So, you have your first guitar and you can’t wait to get into shredding some amazing riffs. But, you really do need to learn how to walk before you can run, and when it comes to playing the guitar, it is important to learn the fundamentals, such as scales.

Sure, there are many guitar players who have never taken a lesson and don’t know a lot of fundamentals, and they still play great. But, just think about how much better of a guitar player you could become by learning scales and other fundamentals!

Guitar scales, while boring to learn and play, are very important for anyone who truly wants to master the instrument. When you come right down to it, scales are simply note sequences that are organized in a specific way. They can be ascending or descending, and they are important for all musicians, especially beginners. Today we are going to take a look at how to play guitar scales. Let’s get started.

What are Guitar Scales?

As mentioned in the introduction, guitar scales are a group of selected notes that work together. There are a variety of scales, each using different sequences of notes, and each being unique and able to greatly enhance your music. Basically, you need to have a few notes that work together, and these notes will be used to create chord progressions, solos, and riffs.

Some of the most common types of guitar scales include:

  • Major scale
  • Minor scale
  • Pentatonic scale
  • Blues scale
  • Modes

Not only is it important to learn scales in order to compose music, playing scales can help to build dexterity and strength in your fingers. You will also become much more familiar with all of the notes on the fretboard, train your musical ear, and create a framework for creating your own compositions.

Essential Scales all Guitar Players should Learn

There are several scales all guitar players should learn. But, even if you don’t learn all of them, there are five essential scales that you should know if you want to progress to the next level with your playing. Let’s take a look at the five essential scales that all guitar players should learn.

E Minor Pentatonic Scale

One of the first scales you should learn is the E minor pentatonic scale. It is played in the open position, and it is the foundation for many of the greatest songs in rock and roll history (along with songs from all other genres). There are several versions of this scale, with one having you play two notes on each string, one open and one fretted. You will find this scale in “Back in Black” by AC/DC, “How Many More Times” by Led Zeppelin, and “Rumble” by Link Wray.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

This scale is played in the fifth position. It is a five-note scale that is very important to know in order to play melodies, solos, and riffs. This scale is especially important for anyone who wants to play blues or rock. It is played in two octaves, in the fifth position. Playing the A minor pentatonic scale will help you to develop better strength in your fret hand. If you want to hear this scale in action, look no further than “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

How to Play Guitar Scales

C Major Scale in the Open Position

You will have a much better understanding of playing in the key of C when you learn the C major scale in the open position. There are no sharps or flats, and it is one of the first scales many guitar players learn, because it is so easy and so important. You can play the entire scale on the B string, following a whole step, whole step, half step, hole step, whole step, whole step, half step pattern. This is a great way to learn this scale, but many prefer to play it in an open position on numerous strings.

G Major Scale in the Open Position

The G major scale is a lot like the C major scale in that you can play it on one string. It is played by following a process of two whole steps, half step, three whole steps, half step. Like the C major scale, this scale is much more commonly played on all six strings, with fretted notes. It can really help to build up the strength in the pinkie finger, which often is not utilized nearly enough.

E Harmonic Minor in the Open Position

The E harmonic minor scale can be found in many genres of music, including jazz, classical, and even metal. It can really come in handy for creating amazing solos. The best way to learn this scale is to play it on the high E string, from open to the second fret in the following pattern: whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, minor third, and half step. It is much easier and more practical to play this scale on all of the strings.

Other Important Scales to Learn

In addition to the five major scales, there are several other scales that all guitar players should learn at some point. Here are a couple of those scales:

Blues Scale

This scale is pretty easy to learn once you have mastered the minor pentatonic scale, and it is important if you want to play blues or rock and roll. It is pretty much the same as the minor pentatonic scale, with the addition of a flattened 5th note. Not only is this a popular scale for blues and rock musicians, it is also often found in many jazz compositions. You can create some pretty awesome blues solos with this scale, and the more you use it, the more you learn how to use it in a variety of ways.

Major Scale

There are all kinds of ways that you can use the major scale. Chords can be formed from this scale, and they are used to create chord progressions. It is also used to create modes which are often used. In fact, the natural minor scale, the Dorian mode, and the Mixolydian mode are all modes that come from the major scale. You can use this scale to create solos that go over chord progressions formed from the same scale, and it is often used in solos over major 7th and 6th chords in the jazz genre.

Dorian Mode

The last scale we are going to discuss today is the Dorian Mode. This scale is played over minor chords, often in fusion-based music as well as jazz. It is often used to create solos that are played over these minor chord progressions.


Scales may seem boring to play, but they are essential if you really want to master the guitar and be able to play most songs, as well as for composing your own music. We suggest devoting at least 20 minutes of your daily practice time to working on scales. Not only will you learn a lot about the notes you are playing, you are going to be building a lot of necessary hand strength. The more you practice these and other scales, the more rounded a musician you will become

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