Understanding Guitar Scales – The First Step to Playing Lead Guitar

December 1st, 2009

Note: This is a guest post by Ian, from GuitarLessonsReviewed.com.

For a lot of beginner guitar players the thought of having to learn scales can seem a bit daunting. Chords, sure they weren’t too difficult to handle, but moving into the realm of scales is something completely new. Thankfully there are easier scales to learn then others.

The pentatonic guitar scales are probably the easiest to master and that’s what this article will cover. If you haven’t yet learned some basic musical theory, names of each string and some of the notes on the neck you might want to consider getting a quality guitar lessons dvd to grow your foundation. I know when you want to learn something new you want to do it right now but trust me on this, knowing the basics about theory and the neck will make this a lot easier.

So back to the lesson

There are 5 notes in each pentatonic scale. This is what makes it so attractive to beginners since most other scales have 7 or more notes. To go along with this the scale has 5 distinct shapes it follows depending on which note of the scale your starting at.

Once you memorize the shapes it’s just a matter of knowing where the notes are in the scale and then pick up the scale using the proper position (1st through 5th position) based on that note.

Here’s an Example:

A simple A Minor Pentatonic scale on the 6th string (low E) starts at the 5th Fret. It then slides up three frets, then two frets, then two frets then finally sliding three frets to finish the scale. Those are the 5 main notes in the A minor pentatonic scale.

So let’s take it a step further and play it on more then just the 6th string. In first position your going to start at the first note of the A minor pentatonic scale, that’s the 5th fret of the 6th string. From there you’re going to follow the 1st position shape for a pentatonic scale. I won’t describe the exact shapes since it would take quite a bit of time to explain, but they are readily available online.

For the second position you would start at the 8th fret of the 6th string. This is the second note of that scale if you remember from just a few moments ago. I bet you can see the pattern now, the 3rd position starts on the 3rd note of the scale and so on and so on.

The key to pentatonic scales is

  • memorizing the 5 different shapes
  • Knowing where the scales are on each string

Since the shapes stay the same through out you can see how it’s easier to learn pentatonic guitar scales then any other type of scale on the guitar neck. Of course it takes some serious practice but it’s well worth it once you start to integrate these scales into your practicing and jam sessions.

2 Responses to “Understanding Guitar Scales – The First Step to Playing Lead Guitar”

  1. Criticizing is easy, art is difficult. Swimming with electric blankets pretty dangerous.

  2. Kyle says:

    True indeed, Mark! Thankfully I don’t just criticize…I play guitar too. :) Thanks for stopping by.

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