Definitive Scales

Everything you'll ever need to know about scales, modes and even a little bit about chords! What more could you possibly want?

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Everything you'll ever need to know about scales, modes and even a little bit about chords! What more could you possibly want? I decided to write this because there is lots of stuff on scales but they all seems to contradict each other or smart asses tear it apart at the end and you don't know who to believe. If anything is unclear, or I rambled too much, don't hesitate to ask and I'll clear it up. Firstly scales. Scales are made of 8 notes the eighth being the same as the first but an octave higher. They are made up of the pattern: Whole step, Whole step, Half step, Whole step, Whole step, Whole step, Half step. If this means nothing to you let me explain. Whole step means one whole tone or two frets on a guitar. Half step means one semitone or one fret on a guitar. So a scale in E major would just be:
E string:
-- 0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12 --= E,  F#, G#, A,  B,  C#, D#,  E

Or in C: B string
-- 1 - 3 - 5 - 6 - 8 - 10 - 12 - 13 -- = C,  D,  E,  F,  G,   A,  B,   C
For the rest of the examples I'll use C because it has no bitchy flats or sharps. Now, some good news. The simple whole step half step pattern gives you any major scale. The major scale is the happy singing rainbow one you'll all be familiar with. Now, you may say, what about minor scales, dominant scales, pentatonics? Well there are two ways to look at reaching the minor scale. 1 Thing of it in terms of the major scale minor scales are just major scales with a flattened 3rd, 6th, and 7th. So where:
C major is: C D E  F G A  B  C
C minor is: C D EbF G AbBbC
The crushed bs mean flat, basically this means take the note shown and reduce by one fret that is, one semitone. So E or fret 5 of the b string becomes Eb or fret 4. 2 a different starting position for the whole step, half step idea to get the c natural minor or aelion scale (which is the minor scale above), you may just start on the 6th note. You're saying what the starstarstarstar, right? Let me show you, imagine a never ending flow of half or whole steps and the scale just picking up somewhere in there:
           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Major  :   W W H W W W H W w h w w w h

                     1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
minor  :   w w h w w W H W W H W W W h
The means wholes step (2 frets) and h means half step (one fret). The capital letters mean the bits that make up the scale. As you can see, the 6th note of the major scale, is the first note of the minor scale This can be a strange idea; a major and a minor scale contain the same notes. C major's sixth note is A. If you take the same notes, but go from A to A instead of C to C you get the A natural minor scale. Bizarre. As for dominant scales etc, they are just reached by starting and finishing on different notes of the same scale. For example the dominant or mixolydian scale starts on the 5th note, so in the case of C: from G to G in the C major scale. This scale can also be represented by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7. or C D E F G A Bb. Basically the way it works is that the more Ws you have before an H, the less flattened notes you'll have and in general terms more flattened notes mean a more dissonant or minor sound. So if you start on the 7th note you get this: HWWHWWWH. As you can see this immediately has a half step then only two whole steps before another half. In the C major scale the 7th note is a b and the b locrian scale is given:
B,Cb,Db,E,Fb,Gb,Ab.  Or
1 b2  b3  4  b5 b6  b7.
If you play this:
B string
-- 0 - 1 - 3 - 5 -6 - 8 - 10 - 12 - 13
You will see that it sounds pretty shitty or 'dissonant'. But you see that it contains the same notes as the happy major scale, weird non? So they only thing that determines the key is where you start. However occasionally youre brain may get lost, and although you start on a b it may still sound like C major. This is because your ear is more accustomed to the major scale and doesn't mind that you started on the 'wrong' note. The way to get the message to yo head, is simple. Just play it. Either on another open string or using your rhythm guitarist or bass. But if you have no friends like me, just let an open string ring. So try playing any of the patterns so far, except the first and let the g string ring out. Just keep playing with that g string J until you get bored and try another string. Try any string as they are all in the key of c. You may notice some interesting results: a string = minor E string = a crazy sounding minor entitled Phrygian D string = a less minor sounding minor called the dorian Now if you want to appear really clever but not really be much more so, learn the names of each scale you get from any starting note. 1. major- happy 2. dorian - 'sweeter' minor 3. phrygian - crazy possibly Spanish minor 4. lydian - basically happy, just an augmented fourth giving a bitter taste 5. mixolydian - dominant, bluesy, jazzy etc. 6. aelion - natural minor! 7. locrian - argh my ears. The sht about chords will come in a forthcoming lesson: I want to see if anyone can understand this before doing any more. Cheers for listening, unless you just skipped through it, in which case you disgust me.

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    IceMikeSD
    1st You got the basic idea but most guitar players prefer a tab with all six strings, its easier to play a scale in mainly one position.
    IntlManOfMisery
    to Liquid8tension7 yes I have heard of those scales and yes there is more to music than just major variants. But I don't want to slay these people with vast realms of never ending scales, a bit at a time I say and now that I have hopefully conveyed a basic understanding of scales I shall go on to explore some more "exotic" scales.
    thesmartguy50
    benwahballs wrote: in this lesson the guy sais... "I?ll use C because it has no bitchy flats or sharps" then he sais "In the C major scale the 7th note is a b" b i assume is flat....so what the hell!
    benwahbal ls wrote: one more thing...thanks to the guy that wrote this but theirs one more thing he said... "In the C major scale the 7th note is a b and the b locrian scale is given: B,Cb,Db,E,F b,Gb,Ab. Or 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7." their no such thing as "Cb" AT LEAST I DONT THINK THEIR IS. nice lesson
    firstly, when he said that about the C major scale, he meant that it was "B", as in, the note. Secondly, there IS a C flat, it's just a fancy way of saying "B," just like Ab and G# are the same. This is called enharmonics. You know, if you don't already know this stuff, you might want to go check out another, easier lesson, man.
    benwahballs
    ok well if go to the part of the lesson where he writes this... B,Cb,Db,E,Fb,Gb,Ab. Or 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7. If you play this: B string -- 0 ? 1 ? 3 ? 5 ?6 ? 8 ? 10 ? 12 ? 13 now the B and Cb are the same but here theyre not. help me out here
    thesmartguy50
    okay... i get you. my bad. what's happened is that he's telling you about the locrian mode, but he's screwed it up. He has forgotten that, in the C scale, there ARE no sharps or flats. So, the B locrian should be b-c-d-e-f-g-a. What he did was, he forgot to use the B scale, and THEN apply the flat 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th. So, the B major scale: B-C#-D#-E-F#-G# -A#-B Then, you apply the flats: B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 there, you have the locrian mode. In order to get the mode, you have to use the major scale of the KEY OF THE MODE (A dorian, B ionian, etc), then apply the needed shraps/flats. Sorry about trashin' you earlier, man. For a second, you seemed like another Oswald (do y'all remember that guy?)
    jjamesjmh
    Oh my god---"Locrian -aaagh my ears"????? Some of the most amazing solos are done with the locrian mode, It sound terrible if there is a Maj. or min. 3rd in the chord progression, but try it over a perfect interval bass line, like root-5th-root-5th-root-oc tave-4th-root, rinse & repeat. The locrian mode is far from useless, disregard it at your peril!
    benwahballs
    in this lesson the guy sais... "I?ll use C because it has no bitchy flats or sharps" then he sais "In the C major scale the 7th note is a b" b i assume is flat....so what the hell!
    fuk_yu_92
    But if you have no friends like me, just let an open string ring. LOL laffing with you not at you
    Aliens-exist182
    fuk_yu_92 wrote: But if you have no friends like me, just let an open string ring. LOL laffing with you not at you
    Same, i LOL'd
    benwahballs
    one more thing...thanks to the guy that wrote this but theirs one more thing he said... "In the C major scale the 7th note is a b and the b locrian scale is given: B,Cb,Db,E,F b,Gb,Ab. Or 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7." their no such thing as "Cb" AT LEAST I DONT THINK THEIR IS. nice lesson
    dogsballs
    good one dude your probably the most articulate person on our website.thats not to say i understood everything but my head wasnt as empty as it has been reading other lessons.
    The^Unforgiven
    yeah but the scale is much "cooler" with all the strings. Also I find it a lot more simple to play.
    Cosman
    Man, Finally someone who can explain this stuff in plain English. You rule DUDE!
    Cosman
    Also I like how you explained the sounds of the Modes. Well done! I just need to find on here where the chord relation to these are.
    bryanstan
    Once you understand what this lesson is about it should be easy to play any scale across all six strings. you just have to think about. p.s. well done ManOfMisery.
    Reed Morelli
    dude you helped so much. i've read all of the other lessons and what i really needed was a plain language explaination. thanks man
    jillmaclellan
    Hey I thought you gave a great explaination, i would like to find more of your lessons on here!
    Icas
    Nice work. So far this is one of the most informative lessons about scales ive come upon. Thank you for the lesson, it helps very much, and has cleared some things up .
    Max_Backman
    I'm all your man, thx for EXPLAINING the deal, it's so frustrating ppl only wanna make you wonder even more it seems sometimes....
    casteel
    learn the names of each scale you get from any starting note? So if I start with the second note in a scale its a dorian scale?
    Balsamo
    Thank you very much! I went through six different scale lessons w/o getting a shit. And now I finally understand some of this. It's guys like you who make me actually WANT to lear theory.
    hysteric
    Same for me, read through tons of scales lessons and didnt get it. Now i do :p only thing you should maybe add is how you know what note to find where, i had to find that in a different lesson. anyway excellent work
    liquid8tension7
    I don't know if you've heard of the harmonic minor, melodic minor, diminished, altered, or augmented scales, but they don't follow the major pattern of steps. You explained the major scale theory very well, but there's a lot more to music than that.