Respond to This

I need help undestanding scales

I've been playing for about 7 months now and I am very dedicated.I know a bunch of scales and drill through them daily oh yeah I'm also in the process of teaching my self via internet tabs books etc. My only problem I have is with theory I can't understand how I can connect all of the scales or where certain ones fit within each other please help me I'm getting frustrated...
Thank you
Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/7/2006 11:17 PM

Robert Frankenburger (90) wrote:

Did you ever try to learn a scale all over the neck? Take a G major scale learn its notes over the entire neck. Next come up with a rhythm to a progression with the following chords(Cmajor, Dmajor, and Gmajor, in that order). Then try coming up with melodies using the Gmajor notes that you learned all over the neck and try to resolve the melodies to the note G. After a while your ear gets better and you can resolve a melody on different notes such as those within the chords in the progression I gave you. That should keep you busy for a while and is the beginning to understanding what you want to know.

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/7/2006 11:40 PM

Tim Reierson (1202) wrote:

Christopher, welcome to Wholenote!

If you haven't already, check out the "Basics" black tab at the top of the page and you will find a lot of resources for scales.

It might help to think of scales in relative terms. For example a "major scale" can be written by numbering each of the seven notes of the scale from low to high as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. These numbers are also called scale degrees. "Major scale" means, by definition, the seven notes within an octave that follow a fixed pattern of whole steps and half steps, which can be written like this (two octaves are shown to show how 7 and 1 are half steps apart):


Each underscore shows the whole steps. So there is one fixed series of whole and half steps for all major scales. The way you get 12 different major scales is to start each one on a different note. 12 choices are A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab. Which look like this on the fingerboard, looking along one string:

Right handed


Left handed =>NUT IS AT THIS END=>


From there you may want to look into the Circle of Fifths and look up "key signatures" to help you remember the scales without counting whole and half steps every time. (Guitar is unique in that your fingering patterns are movable, which is a big advantage. On piano or trumpet, you have different fingerings for each major scale.)

Now just pick a different scale, such as "harmonic minor" and the definition of the scale will tell you the series of whole and half steps (see Basics). Again, you have 12 choices for a starting note--also called the tonic note of the scale--which gives you 12 different harmonic minor scales. In relative terms, they sound the same.

Sorry if you knew all that, but that's just how I was reading your question.

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/8/2006 7:01 AM

Jon Riley (9697) wrote:

I'd say you need to learn the NOTES. The notes in every scale, and the notes on the fretboard.
That's a failsafe basis for understanding any scale, all of its patterns, and how and where it applies.
You can work without this knowledge (purely from visual patterns and root knowledge), but once you know the notes, everything links up automatically and becomes a lot quicker and simpler.

Here's the C major scale (including all its modes) from nut to 12th fret:

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

You can break that down any way you like to learn it. Eg, use patterns, groups of frets, or applied chord shapes (eg the C-A-G-E-D shapes) - or any combination. But learn it!

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/8/2006 11:34 AM

Tim Reierson (1202) wrote:

By the way, each scale is a family of notes that gives a particular sound. I mean that if you play the notes of a minor pentatonic scale, a major scale, or a harmonic minor scale; they each have a characteristic sound. What's amazing is that if you put a given scale against a different context (different bass note for example), the whole sound seems to change. That gets into the concept of key, also modes...all these topics tend to run together and support each other.

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/9/2006 12:30 PM

Christopher Gonsales (22) wrote:

I want to just thank everybody very much for the advice you all have been very helpful thank you!

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/10/2006 8:16 AM

Christian Miller (1937) wrote:

Christopher, it may be time to put the scales away for a bit. As I understand a scale (being a stack of five-twelve notes arranged from low to high) has three basic functions:

1) to serve for technique practice - that is building fluency, speed, uniformity of tone and all that stuff, while working primarily with two or three notes a string.
2) to serve as a pallette of notes to use as the basis for improvised melodies.
3) as a way of creating a decorative texture - for example fast licks in a rock solo.

In terms of 2), this is where it gets problimatic. The use of scales as a basis for solos can be useful, but like you say you have to know which scale goes where. I'm sure John Riley will fill you in on this. However, my feeling is that the best thing you can do to kick of your improvising is to learn how to reproduce the melodies you sing on the guitar. If you can;t think of any melodies copy toehr peoepl's. Make sure they are nice and slow.

This is important, I think, because it stops the process of improvisagtion from being about scales. Don't get me wrong - scales have a use, but if one starts to see scales as something which should be 'applied' in order to produce 'music' you can get into a very academic and intellectual space when you play, which does not interest me. The music is already in you, you just have to let it out.

Having said that, it's good to learn scale theory in order to hear sounds you may not be familiar with.

I think, technically, you will find it very demanding to move onto alternate picking on adjacent strings. Here are some typical sequences that should mess you up nicely. Start off with a slow metronome click (60 bpm is probably the absolute fastest.)

and so on.

Ensure that these notes do not beled into each other - in other words where you cross adjacent strigns on the same fret, you will have to master a way of rolling the fretting finger so that the note is muted before you play the next.


In terms of vocabulary, study your arpeggios. However, make sure that aside from just playing them up and down as exercise you use them to create melodies. Listen to Dave Gilmour's first, major key, solo on Comfortably Numb for an example of this technqiue. It is also use in jazz.

Good luck - hope that's some help!

Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/11/2006 5:26 PM

Steve Cass (14763) wrote:


Welcome to WN!

You're from WHERE in AZ? I'm from Phoenix.

Anyway, there is so much excellent advice for you here. This thread alone covers some very excellent ground. Just realize that you need to learn the guitar by the basics--and become well rooted in those basics.

To get you in tune with basic music theory and the guitar, all you may wish to concentrate on right now is the major scale and it's intervals. Every other scale is a derivative! If you can know and reproduce (e.g. sing, play and identify the notes and intervals) of the major scale, you will be able to play an enormous amount of music!

And secondly, the guitar is a unique instrument that is characterized by chord shapes. Learn the basic chord shapes and remember that the notes are found within the shapes.

All the best,


Respond to this

Re: I need help undestanding scales

1/12/2006 4:55 AM

Jason Parker (2612) wrote:

I haven't read any replies, so I don't know if anyone's suggested this already, but if you want to get around on the neck, begin by learning scale extensions. If you go to my list of lessons, you'll find one called "Applying the Extended Pentatonic" that you might find useful. Once you learn the extensions, it's easy to "plug in" the various scale positions.