Scales Made Easy

Do you want to advance your skills and solos? Before you can solo, you must practice scales. An easy guide to starting scales.

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So you know your basic chords? D, G, E, A, B, F? And you can play them cleanly and switch between them to sound half way decent. So now, you want to advance your skills and solos. Well before you can solo, you must practice scales. Every great guitarist practiced, still practices, and will practice scales. What Is A Scale? Well a scale is basiclly playing a bunch of notes from low to high or high to low in a good sounding order. There are a lot of notes out there, so scales teach us to play them in the right order. If you think about it, in the first 15 frets, there are about 96 different notes you can play (16x6 strings +1 for open). So lets look at how scales are tabed.
E|-O-|---|---|-O-|
B|-O-|---|---|-O-|
G|-O-|---|-O-|---|
D|-O-|---|-O-|---|
A|-O-|---|-O-|---|
E|-O-|---|---|-O-|
What the hell does that mean? Well its quite simple. First you must realize that this is different from regular guitar tabs. First, like regular tabs, each string is labeled. But instead of numbers to tell you what fret to play, the frets are already drawn out. So:
 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |  -(frets 1-4 labeled)
E|-O-|---|---|-O-|
B|-O-|---|---|-O-|
G|-O-|---|-O-|---|
D|-O-|---|-O-|---|
A|-O-|---|-O-|---|
E|-O-|---|---|-O-|
The row of the 1 is fret 1, the row of the 2 is fret 2 and so on. Scale tabs can also be slid down the fret board, so the 1 could actually be the 5th fret, then the 2 would be the 6th fret and so on. This is why we don't label the fret numbers, because it could start and end anywhere. So how do you play this? Well first lets look at the same scale in regular tab form starting on the 5th fret:
E|-5--8--------------------------------
B|-------5--8--------------------------
G|-------------5--7--------------------
D|-------------------5--7--------------
A|-------------------------5--7--------
E|-------------------------------5--8--
Another look at it in scale tab form:
E|-5-|---|---|-8-|
B|-5-|---|---|-8-|
G|-5-|---|-7-|---|
D|-5-|---|-7-|---|
A|-5-|---|-7-|---|
E|-5-|---|---|-8-|
But remember, the scale is slideable. So this is also true:
E|-3--6--------------------------------
B|-------3--6--------------------------
G|-------------3--5--------------------
D|-------------------3--5--------------
A|-------------------------3--5--------
E|-------------------------------3--6--
There are many more places to start. Here is a diagram of the order the notes are played in:
E|-1-|---|---|-2-|
B|-3-|---|---|-4-|
G|-5-|---|-6-|---|
D|-7-|---|-8-|---|
A|-9-|---|-10|---|
E|-11|---|---|-12|
You can also play it backwards to go from low to high:
E|-12|---|---|-11|
B|-10|---|---|-9-|
G|-8-|---|-7-|---|
D|-6-|---|-5-|---|
A|-4-|---|-3-|---|
E|-2-|---|---|-1-|
In tab form starting on the 5th fret:
E|-------------------------------8--5--
B|-------------------------8--5--------
G|-------------------7--5--------------
D|-------------7--5--------------------
A|-------7--5--------------------------
E|-8--5--------------------------------
You'll notice when your playing this basic scale that your fingers just walk up and down the fret board in a back and forth motion. And not only will you start to memmorize it, but you will also be able to play it faster and faster. I hope this helps with starting and reading scales. I hope to post more scales to practice and go through other things later on.

159 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    M&M5192
    you think u guys would figure out by the third time not to write scales in the comments cuz they get messed up>.> and the whole 15th fret, 96 notes = wrong, some notes are repeated, for instance open A is 5 on the A string, the amount of notes is actually from open A to like from 4, cuz from then on, all those notes are repeated..meaning they arent different.
    bama
    so this is the fingering for each pentatonic scale key? the other lesson has 3 or 4 other fingerings for each key. i'm confused. and what key is this scale in anyway. I assume this is one part of the C major pentatonic scale since you start with C but not real sure. arent you limiting yourself to just two octaves per key? please explain
    Kandizzle
    This is great. I was wondering how to read scales for a bit and this helped a lot.
    d_lord1
    ok, what the f**k? is it me or are you showing the scales backwards?
    grapeflavor
    Thanks alot. This really helped me. But im not sure if you're right or the other people who say you have it backwards, but both ways sound great.
    gigosai
    I was just wondering if there's any sections here at ultimate-guitar that cover chinese and/or japanese scales, pentatonics and etc.
    grmreaper
    answering to matt\,,/: if i were to learn any scales they would be the blues and pentanic scales. these are used in most rock and metal songs
    pasj
    Well, this article just made my day. I had no clue what scales was and i want to learn solos, and this helped alot! thanks
    sing4am
    This is good, but like most lessons on this site where the hell are tabs from actual songs to practice? For any noob guitarists looking for a solo based purely on the first scale, look up Beverly Hills by Weezer (I know, I know) it gives you a good idea of how the scale works.
    Ramones Nutter
    Goes some way towards understanding what the hell Page was doing when he made up the 'Stairway' solo - should make it a bit easier. Aren't there different types of scale though?
    greenday_rock
    WOW, ive had so much trouble trying to understand the way thew scales are set out! and now i understand THANKS!!
    bleedblack
    good explenation, i didnt learn much cuz what u have put i know already, but this is good for people to to scales
    Emtoo
    Dude, best lesson ever. This made me learn about soloing alot and I just finished playing my first solo ever that doesn't sound like crap. Thanks alot.
    rrb6699
    i actually can picture it in my head... good explanation. these are exercises that will help you play songs. so i understand that and now need some examples. but this was a good explanation. i found out I can read the scales in tab form pretty easily. but maybe this is too basic to assume that on the more complex stuff. I'll have to look. At the same time. Regular music notation is pretty similar isnt it? once you know EGBDF and FACE I would think that chords and notes that are scales should be presented with the tab stuff so you can learn both ways. i'm not sure why the regular notation was made the way it was 'invented' unless it is mostly for piano? not sure. anyone can clear it up for me?
    kelix
    thanks didn't think i'd ever understand scales but I kinda get it now
    matt \,,/
    ???im confused.....i understand what you mean by playing the notes in a certain order so they sound good, its jst that every lesson about scales i go onto its always got a different bunch of notes in the same part of the neck..jst dont know what one to practice an i end up mixing them up....
    fender_rules728
    i have i dea of what it is now.. er.. still a little confused but i'll just have to read more on scales
    Fire Hawk
    well im a dumbass and i understood that. except for the last part, it kinda confused me. my music teacher at school wont help me with scales on my guitar so i have to learn myself, and we had to do a solo with improvising and i got an -A so im happy, thanx a bunch
    garamri
    I never thought about practicing scales like that. I always played lowest to highest and vice versa. I'm glad to find some good advice that I don't have to pay for.
    skinny g
    wow thanks really gd lesson. i didn't know what they meant b4 i read this!!
    gothic_saint
    good article but u only preserved a minor pentatonic a major too could be of use !but wat the heck it was good anyway good work !!
    benomino324
    thank man, the first article that explains this stuff! u rule for helping scale noobcakes!
    redflag_ppl
    before i jump on the scale train....how many scales are their exactly?? and this is a minor pentatonic,,what actually makes it a minor?
    jimivancobain
    Finally someone explains what those goddamn charts mean! Now i can finally learn from the lessons on this site! Thanks a ton.