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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Ultimate Guitar
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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
    cashee24
    when u put E|-12|---|---|-11| B|-10 |---|---|-9-| G|-8-|---| -7-|---| D |-6-|---|-5-|- --| A|-4-|---|-3-|---| E|-2-|---|---|-1-| that shit just confused me man.
    purplehaze30
    So to write a solo, can you just randomly mix up what you play in this scale or is it more complicated? good lesson btw
    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
    Josher.K
    I love you, Not really but this was amazing. I never understood scales written with the circles, i was always like wtf, but now it's so easy! Thanks for pointing out wtf is going on in these things. I'm gonna go work on my theory and see if I can write some songs.
    B345T
    Isn't the order of notes ascending to descending and vice versa totally mixed up?
    oh_charlie_boy
    Man thanks learnt heaps. BUT on the 6th diagram arent the order u play them in the other way round?
    Kandizzle
    This is great. I was wondering how to read scales for a bit and this helped a lot.
    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
    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.
    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.
    d_lord1
    ok, what the f**k? is it me or are you showing the scales backwards?
    toomin91
    Bad ass dude...thnx for that...this has really helped me in the way i play my fast riffs
    StreakingGopher
    this isnt my sn some how i keep gettin put in this website with this sn i dont know how but im learning to play the guitar and if someone can help me to get my own sn id highly apprfectaie it
    Alt_Metal_Luvr
    thanx, but somma these scales say "R = Root Note" what the heck is the root note? Open? I thought they were moveable.... confused...
    jetman_james
    the scale is right but should be played in ascending and descending order like this: e[----- --5-8-|-8-5----- --] B[-----5-8-- --|----8-5- ----] G[-----5-7-----|- -----7-5-----] D[- -----5-7-----|-- --- -----7-5-----] A[----5 -7-----|----- ----7-5----] E[-5-8 ----- -----|----- ---8-5-]