Scales For Beginners

This lesson was created specifically for beginner and possibly intermediate guitarists interested in learning guitar scales!

Ultimate Guitar
This lesson was created specifically for beginner and possibly intermediate guitarists interested in learning guitar scales!
Gmajor scale 1st position r=root note
   r                     r                    r
   2  4  1  2  4  2  3  4  1  3  4  2  4  1  2  4
   ----------fingers used (optional)-------------
Gmaj 2nd position 
                      r                    r
   1  3  4  2  4  1  2  4  1  2  4  1  3  4  1  3  4
Gmaj 3rd position 
                    r                      r
   1  2  4   1  3   4  1  3  4   1  3   1  2  4   1  2  4
Gmaj 4th position 
               r                         r
    2   4  1   2   4  1  2    4  1   3   4   1   3   4   1   3
Gmaj 5th position 
           r                           r                            r
   1  3   4    1   3   4   1   3   1   2   4   1   2   4    1   3  4
These are the 5 positions of the Major scale. The root note is the note that determines what the scale is called. Such as, Gmajor, Amajor Bbmajor etc. Some of these scales require some position shifts, i.e. where you have to adjust your hand to get to the next note. I've notated the fingerings as to make this a little easier. The Major scale is based on scale degrees. I II III IV V VI VII VIII these are determined by half and whole steps. A half step you can think of it as going up or down one fret. Like from B to C or D to D#. A whole step is like going up two frets. B to C# or A to B.
I-II     whole step
II-III   whole step
III-IV   half step
IV-V     whole step
VI-VII   half step
VII-VIII whole step
VIII is just an octave up from the root note (B-B). An octave is eight steps up. Same note, just higher or lower than the root. With the 1st position of the Major scale, you can make that Amajor by moving the root note on the low E string up to the 5th fret. Hence, the A major scale. By memorizing these you can play in any key by finding the root note somewhere on the fretboard. Make a recording of just the G major chord, then play the scale, and improvise something over it. Or you can use these chords: Gmaj, Amin, Bmin, Cmaj, Dmaj, Emin, F#min (or diminished) Minor scales are the same as the relative major scales, except that they start on a different note. The scales above you can use over Eminor, because Eminor is Gmajor's relative key. This means, that the notes are the same in both scales, and the chords are the same, it would just be that Eminor is the most prominent chord. Most rock music is in Eminor, minor keys are very dark sounding, whereas major chords, sound happy, or bright.
G Pentatonic Major 
   r               r              r
              r              r
             r                r
            r                 r           
      r                     r                   r
These are the 5 Pentatonic scale positions. Gmajor (again) Pentatonic can be thought of as Eminor Pentatonic. Just start on a different note. Try this. Record a progression - E - A - B use power chords (5chords) then play these scales over it. Memorize these scales by their root note (r) and you can play in any key just knowing these 5 positions. Pentatonic scales are used commonly in blues or rock. They're only 5 notes, as compared to major or minor (7 notes). Practice these two types of scales in each position, try to use a metronome if you have one, this will enable you to play these scales cleanly and accurately. A good thing to do is find the first root note from the low E string. Play the scale starting on the root, play the scale up then down to the Low E, then back to the root note. Example:
This way, you will remember where the root note is, there are usually at least two root notes in a scale, try starting on all the root notes for each position and doing this. This way, you can find a starting point on any string. Also pay attention to how the notes connect to each other up the fret board. That's all for now, keep it up!

123 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Just a little mistake you did there, back in the part where you say "I-II Whole Step" etc, you missed the "V-VI Whole Step", kinda confused me at first but I just remembered my music class lol. Just wanted to pint it out, could confuse a few new people.
    I-II Whole II-III Whole III-IV Half IV-V Whole V-VI Whole VI-VII Whole VII-VIII Half WWHWWWH Those are the correct intervals for the major scale. Looks like you got messed up when you skipped over one.
    Hey Logan, thanks for taking the time to help, I appreciate it. Hutcho
    this makes so much more sense i must personally say its nice to see something that makes sense
    Does anyone know where I can get more scales set out in a format similar to this?
    cool, i didnt know all the different positions there were for scales. cheers for that!
    You have listed there being 5 positions, which leads to 5 versions of the same scale in a different location on the fret board. However, one might want to point out that there are actually 7 variations of the Major scale; for each there is a separate name: Ionian (The Major Scale), Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian (The Minor Scale) and Locrian. First position was Ionian, Second position was Dorian, Third position was Phrygian, Fourth position was Lydian and Fifth position was Mixolydian. For beginners it may not seem that the extra two scales are needed but for the sake of understanding the Major and Minor scales relationships with each other one should learn the Aeolian mode (The Minor Scale) as well. There was another slight oversight in the discussion of chords that can be used for the G Major scale: it is F# Diminished triad as stated in parenthesis and not F# minor because of the 5th degree; F# minor consists of F#, A and C#, the C# does not belong in the key of G Major, however, F#, A and C which makes diminished does fit with in the note structure of G Major. I apologize is this comment appears aggressive, that is not my intent. I only mean for the most accurate method of learning be available to all musicians.
    If you want to make a lesson for beginners you need to explain why and how you use scales and show some examples in songs.
    So the first scale is called Gmajor, because G is the note u start on, right? so shouldn't the second scale be called Amajor? also what makes the scale a Major one?
    In answer to above question, you can generally (but not always) say that if music is written in the Amaj key it will use the A maj scale. another important note is that a maj scale actually goes, I-II Tone II-III Tone III-IV semi-Tone (half tone) IV-V tone V-VI tone VI-VII tone VII-VIII semitone
    lol ok i think i know what a scale is now xD, thx this has helped me books and people have blinded me with technical words
    Can anyone please tell me if there is a relationship between a "Key Signature" and a Scale ?? ie: If the Music is written in Amaj would it be fair to say that by playing notes within an Amaj Scale would be complimentary ???? Theory confuses me but everytime it's explained it is so f&^&^ing clear !!! Regards John
    ya i like the blues better from the tri tone but the normal pentatonic scales are more rock and these scales i don't think r a good method. learn the minor and major pentatonic scales first then these.
    When using the metronome for scales, should you 'bury the click' with each note? Then just build up to a respectable speed? I'm off to start a metronome thread....
    lounge act
    Thanks, this is good. I've never had any lessons, so after a little more than a year I still don't know my scales... Until now!
    arent the different postions in the major scale just modes? he doesnt explain that these are modes.
    I dunno. Scales seem to vary on every page you go to.  I mean, why 3 5 on the G Major pentatonic? Why go to 5 at all?
    Thanks for the info! I've been playing a little over a year on a nice beginners acoustic/full size though. Been digging around for just the major and pentatonic scales and look what I find. You gave me all the low on what I was looking for and then some. I was doing alright with Gmaj and working up the chords from there but those minors just wasn't coming as fast as I would have wanted them to. With tips you gave in the end of the first part, it was like lights coming on! Much ablized...
    This is great way to introduce the novice to experiment beyond the chord realm. Remember, there are only 12 notes...what's more sand-boxed than that eh! Great tutorial. I will be giving this link to my students in the next class and more classes beyond if more tutorials are to come.
    I've been trying to pick this guitar thing up for a long time now long time. This is the first time I've come across this laid out this way. In 3 days I've got more confidence then I've ever had. I'd rather be picking away at my guitar to what you've posted then posting this Hahaha but can't because my fingers are so soar. Thanks. Great lesson. I'll be sticking with this. My wife even commented on the progress in 3 days. She's been trying to " support" me for years with these guitar thing.
    For anyone who does not understand: You always start on the root note, go all the way up the scale and back down, then up again to finish on the root note. Al the notes are there for a gmaj scale. If you are soloing in that key ( as long as you stick to that formula) you can solo without hitting any wrong note. Now there are only 5 positions here. Anything else are called Modes. and if your not sure about your scales yet, just dont even venture in the realm of modes. You will only get confused.
    disuse_PUNK wrote: I don't understand this....what are positions?
    positions are also know as modes. In the key of C major there are 7 modes aka positions. there are modes for every single key...the modes dont change in the order you execute them, so in the key of C major you have these notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C ( 7 NOTES IN A SCALE )if you play a your root note as the D in the key of C major, then you are playing your dorian mode in the key of C, playing the root note in E is your phrygian mode...and so on.
    alright, i have only been playing for one year, and i have really been focusing my playing around techniques, like scales, modes, etc, and i was under the assumption that the root note is the first note played in that scale, so for example wouldn't your second scale be in Bmaj not Gmaj, pls correct me if im wrong. the only way i can see this being wrong is if you are starting every cale on Gmaj, but the way they are laid out i dont think they look like there all Gmaj scales.
    wow as a bigginer this really helps me out . Iused to fool around with the guitar just playing cords ,but now i'm starting to understand how to speak with it . thanks a lot.