right, you only play to the 3rd fret.
Can’t read the scale, you say? It’s labeled just as the chords were in the previous lesson (Guitar Chords for Beginners). Notice that the vertical lines on the scale and on your guitar are strings. Also remember that in between the horizontal lines on both the scale and your guitar are frets.
Another popular guitar scale that is widely used in all genres of music is called the major Pentatonic scale. Compared to minor scales, it has more of an upbeat sound to it.
Even though it looks a little different, this scale is in the same form as the chromatic scale. The only difference is that this scale is flipped on its side. The formula for major pentatonic scales is: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 1. This means if you are going to use the key of “A” for the pentatonic scale, the notes are going to be C D E G A C. In order to figure out which notes to play, simply write out all the notes starting with C until you get to the note C again. Then, write the names of the notes that correspond to the numbers in the formula. In this case, 1 = C, 2 = D, 3 = E, 5 = G, 6 = A, and 1 = C again.
An alternative to the major Pentatonic scale, the minor Pentatonic scale is quite useful in rock music, especially in solos. It contains flat thirds and sevenths in place of the natural 3 and natural 6. So, the formula changes to 1, b3, 4, 5, b7, 1. This means that if you use the key of “A” then the notes become A, C, D, E, G, A. The notes transpose directly over to the fretboard. The next lesson shows you directly what each note on the fretboard is, and how to play each note, so read on.
If you need more help with scales, there are some other great sites on the internet. They allow you to choose any scale on any position, and the program transcribes the scale into easy–to–read tablature format.
Continue on to Beginner Guitar Lessons Part 6 – Sheet Music Basics.