So what exactly are scales after all? What's the big deal?

I must confess that I did not quite understand the importance of scales when I was learning to play the guitar; and completely ignored them for many years. That was until I felt embarrased when I was playing at a gig and was asked to perform a live improvised solo.  I had no idea what to do; luckily I was able to pull some cool rhythmic tricks out of my sleeve. Good gracious, what a close call!

Scales are important because you can use them to create melodies. You can create a nice melody just by choosing notes from a single major scale. Once I understood this concept, I performed one of my very first solos using this technique of pick-and-choosing notes from a single major scale.  The solo certainly was not a master piece, but it did the trick.

What is a Scale?

A scale is simply eight successive pitches within an octave range.  In other words, start a scale on a note; say C on the 5th string-third fret of the guitar and play eight successive notes until you reach the C on the 2nd string-first fret, an octave higher.  Now the question is, what successive eight pitches or notes should you play?  Well, it depends on what type of melody you are aiming for.  These successive notes or pitches are called intervals, that once mathematically arranged can produced different types of scales such as: Major, at least three Minor Scales, and any number of different modes.


The first note of a scale is called the tonic, or first degree, of the scale.  Unsurprisingly, the second note is called the second degree, the third note is called the third degree, and so on - until you get to the eighth note, which is the tonic again.


Common Scales Used By Guitarists and Musicians:

1. Chromatic Scale

2. Major Scale

3. Natural Minor Scale

4. Harmonic Minor Scale

5. Melodic (Ascending) Minor Scale

6. Melodic (Descending) Minor Scale

7. Blues Scale

Specialized Scales Used By Guitarists and Musicians:

Although the following scales would not be considered as the default for most guitarist, they are still useful to know.

1. Diminished 7th Scale

2. Dominant 7th Scale

3. Major Arpeggio Scale

4. Minor Arpeggio Scale,

5. Pentatonic (Major) Scale

6. Pentatonic (Minor) Scale 

7. Whole Tone Scale