Guitar Scales

Now it's time to learn the theory behind most of the popular rock guitar scales.

Most of the great rock and metal guitarists are very scale oriented. Going way back, most of the time all that was being played was the major and minor pentatonic scales. Now there is nothing wrong with those scales, i use them quite often and you probably will also, but it's nice to have alot of other scales to draw on. Scales are used to create a mood or atmosphere, and to give you the foundation to be able to play up and down the neck at the speed of lightning.

Let's get started. Scale construction is much like chord construction. All scale types are made from the major scale of the same letter name. Any type of C scale, whether it's C blues, C harmonic minor, etc., will be constructed from the C major scale. Any type of B scales (B blues, B diminished, etc.) is made from the B major scale, and so on and so on. The major scale is the "God" of all scales. That shouldn't be too hard to remember. After all it is called the "Major" scale!

If all chords and scales come from the major scale, where does the major scale itself come from you ask? Well, the major scale has it's own formula for construction. The major scale is made up of whole step and half step "intervals". An interval is the amount of distance between two notes. We covered earlier that a half step is equal to the distance of one fret on the guitar. B to C, C# to D#, D# to F, etc. are all half step intervals. A whole step is equal to the distance of two frets. B to C#, C# to D#, D# to F, etc. are all whole step intervals.

The major scale is made up with the following interval formula: whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. Two whole steps and a half step, three whole steps and a half step. Every single major scale that you will play will have that same formula! The major scale contains seven different notes, starting and ending on the root note or tonic. (The tonic is also known as the key center or root-the letter name of the scale.) The eighth degree of the major scale is one octave higher than the first degree.

The major scale is listed below in all keys. You can see that each key contains a different amount of sharps and flats. This is because each key must be altered in a different way to fit the major scale interval pattern. There are 7 keys containing sharps and 7 keys containing flats. The key of C is the only key that contains all natural notes ( natural means no sharps or flats.)

Key Of C C D E F G A B C
Key Of G G A B C D E F# G
Key Of D D E F# G A B C# D
Key Of A A B C# D E F# G# A
Key Of E E F# G# A B C# D# E
Key Of B B C# D# E F# G# A# B
Key Of F# F# G# A# B C# D# E# F#
Key Of C# C# D# E# F# G# A# B# C#
Key Of F F G A Bb C D E F
Key Of Bb Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
Key Of Eb Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
Key Of Ab Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
Key Of Db Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
Key Of Gb Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb
Key Of Cb Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb

Now that we have covered how major scales are constructed, let's see how this scale is used to construct other scale types. Scale construction is no different than chord construction, just as every chord has it's own formula, the same applies to all scales. The formula for the blues scale is 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7. All this means is that the blues scale contains the first degree (or root), flatted third degree, fourth degree, flatted fifth degree, fifth degree, and flatted seventh degree of it's major scale. To construct a blues scale in any key, all you do is apply the blues scale formula to the major scale of the key you want.

Blues Scale Construction - Key Of C

Blues scale construction - Key Of C - C Major Scale - C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C Blues Scale Formula - 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7 - C Blues Scale - C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb

Diminished Scale Construction - Key Of A

A Major Scale - A B C# D E F# G# A - Diminished Scale Formula - 1, 2, b3, 4, b5, b6, 6, 7 - A Diminished Scale - A, B, C, D, Eb, F, F#, G#

Harmonic Minor Scale Construction - Key Of G

G Major Scale - G A B C D E F# G - Harmonic Minor Scale Formula - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7 - G Harmonic Minor Scale - G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#

All scales types are made the same way. You just need to know all the formulas, which i will show you later on.

It is also very good to know the chords that go with each scale when it's time to improvise. In order to understand how chords and scales work together, your going to have to understand diatonic chord harmony. (Diatonic means to come from or relate to a particular key.)

We are now going to harmonize the C major scale. This happens when we stack two more notes on top of each note in the C major scale to form triads. Only notes within the key of C major may be stacked. (No sharps or flats.)

When we are done harmonizing the the C major scale using three notes, we get the following triads:

C major (C, E, G)- D Minor (D, F, A)- E Minor (E, G, B)- F Major (F, A, C)- G Major (G, B, D)- A Minor (A, C, E)- B Diminished (B, D, F)- C Major (C, E, G)

The chords above are diatonic to the key of C major. If any major scale is harmonized with three notes, these chord types will be the result.

We now know the following information about the triads in any given key:

The I chord is a major triad. The II chord ia a minor triad. The III chord is a minor triad. The IV chord is a major triad. The V chord is a major triad. The VI chord is a minor triad. The VII chord is a dim triad. The VIII chord is major triad.

Note: It is common practice to use Arabic numerals when describing the note degrees of a scale, and to use roman numerals when decribing chords.

To find the triads in any key, it is not necessary to go through the whole process of harmoninzing the major scale. All you really have to do is apply what we just covered about the chords diatonic to any key. Let's say you wanted to know the triads contained in the key of C major. Below is the C major scale. All the scale degrees have been numbered.

C D E F G A B C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Since the first degree of the C major scale is "C", the I chord in the key of C is C major. Since the second degree of the C major scale is "D" the II chord in the key of C is D minor. The III chord is E minor, the IV chord is F major, the V chord is G major, the VI chord is A minor, the VII chord is B diminished, and the VIII chord is C major. Use this method to find the triads in any key.

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