EasyLead Guitar Learning Systems

Guitar Scales Made Easy

How Many Scales Are There?
Best Scales To Learn
Best Ways to Learn Scales
Chromatic Scales
Whole Steps and Half Steps
Major Scale
Minor Scale
Modes and Scales
Relative Minor
Finding the Key
Scales For the Key
Major Scale Chords

How Many Scales Are There?

There are hundreds of scales. Each style of music and each culture around the world have influenced music. Certain scales are instantly recognizable with certain parts of the world such are India, China, Arabia, Polynesia and Eastern Europe to name few. Or how about the Hungarian gypsy scale, the Persian scale or the Neapolitan scale. And on and on it goes. You get the point.

But don't worry because in the western world there only a few commonly heard scales, the major scale, the pentatonic scale and the modes associated with them. Know your preferred style of music and pick your scale and focus on that.

The Major Scale is the most important guitar scale in terms of its applicability to the most styles of music. And once you know the major scale, which has 7 unique notes, you can quickly learn the minor scale, which is hidden inside the major scale.

But the major scale is a bit more difficult to learn as you are starting out because of the number of notes and the fact that you have to learn the patterns of the guitar scale associated with each of the 7 unique starting positions in the scale. But there are some great techniques to help simplify it.

The Pentatonic Scale or more commonly called the blues scale is a variation of the major/minor guitar scale and as the name implies only has 5 unique notes.

You will find this guitar scale is simpler to learn than the major scale and a great scale to have at your disposal. It is probably the most functional scale of them all and you will want to have this one nailed!

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Best Scales To Learn

The major scale and the pentatonic scale are really the only two guitar scales you should worry about. Learn them and you will be able to jam with almost anybody in almost any style.

If you want to get up and running the fastest, learn the Pentatonic Scale. This guitar scale is so important that if you only choose one scale to learn, let it be the pentatonic. It can be played over a major and minor key with ease and since it only has five notes, there are only five unique positions to learn.

But if you really want to be play guitar with flare and truly understand the intricacies of guitar scales you really should learn the Major Scale. The pentatonic scale is derived from the major scale pattern it's a relative minor. But more on the relative minor later on.

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Best Ways to Learn Guitar Scales

There are some principles in life that never change. For instance, you have probably heard the saying "No pain, no gain", or "You get out of something what you put into it" and so on, and so on.

Well, my friends, the same idea applies with learning how to play guitar at the higher levels, like learning guitar scales. By the way, if you are reading this section then you have probably been playing guitar long enough that you're reasonably good and have been curious for some time about really being able to learn how to play your guitar like creating melodies and riffs and solos that tap into your deepest musical passions!

That means you are at the point where you know you need to learn your guitar scales and are probably going to be more committed to practicing them whenever you pick up your guitar.

Scales are not easy. They can be tedious and boring and repetitive. But certain learning methods and tools can make it much easier and give you immediate results. Check out this great guitar scale learning transition tool.

But this is one area where you really will benefit from the effort you put into learning them. What follows is a discussion on some of the best ways to learn scales and how to make the learning process natural and fun.

First, you're going to have to read a little bit about scales and get familiar with at least one of the most common scales, like say the pentatonic major or pentatonic minor scale. Or if you're really ready for the "full meal deal" start working on the major scale. If you are unfamiliar with either of these scales go read those lessons after this and you'll be on your way.

So, look at one of the scale patterns in its entirety over the full twelve frets, because after that it repeats itself. If it's the pentatonic scale it only has five notes and therefore five different notes from which you could start to play the scale. These are called scale positions or modes. The major scale has seven notes and so seven scale positions or modes which make it a bit more difficult to learn.

Practice playing the scale positions as a warm up.

  • Assign each of your four fingers to a fret so you should be able to cover four frets and maybe more if you stretch you pinky a bit.
  • Start playing the scale from beginning to end and then from the end to the beginning.

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    Use a flat-pick and alternate picking techniques or just fingerpick.

    • To economize movement and develop better speed, practice using alternate picking that means hitting a note on both the down stroke and up stroke of the pick. But a word of caution, don't get too carried away with alternate picking or your music will just sound like a machine gun firing notes to impress people. Sometimes only using down strokes creates the sound, the feel and the pace that really taps into emotions.


    • Use your thumb for the lower three strings and your index, middle and ring finger for the higher three strings. This is the most efficient way of finger picking.

    Do your guitar scale warm-ups while a cd is playing.

    • Your first few times, your scales will not have any melodic quality to them but as you continue to warm up with scales and if music is in the background you will start to be inspired to create melodic phrases.
    • As you progress, try to get away from repeating sequential notes and bouncing around a bit more.
    • Try to develop speed and accuracy. You are like an athlete in training a musical athlete and this is like running the track.
    • Soon these scales will start to be engrained into your memory and become easier to recall.

    Practice with music in the background and move up the scale positions

    • Don't forget the only reason to learn scales is to play music to make beautiful sound out of these notes not just to be able to play notes fast.
    • If you are getting better, you must play scales to music. Play your favorite songs and do nothing but play the scale to the music.
    • Learning a scale while trying to think creatively removes the monotony of trying to forcefully learn them.
    • Begin to focus on the octave points and the fifth positions in the scale. As you play along with your song, remember that the fifth note heightens the emotion and sets up for great resolution back to the octave with the chord changes.

    Beyond these methods of learning scales, consider investing in some good guitar learning software or other learning tools.

    You will find that the real battle of learning guitar scales is not so much the concept of a scale position or mode, because none of that is rocket science, but actually being able to see the scale patterns in your mind when you are playing.

    Remember, you won't always have a book or sheet of paper with the pattern directly in front of you every time to go to jam with a rhythm track or song from you cd.

    What tends to happen as you slowly learn these scales, and this is where frustration can set in and cause of lot of people to pack it in and lose interest, is that you have learned just enough that you can taste success.

    But when you try to jam with a song, you can only really remember the first scale position or mode and your lead guitar begins to sound boring and repetitive. There is no change in pitch or movement up and down the neck. You have reached the first plateau in the learning curve and must break through it to continue to grow into a great guitar player.

    But the reason you can't move up the neck to that perfect note is because you can't see exactly where it is even though you can hear it and know that it should be played next.

    A great transitional learning tool for helping aspiring lead guitarists learn to move up and down the fretboard, from one mode to the next and really develop the creative flare and freedom to their playing is the EasyLead Guitar Map™.

    What it does is literally give you your roadmap so you never miss a note and lose your momentum. Because you never lose your momentum your lead playing becomes more fluid, more enjoyable, more musical and believe it or not, your brain starts to remember the scale patterns without even thinking about it. If you don't want to waste time the traditional way, check this product out and see what you think. Use it when you play scales against a rhythm track and rocket up the learning curve.

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    Chromatic Scales

    Think of the chromatic scale as the universal scale that all other scales come from. The chromatic scale is really just a more detailed breakdown of the octave and is made up of twelve scale degrees, each one representing a semi-tone or half step on the guitar fretboard. Each degree has been given a letter name from A to G ("naturals").

    Ahhh, but you say A to G only covers seven notes. What about the other five? Good point. The remaining five degrees represent the "accidentals", the sharps (#) or the flats (b).

    If your guitar has standard tuning, the chromatic scale as represented by letter notes would look like this.

    The numbers represent the frets of the guitar and as you can see, the scale repeats itself after 12 frets. Don't ever forget this!

    From this universal scale, all the other scales on your guitar can be created.

    So if you wanted to isolate the C major scale it's also called the natural scale because as you will see it contains only natural notes you would simply take the whole step pattern you learned in the half step whole step lesson and use C, the root note, as your 1st degree in the scale.

    So let's do that. Using the W-W-H-W-W-W-H interval pattern, C would be the 1st degree, D the 2nd degree, E the 3rd degree, F the 4th, G the 5th, A the 6th and B the 7th. And here is what you get.

    You could do the same thing for any of the other eleven remaining notes (semi-tones) in the chromatic scale and you will see their respective position on the guitar.

    Start developing a mental picture of the shaded cells of the major scale. All you ever do is shift it up or down one fret or many frets to accommodate the guitar scale you want to isolate.

    Whole Steps and Half Steps

    A musical scale is simply an arrangement of notes set at fixed intervals within the octave.

    Most guitar scales have seven unique notes in the octave although not all. Some have less. The eighth note is a repeat of the first note and marks the end of the octave.

    But something else you should know is that within the octave are twelve notes (semi-tones actually). Together they make up the chromatic scale, which you will learn more about later on. You may want to read the section on the chromatic scale before you go further and then come back as it may clear up any confusion for you.

    These notes are set at equal intervals known as semi-tones or half steps. Two semi-tones or half-steps will equal a full tone or a whole step. On a guitar each of these notes or semi- tones is marked by a fret. But only eight of those notes are used to make up the scale.

    The notes that do not form part of the scale serve as gaps or steps between the notes used in the scale. It is the placement or order of these steps that determine the type of scale you are playing.

    The do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-da melody you are so familiar with is actually the major scale. The "do" and the "da" are the same notes, just half or double the other's frequency and mark the start and end point of the octave.

    In between the "da" and "do" are half steps (H) and whole steps (W) that define the intervals, like what you see in the table below.

    The major scale can be spelled like this: W-W-H-W-W-W-H

    To see any given major scale in a particular key, simply place the first or root note of the desired key (C) in the 1st position ("do") on the chromatic scale using the W-W-H-W-W-W-H pattern and the rest of the notes of the scale will follow.

    Or the key of G

    And remember on your guitar, a whole step is equal to 2 frets and a half step is equal to 1 fret.

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    Major Scale

    If you really want to play guitar well, then learning the major scale is very important because it is so fundamental to understanding how all the other scales are created. The challenging aspect of the learning the major scale when compared with the pentatonic scale however is dealing with the 2 extra notes.

    Those 2 extra notes do make a big difference both in terms of memorizing their place in the scale. But they also create 2 additional scale positions, boxes or patterns to learn that you can avoid when playing the pentatonic.

    So let's review the chromatic scale again. Here you have 138 different notes (6 x 23) with no apparent order or logic.

    To make it easy let's do our example in the key of C because it has no sharp or flat notes to confuse you. It only contains "naturals" and that's why it's also called the natural scale and is represented by the shaded cells.

    To pick out the major scale you have to use the pattern of whole steps and half steps between each of the notes to extract the correct notes.

    So isolate the root note C at the 8th fret of the low E string and start counting steps between each note. On a guitar you just count frets where each fret represents a half step, two frets equal a whole step. The step pattern for the major scale is W-W-H-W-W-W-H. In terms of frets the spacings between notes are 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1 and looks like this:

    Next isolate the C note at the 3rd fret of the A string and start counting frets in the same way. Do this for each string.

    Now you understand why the chromatic scale is important because you have to know where the notes are on any string, depending on its tuning, in order to isolate the root note of the desired chromatic key and begin counting the whole step pattern.

    The first time you see this pattern on your guitar it won't make a lot of sense until you begin to commit it to memory and that of course will come from playing the scale over and over.

    Click here to see an amazing learning tool that will simplify this and other scales for you while you play!

    But to see and understand how the major scale relates to the entire guitar, let's take the above pattern you see on the fretboard and substitute the letter notes with numbers that relate to their position in the major scale pattern. Then you will be able to see how easy it is to isolate the major scale in any other desired key.

    Now let's do one more example of locating the major scale but this time in a different chromatic key like A. You would simply take the #1 position in the scale pattern and place it over the A located at the 5th fret of the low E string. Look how the whole pattern just shifts down three frets.

    So now you are armed with the knowledge of how to find the major scale in any key on your guitar in an instant.

    As you look at this pattern you are probably still quite intimidated by it and are wondering how on earth do you begin to commit this scale to memory. If you go the section Best Ways to Learn Scales, you will be shown some of the fastest, most enjoyable and most productive ways to learn them.

    See how the EasyLead Guitar Map™ will make your learning fun and easy!

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    Minor Scale

    Once you understand what makes up the major scale, you will find that the minor scale lives within the major scale and is easily located by simply shifting the pattern up or down three frets from root note of the major scale.

    Here is the whole step pattern for the minor scale compared against the major scale.

    • Major W-W-H-W-W-W-H
    • Minor W-H-W-W-H-W-W

    The minor scale still has the major scale pattern in it, except that it starts at the 6th position making it the Aolean mode.

    Another way of emphasizing the differences and similarities of the major and minor scale is to show how the scales are spelled with numbers.

    This shows how the minor scale contains a flatted 3rd, flatted 6th and flatted 7th note and yet the whole step pattern is the same as the major pattern, but just starts at a different point.

    So how do you use this in a practical way when you play guitar?

    Starting from the first note in the major scale you will see how a minor scale can be played within the same major scale pattern by playing a different mode and you will also see how you can play another minor scale by shifting the major scale pattern up three frets.

    Click here to see an amazing learning tool that will engrain this scale into your mind instantly.

    Remember these simple rules and you will have mastered a huge concept that most people who try to learn guitar never fully grasp. As a result they will never become great lead guitar players because they do not have the ability or understanding required to move up and down the guitar neck at ease as you soon will.

    Take a look at the C Major Scale again for reference. We'll label the note positions with numbers to emphasize the shifting relationship between the minor and major scales.

    To play a minor scale within the C major scale, so that you don't have to alter the scale pattern at all, all you do is emphasize the 6th note of the scale, which is the A note found at the 5th fret of the low E string.

    Really what you are doing is playing the Aolean (6th) mode of the major scale but it is also the A minor scale. Because it is within the major scale, it's called the relative minor scale.

    If you referred to it correctly as the A minor scale and re-numbered the note positions to reflect its place in the A minor scale the diagram above would now look like this.

    The numbers have shifted down 3 frets but the pattern has remained fixed and voila, the A minor scale!

    Now the other way to find a minor scale is to start with the C major scale and simply create the C minor scale so that the root note of C remains unchanged unlike the previous example were the root note went from C to A. To do that, shift the entire major scale pattern up three frets and keep the root note C stationary.

    Look at what happens.

    Now you can appreciate the value in learning a guitar scale pattern because when that knowledge is combined with just a little bit of understanding of the "shifting relationship" between the major and minor scales, you can become a truly dangerous guitar player! Also, be sure to check out the EasyLead Guitar Map™ to see how it makes learning this scale and others a pleasure and a snap!

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    The blues guitar scale or the pentatonic guitar scale is so important to rock music that you must know it if you really want learn to play guitar.

    In fact, it is so fundamental to playing rock music, not just blues, that if you only wanted to learn one guitar scale and still be a great guitar player, this would be the scale to learn.

    The pentatonic scale is a made up of only 5 notes so it is easier to learn than the major scale. With less notes, the guitar really opens up so you can play this scale with a lot of speed and mobility.

    The pentatonic scale can also be played as a minor or major scale simply by taking the pentatonic pattern and shifting it up or down the guitar. Read the lesson about the natural minor scale and how it relates to the natural major scale and then come back here.

    Click here to see an amazing learning tool that will engrain this scale into your mind instantly.

    So, let's get going and show you first how the pentatonic minor scale is actually derived from the major scale. Then you will easily be able to see how you can switch from the pentatonic minor to the major.

    The pentatonic scale is a scale within a scale the major scale that is.

    Let's take a closer look at the natural major (C) scale and its familiar W-W-H-W-W-W-H pattern and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 spelling.

    Now let's take a look at the pentatonic (A) minor scale remembering that A happens to be the relative minor of C and is found 3 frets down the fretboard.

    The pentatonic scale is WH-W-W-WH-W and is spelled 1, -3, 4, 5, -7. There are only 5 notes to learn!

    Now let's combine the two scales and you will be able to see how the pentatonic scale comes from within the major scale. The darker cells indicate the notes within the pentatonic scale.

    The pentatonic is identical to the major scale except for the notable absence of the B and F notes which correspond the 2nd and flatted 6th notes of the standard A minor scale. Where the standard minor scale is spelled 1, 2, -3, 4, 5, -6, -7, the pentatonic minor scale is spelled 1, -3, 4, 5, -7.

    This little change not only economizes on notes and the mental and physical energy required to play the scale but it creates those signature blues notes and gives it a sort of sweet and sour kind of feel. A happy and sad kind of contrast all in one scale.

    By removing two notes, the pattern changes and becomes much simpler to recognize and remember. For a guitar scale, this makes it the easiest and most useful scale you will ever have in your lead guitar repertoire.

    Ok, now you need to know how the pentatonic major scale fits in to this mix. It's really easy. The major scale is simply the same pentatonic minor scale pattern except that you now start at what would be the second position or note of the minor scale.

    So in the above diagram, the pentatonic major scale starts at the C, which happens to be the second note position in the A minor pentatonic scale. But the twist is this if you play the minor scale and start at the C, it now becomes a major scale.

    Go read the lesson on the minor Scale if you haven't already because the following summary rules will make more sense for you.

    When you learned how to play a the natural major scale and wanted to find a natural minor scale you saw how you could play the same major scale pattern but shift your musical emphasis from the C root note down 3 frets to the A note and you were now playing the A minor scale.

    Or if you wanted to go from playing the C major scale to the C minor scale you learned that you kept your musical emphasis on the same root note (in this case C) but you shifted the entire major scale pattern up 3 frets. Voila! You were into the C minor scale.

    So use this same logic again when you want to switch from major and minor emphasis within the pentatonic scale.

    If you are playing the pentatonic A minor scale and you want to switch to a major scale without changing the pattern, just adjust your musical emphasis to the C note 3 frets up from the A and keep playing the same patterns. It's that simple.

    Or if you want to switch from the A minor scale to the pentatonic A major scale, keep your musical emphasis on the A note, but shift the entire scale pattern down 3 frets. There you go! Now you are playing the pentatonic scale in a minor or major mode at will.

    Here is a summary of the relationship between the most important guitar scales you have learned so far.

    The best way to learn this scale is to break it down into manageable boxes or scale patterns one for each note position in the scale and learn the boxes. By the way, read the lesson on modes if you haven't yet because learning boxes is really the same as learning the scale modes.

    Also, check out the EasyLead Guitar Map™ to see how it makes learning these modes and scales a pleasure and a snap!

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