Learn Guitar Scales     


Learn Guitar ScalesWhatever style of guitar you want to play be it rock, classical, flamenco or country; a knowledge of guitar scales is invaluable. Scales are like the basic building blocks, the molecules or DNA of all music. Once you learn guitar scales it will make playing the guitar much more logical. There are two aspects to this - the theoretical part and the playing part. We will talk about how to learn to play guitar scales in another article but in this one, we’ll give you the basic theory to get you going. 


Once you’ve grasped the basic concept of scales it will make it much easier for you not only to understand and write your own music, but also the collaborate with other musicians, and by this I don’t just mean other guitarists - scales are important with most musical instruments. 


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There are two basic scale concepts you need to grasp - the chromatic scale and the played scale. The chromatic scale contains twelve notes each of one ‘interval’. An interval is a logical difference in pitch and there is a whole science behind this but we won’t go into detail of that- we’ll just concentrate on the basics here. In the article ‘Learn Guitar Notes’  we talked about the difference between a keyboard and a guitar and how a keyboard is much simpler. The same applies with the chromatic scale. Ask a keyboard player to show you what notes span an octave on a keyboard. If you then count them (all the black and white keys over this span) you will see there are twelve. This forms the chromatic scale - easy to see on a keyboard... much more difficult to learn guitar scales. (You may actually count thirteen - that is because you have been shown the end note of this scale which by convention is the start of the next scale). 


The played scale covers an octave and consists of seven notes, but gets its name (octave) because by convention when you play this scale you end it by playing an eighth note which is the start of the next scale. So for example if you are playing the scale of C you will end it on C and octave higher. When we look at the article ‘Learn To Play Guitar Scales’ you’ll understand the reason for this - it simply doesn’t sound right to only play the seven notes, you need to play the eighth note as well – hence the octave. 


There is a whole raft of different sorts of scales, the most common being the major scale and the minor scale. When we come to look at ‘How to Play Guitar Scales’ we will look at several variants, but in order to grasp the basic theory to learn guitar scales we will just look at the basic major and minor. 


The major scale consists of the first, third, fifth, sixth, eighth, tenth and twelfth interval from the chromatic scale, ( and then the first again an octave higher to top it off). This is the same regardless of what key it is in (A major, C major, G major etc.) 


If you talk to classically trained singers, they might use a different convention to name these intervals; Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Te-Do  , but they will know the interval number convention as well. 


On the minor chord the fifth is always dropped one interval, in other words you play the fourth interval instead of the fifth interval. 


So there you have it. It might be boring but is it well worth the investment to learn guitar scales - it will make playing them so much easier. 


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