dateWednesday 15 Feb 2012

Guitar Scales

Noodle Your Way To Beautiful Melody

A Guitar Scale is a series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme (usually within an octave) played on the guitar.

Okay, but for us, what does this mean and how it can help our playing?  Basically, scales can help us sound more intelligent or melodic on the guitar.  You can look at them as a set of vocabulary words that are helpful for a specific subject.  Only in this case, the words are the notes, and the subject is the key of the song or specific chord that you will be playing over.

How can they enrich our guitar playing?  A MYRIAD of different ways, but here are two REALLY important ones.

  1. By giving us easy “go to” patterns that allow us to create different emotions according to which scales we play or how we play them.
  2. Allow us to create melodies that we might not “naturally” come by, but nonetheless work with the key, not too unlike matching clothes with accessories.

But Erich, how do I use scales?  How do I know what scale to use with what keys?  I’m confused!

Easy there, camper!

I’m gonna set you up.

First, learn “The Most Powerful Scale in the World”.  Seriously, it is!  I joke about it, but if you know this scale you can play lead guitar or melodies over 99.999% of the songs that have ever been written.

The actual name of this scale is the “Pentatonic Scale”, AKA the “five-note scale”.

For a diagram of form 1 of the Pentatonic  Scale(which is the most widely used form for pop and country), go to page 17 of the 27 page Free Ebook Sampler of The Ultimate Guitar Guide Series, which you can receive at the upper right of this webpage.

Enter your name and email and I’ll shoot you over this eBook for Free.

The Blues Scale is only 1 note different than the Pentatonic Scale.  It adds the b5(flat 5) to the minor blues scale, and the b3(flat 3) to the major pentatonic.  If you don’t understand what that means, it’s okay, just keep going here.  If you MUST know what this means check out, The Ultimate Guitar Guide Series: Mastery of the Blues.

For a diagram of form 1 of The Blues Scale(which is the most widely used form for rock and blues), go to page 23 of the 27 page Free Ebook sampler of The Ultimate Guitar Guide Series, which you can receive by entering your name and email address to the right.

Did I mention that when you learn any of these scale forms, you have learned them in all 12 keys?  YUP!

That makes learning easy. 🙂

On piano, you have to learn 12 different fingerings.

For guitar, you can play the same pattern in another key, by simply moving it up or down the fretboard as demonstrated here:


Linear scales or playing scales on one string: If you would like to know how to play major, minor, blues or pentatonic scales across strings linearly so that you can come up with all sorts of really cool licks/riffs like the professionals do, check out:


If you would like to see an example of how a solo or guitar riff might sound using this method, check out the guitar solo that Dave Evans, AKA “The Edge” plays on Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 where this specific technique starts at measure 5.

For that example and a tutorial on that solo check out:


The Major Scale:  As you may know, the major scale is what all scales and chords are based upon or compared to.  For that reason, this scale is the most crucial scale to fully understand.  To master this basic, but VERY necessary concept, watch this:


Once you understand the concept of the major scale, you need to get some basic forms underneath your fingers.

Here are three that will be INVALUABLE to your playing, ESPECIALLY if you are looking to play melodies, lead guitar or master chord noodling.  If you want scale “map” diagrams for these next few exercises, get The Ultimate Guitar Guide – Part 2.

Here is the first EASY, 1 octave major scale form across that strings that you should know:


Then learn the 2 octave forms:

6th string root:


and 5th string root:


Chord Noodling is term that you might not hear other guitar players talk about, but it is a term that I have coined that explains the playing of chords, while embellishing those chords with surrounding/complementary scale notes.

If this sounds really confusing, it’s not and I will explain it in full to you here:


and part 2, here:


If you would like to hear how chord noodling sounds in a song, check out my version of “Kids” by MGMT here:


You may download this PDF file for FREE just for being cool for reading this blog post and visiting  It will help you with learning the Guitar Scales.

Major Scale with 5th and 6th Strings Roots:

WUFFF!!!  Now that was an intense scale study!  You should now officially be at “Rock Star Level”.

Make sure you set me up with some back stage passes when you are coming through town on your first tour!  🙂




Posted byErich

About Erich

Erich Andreas has been playing and teaching guitar for nearly 30 years. He has taught 100s of students for 1000s of hours, has authored several books on the subject, has over 40,000,000 video views on his collective YouTube channels and is passionate about creating guitar ninjas all over the world. His philosophy is, if you have the right instruction and do the practice there is NOTHING that you cannot accomplish!