The Best Way To Learn Guitar Scales

Guitar scales are not as hard to understand as many people perceive them to be. Just the word “scales” is enough to send beginning players running the other way. There are plenty of guitar players who don’t even know the names of scales, but they play by ear and use these scales instinctively. While I certainly wouldn’t tell you that it’s absolutely a must know how to build scales and that you should practice them every single day, I believe having a basic understanding of scales is important.

A good guitar scale method (instructional course) can shed light on this very important and highly misunderstood component of playing guitar. There are plenty of guitar scale methods available. Hal Leonard and Mel Bay have books devoted to the subject, and you can find plenty of videos on You tube that tackle any scale you can imagine.


Any good guitar scales method will avoid listing every scale in every key. That’s a waste of time and space, and that’s sort of overwhelming information that chases beginning guitar players away. Scales are patterns. You need to learn one pattern for each scale. Take a look at the major scale pattern laid out on the guitar fret board below. These positions apply to the major scale in every key, so instead of learning twelve keys you’re learning five positions. The root will determine the name of the major scale you’re working with.

major scale patterns.jpg

Patterns like this apply to minor scales, blues scale, and major and minor pentatonic scales as well. Patterns also apply to the seven modes and other exotic scales too.

The best way to learn scales is to find a guitar scales method that approaches scales in this manner. When I was starting out, I opened a scale dictionary and saw hundreds of scales. I immediately felt like I was wasting my time, that I would never learn everything I needed to learn regarding scales, and then I learned about patterns and it all came together for me. Find a guitar scales method that works for you, whether it’s a You tube video, a book, or one of the many websites that teach scale theory from a working man’s point of view and you’ll be amazed how much your playing and understanding of the guitar will improve.

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