Construction of Major, Minor and Pentatonic Scales

I will try to explain how to remember easily the construction of those scales

Ultimate Guitar
The basis of this lesson is the construction of major scales. The first note is the one which gives it's name to the scale (C major scale is constructed starting from C) and from this one it's goes like this:

full step, full step, half step, full step, full step, full step, half step

I will write "F" for full and "H" for half step. So from the "X" first note yo have this:

X > F > F > H > F > F > F > H > X (one octave higher)

And this looks like this on a tab for the C major scale (stars at 6th string 8th fret, but transpose at any position you want for another scale like 5th fret for A major etc), two octaves in one position:


So now we got the construction of the major scales.

The pentatonic major scale is the same but without the 4th and 7th degree which gives us for the C pentatonic major scale:


Back to the major scale we will now build the minor scales: there are three kinds (I discovered them using Guitar Pro, I first thought there was only one): The melodic minor scale, the harmonic minor scale and the (natural) minor scale.

So first you take the major scale and flatten the 3rd degree to get the melodic minor scale.


Then from this one you also flatten the 6th degree to get the harmonic minor scale.


Then you flatten the 7th degree to get the minor scale (also called natural, common or whatever).


Finally this is how you get the pentatonic minor scale: From the pentatonic major scale you sharpen the 2nd, 3rd and 6th degree, which gives us:


So that was it, I just give yo a little summary of the whole lesson to make it easier for you to remember it all!

1) Major scales : X(1st) > F(2nd) > F(3rd) > H(4th) > F(5th) 
> F(6th) > F(7th) > H(1st, 1 octave higher)
2) Pentatonic Major : without 4th and 7th
3) Melodic Minor : Major with 3rd flattened
4) Harmonic Minor : Melodic Minor with 6th flattened
5) Minor scale : Harmonic Minor with 7th flattened
6) Pentatonic Minor : Pentatonic Major with 2nd, 3rd, 5th sharpened

So now that was it, I hope you understood and enjoyed this lesson and that it will help you to remember these scales easier and faster. If you may not understand anything don't hesitate and contact me.

18 comments sorted by best / new / date

    you also stated in the lesson that to build the minor pentatonic scale you take the major pentatonic scale and flatten the 2nd 3rd and 6th (when the 6th should be the root again in a pentatonic. I hate to nitpick, just keeping noobs to scales in mind.
    huge problem here trying to follow your hhwhhhw diagram at the beginning confused me and i quickly realized why you put X > F > F > H > F > F > F > H > X this gave you (c major for reference) x - C f - full step to D f - full step to E h - half step to F f - full step to G f - full step to A f - full step to B h - half step to C x - C again? I realize its not a huge issue, but if i didnt have prior knowledge of at least major scales this could have thrown me of, and may potentially throw someone off who IS new to major scales, looking around for a note they missed.
    if i were to play one of these scales starting on a different fret would pattern stay the same?
    how would make other scales like a meldoic major and harmonic major scale?
    led zeppole
    killakush : In the minor Pentatonic scale you have the 6th raised in the lesson, and the 5th in the summary. which is it? it's the 6th
    In the minor Pentatonic scale you have the 6th raised in the lesson, and the 5th in the summary. which is it?
    itz great 4 understanding scales more easily... thanx alot... cheers...
    Well... there's a downfall to using guitar pro to discover scales. Your representation of the melodic minor is incomplete. To better understand minor scales... The natural (or pure) minor scale is where the other two come from. By taking a major scale (built as WWHWWWH, such as CDEFGABC) and building from the "Submediant" (the sixth degree, also helpful to note that it is the lower third: In the case of the above C major scale, it is the A) up using the same notes found in the relative major (A minor / C Major for our example, which for the A minor scale gives us ABCDEFG) creates the natural minor. (Which has a pattern of WHWWHWW) -Since that's a bit confusing by layout, a more concise review: To get the natural minor, you take a major scale, start at the 6th degree, and use the same sharps/flats as the major scale.- The Harmonic minor is the next one, derived from the natural minor. It is created by raising the 7th of the natural minor. (which, incidentally, brings it to the same position as the A Major scale, which goes ABC#DEF#G#A, due to the 7th of the major scale being so strongly linked to the tonic(root) that they call it the "leading tone") It's that simple. So, our example with the A minor scale goes from the natural: ABCDEFGA, To the Harmonic: ABCDEFG#A Finally, there's the melodic minor. The melodic minor is complicated because it's different descending than ascending. Ascending, you raise the 6th degree of the harmonic minor (ABCDEF#G#A, which makes it only one note different than the A Major scale, that is, the third degree.) but when descending you lower the 6th and 7th degrees from where they were ascending, in essence returning to the natural minor when descending. (which would give us ABCDEF#G#AGFEDCBA) Is it all that important? Probably not. But now you know
    Luciiz wrote: Isn't that last diagram just a normal pentatonic scale? You didn't do anything to it.
    major and minor pentatonic shapes are exactly the same. the only thing that changes between them is the root note. since he didnt show what the root note was in each of them, it will just look identical to you. mind you, im still trying to work out minor/major pentatonics. cuz ppl say they sound different when you start on that root note. they just sound heaps the same still i think..
    superman4859 : HELPFUL, WHEN DO YOU USE THE DIFFERENT SCALES? mainly for improving solos
    Isn't that last diagram just a normal pentatonic scale? You didn't do anything to it.