ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

Did you know there are over 144 frets on a guitar? This makes memorizing scales difficult, luckily with the right approach, it is not that difficult!

ALL guitar scales? There are around 24 guitar scales in modern music. I know this sounds like a lot, but there is a trick to work out ALL the guitar scales by just MASTERING 7 fretboard diagrams of the major scale!

In this article, I will first go through ALL of the Scales.

  1. Major Scale
  2. Pentatonic Major Scale
  3. Minor Scale
  4. Pentatonic Minor Scale
  5. Blues Scale
  6. Dorian
  7. Phygian
  8. Lydian
  9. Mixolydian
  10. Locrian
  11. Harmonic Minor Scale
  12. Locrian #6
  13. Ionian #5
  14. Dorian #4
  15. Phrygian Dominant
  16. Lydian #2
  17. Superlocrian
  18. Melodic Minor Scale
  19. Dorian b2 (aka Phrygian #6)
  20. Lydian augmented
  21. Lydian dominant (aka overtone scale)
  22. Mixolydian b6
  23. Aeolian b5 (aka Locrian #2)
  24. Altered scale
  25. Diminished Scale
  26. Augmented Scale
  27. Whole Tone Scale
  28. Chromatic Scale

This article will always act as a good reference if need be, but I will also show you a trick to instantly work out any scale EASILY! This is something I paid hundreds of pounds to learn.

So, let us jump right in!

1. Major Scale

The Major scale is the most fundamental musical scale for the guitar.

This is because EVERY other scale can be worked out through this scale! It is simply amazing and I will show you how to do it!

Even though we hardly use the major scale it is the foundation of everything in guitar theory. Further, the major scale is not the friendliest musical scale for beginners to learn. However, once you learn it you can learn all other scales by simply moving its position on the fretboard, and removing single notes (I will explain this below…).

I will also show you how the major scale is memorized by professional guitar players. Also, just a fair warning, this section is by far the hardest section to understand. But, be patient KEEP Rereading and it will click and become EASY!

C Major Scale

First, let’s look at the C major scale as this key is the easiest of ALL keys to remember. The C major has no sharps or flats and is simply C D E F G A B C.

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

A full major scale consists of 8 notes (illustrated above).

The C major scale starts from the C note (on the 8th fret – Low E string). It is followed by the D and E notes on the 10th fret and the 12th fret (on the Same Low E string).

If you follow the image above you can see how to scale progress throughout the fretboard until it ends on C which is the second octave.

The second-octave starts with C but a higher pitch (10th fret on the D string), as you see the notes just repeat themselves but they will sound different as they are high pitch.

Two octaves: C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

Determining the Key

The KEY for C Major Scale can be determined by its root note. These are the first notes of the scale, you then match this to the fretboard.

For example, if you want to play in the key of D, You can simply move the whole pattern (shown in the image above) up TWO frets!

How to remember the Major scale – CAGED System

Using the CAGED SYSTEM you can Learn the Scale in Parts making it easier to remember!

C major CAGED System scales

In the section, there is enough information to get going with the CAGED system, but if you want to learn about the theory behind this stuff then I have written an article called: The theory behind the CAGED system!

IMPORTANT: memorise each of these shapes above (remembering where the root note is positioned) and you will be able to play EVERY scale!  

2. Major Pentatonic Scale

The understanding section 1 of this article can be difficult to understand at first and by far the hardest section of all guitar theory to understand. Luckily, things start getting easier from here onwards.

The Major pentatonic scale is essentially a simplified version of the full major scale (as seen above) where a few notes are taken away. A Pentatonic Major Scale is thus easier and friendlier to starters.

C major Pentatonic

Again, let’s look at the C major pentatonic scale in the key of C. This again doesn’t have any sharps or flats making it easier to remember.

It is the easiest of ALL keys to remember. The C major pentatonic has no sharps or flats and is simply C D E G A C.

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

The full major scale consists of 6 notes.

To work out the major pentatonic scale you simply remove the fourth note.

Determining the key

To work out the key signature of the major pentatonic works exactly the same as the Major scale in section 2.

For example, The KEY for the C Major Pentatonic Scale can be determined by its root note. These are the first notes of the scale, you then match this to the fretboard.

How to remember the Major scale – CAGED System

Using the CAGED SYSTEM you can Learn the Scale in Parts, making it easier to remember!

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

Remember to match the root note (the lighter coloured note on the image above) to the note of the fretboard.

3. Minor scale

While the Major scale sounds bright and uplifting, the Minor scale is darker and carries a slight bit of sadness and a melancholic tone.

For EVERY major key, you play there is a minor scale that belongs to that family.

For example, C major has ALL the same as A minor scale because those two keys belong to the same family.

We call these relative Keys, and the only difference is the order of the notes (same notes but different order).

A Minor Scale

Below is an illustration for A Minor scale (also known as the C maj scale). But, as you can see the pattern of the notes does not vary however the root notes are different.

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

Comparing the A minor with the C major you will see they are exactly the same shapes.

You may be confused about how this is possible… Which is explained through the theory of relative keys.

Circle of Fifths

Because every minor scale belongs to a major family, and are the exact same notes. We do not need to learn the shapes for the minor scale. Instead, we convert the minor key to the major key.

circle of fifths

As you can see on the outside is the major keys and on the inside are the minor keys.

C major is A minor.

G Minor is E minor, and so forth!

How to remember the scale

Because we already know the major patterns (section 1) we also know the minor keys by transposing the scale from minor to major with the circle of fifths.

4. Minor Pentatonic Scale

Similar to its major counterpart, the minor pentatonic scale is the minor scale with a few notes removed. The minor pentatonic scale is definitely one of the simplest scale patterns and arguably the best scale to start learning.

In fact, many guitar teachers use the minor scale and the pentatonic minor scale as an introduction to this music theory instead of the major scale.

The minor pentatonic works exactly how to major pentatonic (in section).

For example, if you want to play in the key of A minor, you will just play to C major pentatonic.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

It is the easiest of ALL keys to remember. Because A Minor belongs to the family of C major, the A minor pentatonic has no sharps or flats and is simply A C D E G A.

How to memorize the scale

To memorize the minor pentatonic you first need to transpose it to the major key (section 3), using the circle of fifths, and then you can play the major variant as seen in sections 1 and 2.

The only difference between the major and pentatonic is that the pentatonic is missing the 4th and 6th notes.

5. Blues Scale

The Blues scale is one of the easier scales to master once you have learned the minor pentatonic as you basically are just adding a flat 5th.

The pattern of this scale is also very similar to the pentatonic minor scale, making it an effective follow-up practice in case you have mastered the pentatonic minor scale. To play the blues scale, you just need to add one note from the pentatonic minor scale only.

ALL Guitar Scales Explained! Memorize EASILY With Fretboard Diagrams!

key of A Minor, C major

Despite the name, the Blues scale is very versatile and is often used by artists of other genres and settings as well. It is very easy and fun to use. For beginners and novice players, experimenting with this scale or using it to practice finger movements are all very good ideas.

6. Dorian

The dorian scale is another relative scale to the major scale (just like the minor scale).

 

7. Phygian

The Phygian scale is another relative scale to the major scale (just like the minor scale).

8. Lydian

The Lydian scale is another relative scale to the major scale (just like the minor scale).

9. Mixolydian

The Mixolydian scale is another relative scale to the major scale (just like the minor scale).

10. Locrian

The Locrian scale is another relative scale to the major scale (just like the minor scale).

11. Harmonic Minor Scale

The Harmonic Minor scale is an entirely different family of scale. However, it does have some similarities to the natural minor scale. Making it possible for us to pick it up relatively EASY!

 

12. Locrian #6

The Locrian #6 scale is relative to the harmonic scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

13. Ionian #5

The Ionian #5 scale is again relative to the harmonic scale (just like the Locian #6) and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

14. Dorian #4

The Dorian #4 scale is again relative to the harmonic scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

15. Phrygian Dominant

The Phrygian Dominant scale is relative to the harmonic scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

16. Lydian #2

The Lydian #2 scale is relative to the harmonic scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

17. Superlocrian

The Superlocrian scale is relative to the harmonic scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale.

18. Melodic Minor Scale

The Melodic Minor scale is an entirely different family of scale to the major and harmonic Minor scale. However, it does have some similarities to the natural minor scale.

Again, Making it possible for us to pick it up relatively EASY!

19. Dorian b2 (aka Phrygian #6)

The Dorian b2 scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale and harmonic Minor scale.

20. Lydian Augmented

The Lydian Augmented scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale and harmonic Minor scale.

21. Lydian dominant (aka overtone scale)

The Lydian Dominent scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale and Harmonic Minor scale.

22. Mixolydian b6

The Mixolydian b6 scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale and Harmonic Minor scale.

23. Aeolian b5 (aka Locrian #2)

The Dorian b2 scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative key (modes) of the major scale and Harmonic Minor scale.

24. Altered scale

The Altered scale is relative to the melodic minor scale and works just the same as the relative keys (modes) of the major scale and Harmonic Minor scale.

25. Diminished Scale

The Diminished scale is an entirely different family of scale to the major, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scale. However, it can be played in any key but it is best to stick to the root notes of the minor keys. However, it will work in any key and any root note (if that is the sound you’re looking for).

This scale is not used much as it is mainly used for horror. However, it does have an interesting vibe if you are able to mix it into major sounding keys.

26. Augmented Scale

The Augmented scale is an entirely different family of scale to the major, harmonic minor, and melodic minor scale. But, very similar to the Diminished scale. Just like the Diminished scale, it can be played in any key but it is best to stick to the root notes of the minor keys. However, if your clever it will work with major keys and any root note of the relative keys.

This scale is not used much as it is mainly used for horror. However, it is more uplifting and has a more major vibe, but still minor.

27. Whole Tone Scale

The whole-tone scale works by intervals of 2 from the root note of any key your playing in.

28. Chromatic Scale

The whole-tone scale works by intervals of 1 from the root note of any key your playing in.

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