A scale is a series of notes that follow one right after another. An important feature of a scale is the spaces that lie between notes. When we speak of space we are truly talking about the pitch, which is the distance between 2 notes that gives the emotional feel to the music. This concept is one of the most fundamental and important ones for all musicians. Most times it is intuitive, but for others it must be learned.


When you play a note on the guitar, then play it again, there is no difference in the distance of the pitch. On the other hand, if you play a note then play it on the next fret there is a distance between the pitches. The difference is called the half step. It is the highness or lowness of the sound compared to the sound before or after it. Paying a note 2 frets away is a whole step and is also called a minor 3rd.


These different spacings in pitch are also known as intervals and give the emotional feel of the music being played. Such as in a blues scale, the spacings between the pitches gives it a bluesy feeling. Scales are the building blocks of music. Many times when playing a piece you are really playing a scale. It does not matter if you play it backwards, forwards, or in some other pattern, it is still a scale. It takes practice and technique to play scales well. The scale can put demand on the player and challenge the senses. The faster the scale needs to be played the more demand and focus is required.


For many guitar players scales are very difficult, even more difficult than other types of musicians. In fact, scales on the guitar are much more complicated than other musicians. For you it is a balance between your finger on the fret and picking to make just one note. It is very common to be completely unprepared for scale practicing when it comes your way.



  • This will require independent finger action that can be very physically demanding on the hands.
  • In the beginning it is best to practice for shorter time spans to make sure that you get benefit not harm.
  • Remember to do finger and hand stretches and chords prior to moving into scales.
  • Scales should be the last 15 minutes of practice till your fingers are used to the strain.

If you are able to master scales, and get one finger after another to do what is required, then you will be able to conquer most other things you try. It is the practicing of scales in every session you do that will develop and maintain your technique. Scales provide excellent exercise for your fingers.




Memorizing every single scale is not the key to these exercises. There are specific scales one must know and the others can be learned if need be. There is a correct to play scales so the fingers actually learn. You do not want to do them wrong or you will be waiting your time. Scales are complex and require effort and practice to do them correctly.

What types of scales one should put into memory will completely depend on what style of music you will be mainly playing.

  • All players should learn the Major scales and practice them regularly.
  • These scales are played in the 1st position in the keys of C, G, D, E, and A.
  • For those who are more ambitious, the Minor keys of each of these should be learned as well.
  • When doing these scales the player should be able to learn movable scale patterns.
  • These include the Major scales that have the 2nd finger on the 6th or 5th string depending on what scale you are doing.
  • You will also want to go so far as to be comfortable with the Major scales with your 4th finger on the 6th or 5th string.
  • If you are into blues and rock styles of music, you will want to know the 1st pentatonic scale inside out, backward, forwards, and in an array of patterns.
  • In total there are 5 pentatonic scales in all that should be gradually learned.
  • Once you have mastered those it is best to begin to improvise on them based on your knowledge in the common keys, with E and A being the easiest and first. This is also important for jazz and fusion style music as well.
  • You will want to be sure to practice these scales continuously. Once they are mastered it does not mean you no longer should practice them. This is an ongoing lesson that lasts forever and will continuously improve you as a musician.


Although scales can be overloading and tedious to many musicians, they are the most important exercise one can do. Once the scales and all their variations are mastered, it is possible to learn anything and improvise with out any complications. Most of the world’s best improv players are those who are the experts on scales!