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5 essential guitar scales for beginners

As a guitarist, you've probably heard of the word "scales", but what are they really?

Guitar scales are organized sequences of notes played in ascending or descending order that helps you develop finger dexterity, strength and precision. Learning guitar scales also familiarizes you with the notes on your fretboard, develops your musical ear, and provides a framework for creating melodies for your own original songs.

Take a look at this list of the five best guitar scales to learn on guitar if you are a beginner.

A minor pentatonic scale (fifth position)

First, you must know that a pentatonic scale is a popular five-note scale that you will need to know for riffs, licks, solos, and melodies, especially for rock and blues. For the A minor pentatonic scale, it's easy to learn in two octaves at the fifth position, and it helps you with the strength of your fret hand.

Some common songs that use the A minor pentatonic scale are "Stairway to Heaven" and “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin.

E minor pentatonic scale

This E minor pentatonic scale in the open position is the zero zone for solos—it’s the most widely-used scale for lead guitarists. "Back in Black" by AC/DC is a popular song that feature this scale.

C major scale (open position)

It is made up of 7 notes plus its octave, i.e. the same note as the first but higher. The notes of this major scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

Lowering the C major scale will help you to understand the C key, and since it has no sharp or flat objects, it is a great entrance to musical composition. To play it all simply on B string, you will need to follow a full step/full step/half step/full step/full step/full step/half step formula. You can really play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" using this method!

While this is a good way to understand the C major scale, it is most commonly played in the open position through multiple chains to get the notes.

G major scale (open position)

You also can play the G major scale on one string, also following the formula of two full steps/half step/three full steps/half step.

But, again, it is more common to use all six strings to get all the notes through correctly, and it also helps you develop strength in your little finger.

It is used in songs like “Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N' Roses and “Gravity” by John Mayer.

E minor harmonic (open position)

The minor harmonic E scale is often used in classical music, jazz, and metal, as it can bring your solos to life. One way to get to know this scale is to play everything on the high E string, going from the open position to the second fret (full step), from the second to the third fret (half step), from the third to the fifth fret (full step), from the fifth to the seventh fret (full step), from the seventh to the eighth fret (half step), from the eighth to the eleventh fret (third minor), and from the eleventh to the twelfth fret (half step).

But you will find that it is more practical to play the minor harmonic scale E on all six strings.


Always remember to play them slowly, followed by the chords that correspond to each one, and don't forget to alternate up picking with down picking.

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