Welcome to the complete guide to metal guitar scales. On this page you’ll find out what guitar scales are used in metal, what they sound like and how they are played.
We’ve provided fretboard diagrams and tab, and we’ve also recorded some sample guitar solos so you can hear the scales being used.
Once you’re familiar with the scale shapes and the sounds that they produce, experiment by playing your own solos over the metal backing track at the bottom of the page.
Metal Guitar Scales Introduction
Metal guitarists use many different guitar scales in their riffs and solos. The scales we’ve listed below are among the most widely used. However, this page is by no means definitive and there are many more.
The scales on this page are shown as fretboard diagrams, and also in tab with C as the root note.
The fretboard diagrams can be used to play the scale with any root note. The root note of the scale is shown with a green circle on the diagrams.
- Visit our main Guitar Scales Page to find even more sounds for your playing.
- You can download and print a pdf eBook containing these and many more scales in multiple fretboard positions. Find out more here: Guitar Scales Chart Book.
- If you want to practice these and other scales, you can download the backing track that we’ve used on this page here: Metal Backing Tracks.
Metal Guitar Scales 1. Pentatonic Minor Scale
The pentatonic minor scale is widely used in many styles of music – not just in metal. It is a relatively simple scale, consisting of just five notes.
It sounds great over power chords and minor chord progressions.
Countless metal riffs use the pentatonic scale, and metal lead guitarists often use it in solos. Some guitarists base entire solos on it, while others use it as a fallback between licks using other scales.
Hear how the pentatonic minor scale sounds by playing the demo below:Metal Guitar Scales Audio Example 1: Pentatonic
Want to play the pentatonic minor scale in multiple fretboard positions? See more fretboard diagrams on this page: Pentatonic Scale Guitar.
Metal Guitar Scales 2. Blues Scale
The blues scale is basically the same scale as the pentatonic minor but with an additional note: the ‘flat five’, or ‘blues note’. Play the two scales to compare the difference in sound the additional note makes.
The blues scale is widely used in metal. It adds a nice bluesy sound to solos. You can hear the blues scale being used in the sample below.Metal Guitar Scales Audio Example 2: Blues
See more blues scales fretboard diagrams and tab here: Blues Scale Guitar.
Metal Guitar Scales 3. Natural Minor (Aeolian Modal) Scale
One of the most useful metal guitar scales, the natural minor scale (also called the Aeolian modal scale) can safely be used over most power chords and minor chordsMetal Guitar Scales Audio Example 3: Natural Minor Scale
Note: When playing guitar scales, metal guitarists don’t always stick to the basic shapes – they often employ stretches and slides either to extend scales beyond just the one position, or to use fingering that groups notes in (e.g.) triplets for easier legato (non-picked, i.e. hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc.) playing.
Experiment yourself by extending the scales pictured up or down by one or more octaves, or by finding fingering that allows you to play three notes on every string.
Read more about the Aeolian modal scale and other modes here: Guitar Modes
Metal Guitar Scales 4. Phrygian Modal Scale
Another modal metal guitar scale, the Phrygian contains the note a semitone above the scale root, making it a good sale to choose when the chord sequence features this kind of movement (i.e. ||: E | F | E | E :||, etc.). A very nice scale for shredding with!
Hear how it sounds in the audio sample below.Metal Guitar Scales Audio Example 4: Phrygian Modal Scale
Metal Guitar Scales 5. Phrygian Dominant Scale
This scale has become very popular with metal guitarists. Use it when you want to give your solos an ‘Eastern’ sound. You can also use the Phrygian dominant scale to create riffs and melodies – it has a very distinctive sound that you will hear on many tracks.
Read how the Phrygian Dominant scale is constructed here: Phrygian Dominant Scale.Metal Guitar Scales Audio Example 5: Phrygian Dominant Modal Scale
Metal Guitar Scales 6. Harmonic Minor Scale
Another useful metal guitar scale is the harmonic minor scale. This scale produces a typically ‘classical’ sound – you can read more about how it is constructed here: Harmonic Minor Scale Guitar
Metal Guitar Scales Backing Track
Using the metal guitar scales shown above, create your own solos over this metal backing track. The track is called ‘Solid Metal’ and comes from the Guitar Command Metal Backing Tracks album, available for instant download here.Metal Guitar Scales Backing Track
We hope that you have enjoyed this selection of metal guitar scales. You can learn even more scales to use in your lead playing here: Guitar Scales
For a downloadable eBook showing diagrams of guitar scales in multiple positions, see our Guitar Scales Chart book.