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scales for beginners to learn

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Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 7
Topic starter  

I really am trying to get the basics of music theory down as it relates to the fretboard, the numerical system and other basic things that will help me grasp the reasoning behind harmonic structure and such. I'm also really wanting to know how many major and minor scales there are (does each key have so many positions and ways of playing) how many pentatonic scales are there, what scales are best to learn for a beginner. I feel like a cup of water in the middle of the sea. Can anyone give advice concerning direction for learning the scales and the way the scales are structured and how many of each scale there is. I know im rambling but i feel like i cant explain whats on my mind so just to cut to the chase - scales help p l e a s e

Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454


I don't think that it's useful to see scales as a fixed set of stuff that you need to plug totally through until you know them all.

If you check the theory books you'll generally see 15 Major scales, 15 natural minor, 15, harmonic minor and 15 melodic minor just to start with... :shock: Then you can get into modes, pentatonic scales, blues scales, gypsy scales, whole note scales, and... well you get the picture... there's pretty much no end to it all. And yes, each one can be played all around the neck in various strings combinations and positions.

It's probably more useful to pick one scale for a key that matches a bunch of songs that you like and work through that to get a good overview of what scales are all about. Basically, they are just ways of picking a smaller team of notes from the 12 on offer, and using them to do a particular job. They can be used to build chords, play solos, etc in a way that best suits certain moods, sounds or styles. And even then they are more like guidelines than cast iron rules or boundaries. You can step outside when you feel like it. Major keys are the Grandaddy of them all, so starting with one of those is good.



Oh, and if you wonder how 15 scales can relate to 12 notes, it's because some scales have two names - like D# and Eb (D sharp and E flat) depending on how they're being used.

That's how I look at it all anyway. Others may see it differently.

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 165

Want some advice from another beginner? Here is the book I'm using to learn this stuff somewhat systematically:

Guitar Fretboard Workbook

It explains that although there are indeed 15 scales of each mode, as Chris so correctly points out, there are really only 5 patterns you need to learn (per mode) to know them all. You just need to learn to identify which pattern to apply, and it provides you some very good exercises to do just that. It has been very eye opening for me.

Active Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5

I think you have to make a distinction between scales and scale 'patterns'. For instance, their is just one G Major scale (G A B C D E F# G) but their are many possible ways to play this combination of notes along the neck of the guitar. Single string patterns, CAGED system, three-note-per-string patterns. All have their usefullness.

Keep in mind that, when the work seems overwhelming, what you are working in any one key repeats for other keys higher or lower on the neck. I think it is good to learn fewer patterns at first and understand how to transpose them to other keys before getting lost in handfuls of patterns. Like, how to move that G Major scale pattern to A Major, B major, C major, etc.

I have a beginning scale form guide on my website @

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New Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 2

I am a newbie myself, but as far as I have understood the two most important scales to start learning are the Major Scale and the Minor Pentatonic Scale. I use the following site where the 5 positions of each scale are presented in a clear and understandable way...