what are guitar scales

Greetings guitar aficionados, Darrin Goodman here bringing you another little guitar lesson for you today. Today I want to try and answer the timeless question; what are guitar scales?

A guitar scale, or musical scale, is a group of notes divided into intervals within an octave. There are many different scales from all over the world and it would be the subject of a book rather than an article to cover them all. Today I am going to go over common guitar scales that you will encounter and use typically in popular styles and genres of music.

In the western world we use the major scale, also known as the Ionian mode, as kind of the home base for how we analyze other scales. The major scale consists of seven tones that are divided into to classes of intervals. Notes 1-4-5 are Perfects and notes 2-3-6-7 are Majors. By altering these notes with sharps and flats it changes them into; minor, diminished and augmented. If you sharpen a perfect or a major you get an augmented. If you flatten a major you get a minor and if you flatten a perfect you get a diminished.

For the examples we are going to be looking at the key of G major and its relative minor E minor. Here is an example of a G major scale.


So in the key of G the seven notes are G-A-B-C-D-E-F# and that is the order of notes in the major scale. Now for the relative minor of E minor it uses the same seven notes, but starting on E, so E-F#-G-A-B-C-D. Here is an example of the E minor scale aka Aeolian mode.


The next scale we will look at is the pentatonic scale, which is a five tone scale. This is the most common scale used popular music and the best place to start as a beginner for soloing. This is a minor scale, so we will be looking at it starting on E. If you compare this scale to the major scale it has a flat third (minor third) and a flat seven (minor seven) and has had the second and sixth notes omitted.


And finally let’s look at a variation on the pentatonic scale, the blues scale, which is a six tone scale or Hexatonic scale. By simply taking the pentatonic pattern and adding the half step between the perfect fourth and fifth (diminished fifth) you get the blues scale.


Well that’s all for me for now, I hope you found this helpful.


Off to practice,




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