Basic Scale Formulas

Lesson to get you guys started on basic scale formulas.

Ultimate Guitar
WAZZAA shredders. This is like my first lesson. So go easy on me. I assume that if you have played at least one piece of lead in your life, or even heard the Indian sargam stuff (Sa Re Ga Ma...) you know what a major scale is. So here it goes. First off I hope you have seen or at least know of something called as a note. If you don't. Then don't read the rest of this article. Just kiddin. Google up the fretboard image for all the notes. I'm going to illustrate only the C scales and hopefully all you engineers can transpose that to any scale you want using the FORMULAE. When I write b2 means the 2nd note is flat, or if I write Eb means its E flat And #2 would be 2nd note sharp, or if I write E# means... Haha gotcha there's no such thing as E#. So if I write D# it means D sharp. OK enough bull****. Before starting with the whole formula and s**t I ll tell you how a major scale is formed. there's something known as a step. A whole step is (in very lay mans terms) 2 fret difference between 2 notes. E.g.: You can say there's a whole step between 1st fret and 3rd fret. Half step would be difference of 1 fret. E.g.: There's a half step between 1st fret and 2nd fret. Phew I know boring boring (for ppl who already know this stuff but its imp for newbies). So I denote a whole step with a W and half step with a H. Now I show you how a major scale is formed. Major scale:
So for a C major scale, it would be:
   W    W    H    W      W       W      H          
C     D     E     F      G        A        B      C
And this you can see from the fretboard diagram I've pasted above. *Forgive the alignment :D* C major scale goes something like this:
So considering this as the start of learning scales we write it as:
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
Here the 1st note will be the root note (the scale you want to play). And again, the 8th note would be the root note but on the next octave. You can choose the root note on any string you want. The minor scale is basically having the 3rd, 6th, 7th note flatted. So it would go something like this:
1  2  b3   4   5   b6  b7
C  D  Eb   F  G  Ab  Bb  
Once you get the hang of using this formula it becomes very easy to learn any scale. And I would recommend not getting bogged down in one box pattern. Experiment with the notes in some scale going up and down the fretboard. That's how you'll improvise not only your finger motion. But also your hand motion. Ok I stop talking about this. It's sounding a little. And here be the rest. Major Pentatonic:
1  2  3   5  6
C  D  E  G  A 
Minor Pentatonic:
1  b3  4  5  b7
C  Eb  F  G  Bb
Blues Scale:
1  b3 4  b5  5  b7
C  Eb F  Gb G  Bb 
Melodic Minor:
1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
C D Eb F G A B
Harmonic Minor Evil sounding scale I love it - used a lot in metal:
1  2  b3  4  5  b6  7
C  D Eb  F  G  Ab  B 
Dorian mode:
1  2  b3  4  5  6  b7
C  D Eb  F  G  A  Bb 
1 b2  b3  4  5  b6  b7
C Db Eb  F  G  Ab  Bb 
1  2  3  #4  5  6  7
C  D  E  F#  G  A B 
1  2  3  4  5  6  b7
C  D  E F  G  A  Bb 
1  b2  b3  4  b5  b6  b7
C  Db  Eb  F  Gb  Ab Bb 
Whole tone:
1  2  3  #4  #5  b7
C  D  E  F#  G# Bb 
Half-Whole Diminished:
1  b2  #2   3  #4  5  6  b7
C  Db  D#  E  F#  G  A  Bb 
Whole-Half Diminished:
1  2  b3  4  b5  b6  6  7
C  D Eb  F  Gb  Ab  A  B 
So take a print out of this stuff and nail all of these \m/\m/ And I got a copyright on my sign :p Keep Rockin.
\m/            \m/  
 ) (   ____    ) (  
 ( (  (|||||)  ) )  
         )     (    
      /    |    \   
    /   /    \   \  
  /   /        \   \

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    There is such thing as an E# actually, and B#. Whenever you use a 7 note scale, will you never have more than note of that scale using the same letter. As C# major has both F and C's in, but these letters already have their respective sharps, we say E#and B#. Hope this helps.
    It is exactly as the title suggests. Basic scale formulas. Let's not come down too hard on the guy. He tried to give basic information and throw in some light humor. No harm done here.
    its so it seems everyone seems to be wrong when when it comes to an instrument..its like this.. no its like, wait a minute its really like this, no this is how you doit then someone else says no thats ****ing annoying!
    steven seagull
    no such thing as E#? That immediately tells everyone that you don't really know what you're talking about, and that this lesson will be uselesss
    Shows just how much YOU know! There is no E# it's actually F, you ninny. Just because your tuner tells you that your E is sharp doesn't mean E# actually exists.
    steven seagull
    oh snap!
    in regards to the notes as they appear on the fretboard, there is no E#, only F. Therefore E# does not exist, just as zero does not exist either. Music and math are great bed fellows, when you break them down into numbers. :p
    hundreds of years of music tradition would like a word with you. spell me a C# major chord without using an E#. go ahead, try.
    so if you are playing a F# major scale, for example, what would the leading tone be?
    I don't know much about guitar theory, but I do know about math. And zero is a number . Zero is traditionally considered a part of the whole number set (or natural set). Next thing you know you'll tell us imaginary numbers don't exist...or there's only one infinity.
    nice stuff man, good to see some good theory you can use and is all laid out simply to screw around with. The diminished scales are ****ing cool!
    I like it dude!! Great article. Just like a cheatbook of guitar. Thanks a lot. Keep writing these type lessons..
    terrible article, don't try to hide behind 'this is my first time' bullcrap when its your own article. There is most definitely a b# in a practical sense as mentioned in the comments and in a music-mathematics sense if you produce a chromatic scale 2/3 scale then there is a difference between b# and c flat but here are some of my fav comments
    "WAZZAA shredders." wtf??? "This is like my first lesson." is it 'like' your first lesson or is it your first lesson. "something called as a note." if your can't be bothered to read over it for mistakes, why should we? "Before starting with the whole formula and s**t" does this sound cool? what other shit are you talking about other than formulas??? accept your shitty article... "A whole step is (in very lay mans terms) 2 fret difference between 2 notes. E.g.: You can say there's a whole step between 1st fret and 3rd fret." in lamons terms??? how about in ****ing retard terms? a layperson is A layperson or layman is a person who is not an expert in a given field of knowledge.SO you just desribed yourself there dickhead. "Forgive the alignment " no :O how ****ing hard is it???? "And I got a copyright on my sign" who would steal this. youve given little explanation. no practical application to the guitar. anyone who knows about scales wouldn't read this crap and anyone who doesnt care wouldnt read it, so who is this article even aimed at???
    Bob Dolan :D
    "WAZZAA shredders. This is like my first lesson. So go easy on me. I assume that if you have played at least one piece of lead in your life, or even heard the Indian sargam stuff (Sa Re Ga Ma...) you know what a major scale is. So here it goes.' Cringe. How does something so informal, with a punctuation-made SATAN get approved?
    Jeff Bridges
    You don't know shit dude, first off being rude to people that you want to read your article isn't the best way to win here. By the way nothing about your article sounded professional either. All of these formulae are 3rd grade stuff man. Which is probly where you should have learned that an E# is an F. Just like a B# is a C. I know plenty of piano pieces that this applies to. Say you're writing in B Maj. and you have a need for the lydian mode over a #11th, you wouldn't change the key of the song on the staff, you'd just sharp the E. Therefore creating an E#. Yes it's just an F. But it's a technical quality of music that does exist. You do realized that notes can be double sharped and flatted too. Therefore it's possible to also have an E##. *Pewch* Just blew your mind... Plus if you "know" music, where's your explanation about only playing the melodic minor while ascending?
    The term E# is used in scales, because you cannot simply use the same letter twice in a scale... i.e. C# major scale... C# D# E# F# G# A# B# C#...
    Jeff Bridges
    What about a chromatic movement? *just playing devil's advocate*
    Ahhh yeah, its true, but chromatic scales are a different topic all together
    well chromatic is not diatonic so that rule where you cannot use the same letter twice in a scale would not apply to a chromatic movement.
    even heard the Indian sargam stuff (Sa Re Ga Ma...) Don't you mean Solfege (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do for major scale degrees) Don't want to appear mean but if you, the author of the article, just learned this stuff then you shouldn't be writing an article about what you just learned chances are you are wrong about something. Also, application is important to the lesson, so next time you should include how to apply what you taught.
    You may have jumped the gun here, the Indian version of the Solfege is called the Sargam (from the first four points, SaReGaMa) or Swara. So yeah in this lesson he might be wrong, but he's not entirely wrong here.
    now that i reread my post it does look as if i'm saying there's no such thing as Sargam. So thank you for correcting my post.
    I dunno, the guy gave good advice. You guys should try some PUSSY...lighten up boys.
    Awesome Post. I got answers to all my questions I had as of now. I always wanted to know how major and minor scales are formed and learned a lot new tricks. No other post I could find, which was this simple and to the point. Thanks a lot
    Aside from this ridiculous attempt at "teaching" guitar, you're word choices and failed attempts at being cool totally turned me off. It's obvious this is your first lesson. I came here for knowledge and guidance, if I wanted to learn about satan, i would study satanism. If I wanted to learn how to speak like an idiot, I would study your lessons. But I would never come here again if I wanted to expand my knowledge on guitar. Remember this... Musicians are very intelligent people. When you speak to us as if we're incompetent, it offends us. "Before starting with this whole formula and shit" remove the "whole formula" part and you're right on track.
    I didn't see Aeolian specifically name - or called natural minor above. It might be helpful to make that obvious.
    Yes, these are all called enharmonic equivalents...same note, tone, interval, just different names: "In a given diatonic scale, an individual note name may only occur once. In the key of F for example, the major scale is: 'F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E, (F)'. Thus, the 'B' is called 'B♭' rather than 'A♯' as we already have a note named 'A' in the scale. The scale of F♯ major is: 'F♯, G♯, A♯, B, C♯, D♯, E♯, (F♯'; thus we use the term 'A♯' instead of 'B♭' as we need the name 'B' to represent the 'B' note in the scale, and 'E♯' instead of 'F' as we need the name 'F' to represent the 'F♯' note in the scale."
    Thought the lesson was good, don't worry about all the theory Nazi's that are bitching about E#
    There is no E# there is only Zuul! Who that was complaining that he should have mastered this in third grade, I am a beginner guitar player and found the "lesson" helpful. Don't care for what someone writes about, just don't read it. Thank you for the help. Been trying to figure out scales.