How to Play Guitar Scales

Scales played on the guitar function a little different to how scales are studied on other instruments. The main difference is that guitar scales are better developed as visually memorized universal patterns. Once you learn a scale shape, it functions for both major and minor keys, as well as, for modes. In this lesson I'm going to give a basic breakdown of, "How to Play Guitar Scales."

Let's begin by analyzing how guitar scale tones are structured on the neck. We do this by way of grouping notes that relate to the span of frets we're able to cover with our finger reach. We have 4 fingers, so covering 4-frets is very attainable. 

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Let's go ahead and perform a scale pattern in the key of "C" played at the third string, from 5th fret.

"C" Major Scale Pattern: 

For students of guitar, the way that we will typically find scales given in many books and in online lessons, is through TAB charts and sometimes with music reading notation. While this can be okay for guitar licks and for teaching songs, it isn't exactly the best way to learn the scale patterns. 

Let's look at another way to study scales on the guitar. This system (I'm going to show you now), uses diagrams of the fret-board and relates the scale tones as locations to put down your fingers on the neck. Basically, it's entirely based upon visual learning. And, it has nothing to do with specific keys.

The Major Scale (as a universal Visual Pattern) 

Another cool thing about this geometrical system is that because it's based upon shapes, as patterns on the neck, all we have to do when we would want a minor scale or a mode is change our tonic note. This is the naming or the "principle" tone of the scale. The note that we would both start and end on. Here's the same shape, but this time performed from the Minor scale's tonic note. 

The Minor Scale (as a universal Visual Pattern) 

The new primary tone in this layout of the pattern gives us Minor. And, you could also do this same approach for performing a mode as well.

In the development of our scales on guitar, we need to be able to study the scales as a shape. And, we need to comprehend that scale patterns allows us access to several different types of scale sounds, like; major, minor and modes as well. Once you start studying scales this way, they'll finally start making sense and you'll be able to use them easier.

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