Guitar scales | The Complete guide
If you are learning how to play a guitar, surely you will have heard about scales. These do not constitute a special musical category within the guitar as an independent element, but are the same as those used in the rest of the instruments.
Mastering the process for playing guitar scales is not a simple task. You need to spend time, be patient and always keep your mind free from negative thoughts. Why? Simple: practicing scales is not entertaining and it takes a lot of patience to master them with ease and good fingering. But, and this is something we should never forget because it is the main objective, they constitute one of the techniques that will enhance our skills as guitarists.
Luckily, there are effective methods to improve the learning of guitar scales, like the one we are going to study next. Over time, you will master the scales and have the ability to play them at the speed of any of your favorite guitarists.
What are guitar scales?
In western musical system, sounds are divided into intervals formed by tones (two frets in a guitar) and semitones (one fret), which is the difference between notes. Then, a tone is formed by two semitones, which is the shortest distance that exists between two notes.
To learn correctly how to play a scale on the guitar you have to start slowly and staggered. A good trick is to divide them into portions that are easier to assimilate, that way, when you play the notes one at a time, they sound good and there are no sudden noises. If that happens, it is advisable to reduce the speed until all the notes sound smoothly and with the same length.
A scale is divided into five positions on the neck of the guitar, but initially it is advisable to start only with the first one, so that you can get used to the way the rest sound and correct them if necessary. Next, we will see what scales you should learn first if you are starting to play guitar.
The major scales are grouped naturally, taking as a starting point the seven musical notes that we all know: C, D, E, F, G, A and B. The vast majority of music played in the West is based on the major scale, and the rest of the scales descend from it. This means that, if we learn this scale in all its positions, fingerings and octaves, we must be able to play others by making only minor changes in it. Major scales tends to inspire a cheerful mood in music.
The major scale as a whole is formed by the same pattern: T-T-S-T-T-T-S. In it, the T represents the distance between the tones (two frets) and S symbolizes a semitone or a single fret. In all cases, the major scales are diatonic, which is a scale made up of consecutive second intervals.
Natural minor scale
This scale has been used since Ancient Greece, and although it has been called with other names and functions throughout the different musical periods, it is now called Natural minor scale when it is used in the context of modal or tonal music. This scale gives a sad hue to the music.
The minor scale is constituted by lowering a semitone to positions three, six and seven in the scale. They are formed with the pattern of T-S-T-T-S-T-T.
Harmonic minor scale
This scale is the result of the variation of the natural minor scale, thus achieving a different cadence.
It is modeled by raising half of a tone to the note number seven of the natural minor scale, ascendingly and vice versa. It is guided by the pattern: T-S-T-T-S-T-S-TM. The TM means a tone and a half, or three frets inside the guitar.
Melodic minor scale
This scale constitutes an exception in terms of its pattern, because, unlike the others, it varies in comparison to the minor scales.
It has the peculiarity that, when interpreted in ascending movement, its sixth and seventh grades, raising a semitone in relation to the natural minor scale, but when descending is played without variations, that is, in the natural minor scale itself. When executed in descending mode, the notes are played in a similar way as in the natural minor scale. The pattern is formed by: T-S-T-T-T-T-S, and in the descent by: T-S-T-T-S-T-T.
These scales are, in all likelihood, the easiest to exercise on the guitar, and are widely used in all musical genres, so it is essential to learn them.
Pentatonic major scale
The total pentatonic major scales are established by excluding the fourth and seventh notes of another known scale: the major natural. The pattern of the intervals that form it is tone — tone — tone and half — tone— (tone and medium). This means that, instead of having 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, the pentatonic scale is grouped into the intervals: 1-2-3-5-6.
Minor pentatonic scale
This is one of the scales that jazz pianists use most, as well as in blues and rock. They are useful for improvisation because they perform well on some of the diatonic chords of equal hue.
To form a pentatonic minor scale of any kind, the second and sixth notes of the natural minor scale must be removed. The interval scheme is tone and half-tone-tone-tone-and-half (tone). This translates into that, instead of executing 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, you play 1-3-4-5-7.
Scales and Music
A good tip is to start practice with the pentatonic scale. These have a simpler fingering and are used in many musical genres.
As you get practice with scales, you will begin to notice that your songs will sound better, and that you can play them intuitively. This will happen because your ability to jump from one note to the next will grow each time you exercise a scale. Best of all, with this new training you will be able to compose your own songs or play a melodic guitar solo.