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Beginner Guitar Scales

c major scale in tab

The C scale in first position is very important. These 17 tones can provide a basis learning to read music. They are all of the natural tones in first position. Also see Chords in C.

g major scale in tab

The G scale can be viewed as the C scale with the F's moved to F sharps. Also see Chords in G.

d major scale in tab

The D scale can be viewed as the C scale with the F's and C's moved to F sharps and C sharps. Or the G scale with a C sharp. Also see Chords in D.

a major scale in tab

The A scale can be viewed as the C scale with the F's, C's, and G's moved to F sharps, C sharps, and G sharps. Or the D scale with a G sharp.

e major scale in tab

The E scale can be viewed as the C scale with the F's, C's, G's, and D's moved to F sharps, C-sharps, G-sharps, and D-sharps. Or the A scale with a D sharp. Also see, Chords in E [this scale is located there as well].

f major scale in tab

The F scale can be viewed as the C scale with the B moved to B-Flat. F is the 'opposite' of F#. What is flatted in F [B-flat] is natural in F# [B]. What is sharped in F# [F# C# G# D# A# E#] are naturals in F [F C G D A E].

b flat major scale in tab

B Flat has 2 flats - Bb and Eb. The B Flat is the 'opposite' of B Major. What is flatted in B Flat [Bb Eb] are naturals in B [B and E]. What are sharped in B [F# C# G# D# A#] are naturals in B Flat [F C G D A].

In addition to the CAGED system, there are also CAGED Scale Forms [7 of them - CAGED plus F and B Flat]. Each of these is an 'open position' [whatever this means] or 'open string' scale (a scale at the nut with open strings). Some of these scales are identical to the patterns we find in the 7 Major scales system, and some are slightly modified to utilize the open strings where possible. Some shifting is used where appropriate.

As we build our scale knowledge (to ultimately transcend patterns), we determine which fingerings work best for the type of melodic phrasing we are creating.

With all of these beginner guitar scales, we start with the root, play to roughly the highest tone in the position, then play to the lowest tone, and back up to the root, where applicable. We can also just play lowest to highest tone for the root [octave].

  • Play through each scale slowly. To start, try all down picking. Then, try alternate picking (down-up consistently).
  • Be one step ahead in the process. This 'being one step ahead' manifests itself in both hands. As we play a tone, we prepare the next tone in both hands. We snap to the next pick location (The Leave), and snap our fretting hand to be prepared for the next tone.
  • Hold on to tones as long as possible. We let go only when we are about to land the next tone (legato - connected), unless we are intentionally playing staccato.
  • Say the note names as they are sounded.
  • Sing the pitches as they are sounded.
  • Start scales from different tones. Example: start on highest tone and just descend. Then repeat.
  • Use a variety of rhythms.
  • Use sequences: repeated tones [2, 3, or 4+ repeated tones, then go to next], or series [1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5. etc. - the possibilities are truly endless].
  • And, as with everything we learn, we improvise.

Take your time. As you build preparedness (the leave) into your scale playing, you'll find that chording and other techniques are quicker to process.