Making music with Marshall part SIX

Common guitar scales

Posted: 25 February 2020

They might not seem that exciting, but behind every lick, solo or riff is a scale. We look at some of the most common ones you can incorporate into your playing.

So you’ve learnt rhythm and tempo, mastered your basic chords, added some advanced chords in there and you’re applying these to chord progressions. But how do you write a killer lead line over the top? What notes work up and down the fretboard with your progression? This is where scales come into play.

For every key there’s a scale, one that fits perfectly with your dark, moody minor progression or your upbeat, pop-rock major chord sequence. We’ve put together some of the most common guitar scales that every player should have in their arsenal. Get these down and you’re ready for any improv jam or stand-out solo moment.

We suggest learning the shape using the charts below (Fingers are shown on the top, with the frets indicated in the tab below) and running through the scales forwards and then in reverse. Examples are shown in G minor at the 3rd fret position. Simply move the shape up and down the fretboard to change the key (e.g. 3rd fret position = G Minor, 5th fret position = A minor pentatonic etc.)

Melodic Minor & Minor Pentatonic

Pentatonic scales have 5 notes per octave (hence the name) and are arguably the most common among guitarists. The minor pentatonic is used heavily in blues and rock, with its shape being one of the easiest to learn. Lends itself well to accents such as bends and hammer-ons.

The melodic minor combines the minor pentatonic and the harmonic minor scale into one scale. The harmonic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale except that the seventh note is raised by half a tone.

Major & Major Pentatonic

Popular amongst pop and acoustic songwriters, this scale works well for classic song melodies rather than a ripping solo. Try using this scale to add harmonies to already existing songs.

‘The Blues Scale’

Similar to the minor pentatonic, the blues pentatonic adds a few more notes (a flattened 5th) into the mix to give the scale a bit more attitude.

Dorian

Used more commonly in jazz, the dorian scale is traditionally a minor scale variation, it can be used in rock and pop to add a really unique flair to your licks.

Mixolydian

Like the Dorian, the Mixolydian is technically a variant of a traditional scale called a ‘Mode’ and is a variation of the major scale.