Guitar scales commonly used by lead guitarists include the pentatonic, blues, major and minor scales. All of these guitar scales are shown here in fret diagram form. Many other, less common, scales are shown further down the page. Experiment with these to introduce interesting new sounds to your solos. Click on the link below each guitar scale on this page for further information, and to see shapes for playing the scale all over the guitar neck. TAB and notation are also provided.
All of the scales on this page are presented in fret diagram form. These show ‘shapes’ that can be moved up and down the fretboard in order to play the scale in any key. The root notes of each scale are represented by the white circles. Two shapes are shown for each scale – allowing you to play the scale in two places on the guitar neck.
Pentatonic Minor Scale
The pentatonic minor scale is probably the most widely used of all guitar scales. It is used by practically every lead guitarist in every musical style. The pentatonic scale should be among the first guitar scales a beginner guitarist learns. For more information visit: Pentatonic Scale Guitar.
Pentatonic Major Scales
A widely-used guitar scale that produces a clear, melodic sound – ideal for soloing over major chord sequences. Often used in country and rock music. More information on pentatonic major scales can be found here: Pentatonic Scale Guitar.
Extremely widely used, and not just in blues music. The blues scale is the same scale as a pentatonic minor, but with an additional note – the flattened fifth, or ‘blues’ note. More information on this scale can be found here: Blues Scale Guitar.
Major / Ionian Scales For Guitar
The major scale produces a clear and simple sound. The Ionian modal scale is the same scale but with a different name. For more information, see: Major Scale Guitar.
Natural Minor / Aeolian Guitar Scales
Natural minor scales and Aeolian scales are the same guitar scales but with different names. Use them to solo over minor chord sequences. For more diagrams and information visit: Guitar Modes.
Dorian Modal Scale
The Dorian modal scale is popular in jazz, often being used to solo over minor seventh chords. It is also used in many other styles of music, including folk and modal jazz. The Dorian scale is built from the second degree of a major scale. For more information about modes visit: Guitar Modes. For more information about soloing with Dorian scales, see: Improvisation With The Dorian Scale.
Mixolydian Modal Scale
Mixolydian scales are much used in blues and jazz. They are often used to improvise over dominant seventh chords. Learn more about how to improvise with a Mixolydian scale here: Improvisation With Mixolydian Scale. For more ways to play a Mixolydian scale, visit: Mixolydian Scale Guitar.
More Modal Guitar Scales – The Phrygian, Lydian & Locrian Scales
The Phrygian scale is the third mode of a major scale. It produces a minor sound, having a flat third, and the semitone interval between its first two notes gives it a Spanish / Arabic sound. As well as being used in Spanish and Flamenco music, it is also used in rock and metal. For more information visit: Phrygian Scale Guitar.
Lydian Modal Scale
The sharpened fourth in a Lydian modal scale produces a unique sound mainly used by jazz and fusion guitarists.
Locrian Scale For Guitar
Locrian modal scales produce a strange, somewhat ambiguous sound. They are formed from the seventh degree of a major scale. They are one of the few guitar scales that fit over minor seventh flat 5 chords (m7b5).
Harmonic Minor Guitar Scales
The harmonic minor scale was used to harmonise minor melodies in classical music. It is often utilised by jazz and metal players, and also in flamenco music. For more information visit: Harmonic Minor Scale Guitar.
The phrygian dominant scale has several other names – it also goes by the name of the ‘Freygish’ or ‘Spanish Gypsy’ scale. It is a very characterful scale, suggestive of eastern music. It can also be thought of as the fifth mode of a harmonic minor scale. for further information, visit: Phrygian Dominant Scale.
The jazz minor scale is sometimes known in rock and jazz as the melodic minor, or jazz melodic minor. It produces interesting, jazz-like sounds over minor chords. For more information on this scale, visit: Jazz Minor Scale.
Double Harmonic Guitar Scales
The double harmonic guitar scale is also known as the Arabic scale. (It is one of several different scales all also called an Arabic scale.) Use it to introduce an ‘Eastern’ sound into your playing.
The whole tone scale produces an unsettling, ambiguous sound. It is used by jazz guitarists to improvise over dominant chords as it produces jazzy-sounding dissonances or tensions. Every note in a whole tone scale is a tone apart, therefore each one can be considered to be the root. More information here: Whole Tone Scale Guitar.
The altered scale is the same as a jazz minor scale, but starting and ending on the seventh degree of that scale. When played over dominant chords it produces every possible altered note, which is why it is much used in jazz music. Click for more altered scale information.
Diminished Guitar Scales
The intervals between the notes of a diminished scale alternate between whole and half steps. Diminished scales are octatonic – they have eight notes before reaching the octave. Diminished scales can be used to solo over diminished chords. They can also be used to solo over dominant chords, by playing the scale with the root a half-step higher than the chord. The resulting tensions create jazzy sounding lines. See Diminished Scale Guitar for more information.
The Lydian augmented scale is a Lydian scale with a raised fifth. It can be used to create interesting lines over augmented chords. The scale can also be used to create tension filled lines over other altered chords by using the scale with its root a major third above the root of the chord.
There is often more than one way to play these scale shapes. Experiment to find the fingering that works best for you.
Guitar Scales Diagrams
Guitarists are lucky because just one scale shape can be used to play that scale in any key. All the guitarist needs to do is to move the shape to the right fret. This is why guitar scale diagrams are very useful. Scale diagrams show us the ‘shapes’ that the scales make on the fretboard. If the shape of a scale is learned for a particular scale, then that same shape can be played elsewhere on the fretboard to produce the same type of scale in a different key.
For example, if you know where your fingers should go (i.e. the scale ‘shape’ as shown on a scale diagram) to play a G major scale starting on the third fret of the sixth string, you could play a C major scale at the eighth fret using the same shape. Just move your hand up (closer to you) five frets.
Why More Than One Shape For Each Scale?
It is often beneficial to learn more than one way of playing a particular scale. This will enable you to play solos without having to frequently change position on the neck. For example, if you are playing an E minor scale at the seventh fret, and you then wanted to play a C major scale, you would simply play the major scale shape that starts at the eighth fret. If you only knew a major scale shape that started on the fifth string, you would have to move to the third (or fifteenth) fret to play a C major scale.
We hope that you have found this collection of guitar scales useful. Explore the links for further information about each scale and build up your scale vocabulary. You DO NOT have to learn every scale in every position. Simply use the scales that you like and build up more scale knowledge as and when you need it. Many players prefer to think ‘vertically’ rather than thinking in terms of scales. See How To Play Jazz Guitar for more information on this way of thinking. For more information on musical scales, wikipedia is your friend – but don’t take everything you find there as gospel.
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