PHOTO: Illustration | Riley Swift
5 Essential Guitar Scales For Beginners
Use these handy guides to learn some easy scales that will build dexterity and help you know your way around the fretboard.
By Mike Duffy
You might have heard the word "scales" throughout your guitar journey, but some players might not know exactly what they are.
Guitar scales are organized sequences of notes played in an ascending or descending order that help you build finger strength and dexterity. Practicing guitar scales also make you more familiar with the notes on your fretboard, develop your musical ear and provide a framework for creating melodies for your own original songs].
For those that want to expand their scale horizons, the available Player Pack on the Fender Tune app features a dynamic scale library with a variety of diagrams and patterns for any variation, flavor and key. And for those looking to brush up on the basics or just dive into scales for the first time, Fender Play has a wealth of videos that offer step-by-step guides of basic scales that will serve you well.
Take a look at a list of five essential scales (complete with diagrams) to get you started below.
E Minor Pentatonic Scale
The E minor pentatonic scale in the open position is ground zero for soloing. For this version from Fender Play instructor Matt Lake, you'll play two notes on each string, an open string followed by a fretted note. Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," "Back in Black" by AC/DC and "Rumble" by Link Wray are a few popular songs that feature this scale.
E Minor Pentatonic Scale Using Open Strings with Leah Wellbaum
In this Technique of the Week, Leah Wellbaum (Slothrust) teaches the E Minor Pentatonic using the open strings, hammer ons and pull offs. Wellbaum also plays portions of the scale under chords which is a common technique used in her songs.
A Minor Pentatonic Scale (Fifth Position)
A pentatonic scale is a popular five-note scale that you'll need to know for riffs, solos and melodies, especially for rock and blues. For the A minor pentatonic scale, it's a snap to learn in two octaves in the fifth position, and it helps you with your fret-hand strength.
Some common songs that utilize the A minor pentatonic scale are "Stairway to Heaven" from Led Zeppelin and "Hoodoo Bluesman" by Junior Wells, to name a few. Learn to play the A minor pentatonic scale.
C Major Scale (Open Position)
Getting down the C major scale will help you understand the key of C, and because it doesn't have any sharps or flats, it's a great entryway into musical composition. To simply play it all on the B string, you'll need to follow a whole step / whole step / half step / whole step / whole step / whole step / half step formula. You can actually play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" using this method!
While that is a good way to understand the C major scale, it's more commonly played in open position across multiple strings to get the notes.
G Major Scale (Open Position)
Like the C major scale, you can play the G major scale on a single string, also following the two-whole step / half step / three-whole steps / half step formula.
But, again, it's more common to utilize all six strings to properly fret all the notes, and it also helps you build strength in your pinkie finger Learn to play the G minor pentatonic scale.
E Harmonic Minor (Open Position)
The E harmonic minor scale is used often in classical, jazz and metal music, as it can spice up your solos. One way to get to know the E harmonic minor scale is to play it all on the High E string, going from the open position to the second fret (whole step), second to third fret (half step), third to fifth fret (whole step), fifth to seventh fret (whole step), seventh to eighth fret (half step), eighth to 11th fret (minor third) and 11th to the 12th fret (half step).
But you'll find it's more practical to play the E harmonic minor scale on all six strings. Learn how to play the E harmonic minor scale in open position across two octaves.