Spanish guitar scales are used by classical composers, flamenco guitarists and rock and jazz guitarists who wish to give their music a Spanish feel. These scales can sound very effective in many musical situations, and make a refreshing change to pentatonic and blues scales!
- Interested in learning scales for lead guitar? Learn more scales at our main guitar scales page.
In this article we’ll be looking at three scales that are commonly used in Spanish and Latin music: the Spanish Gypsy scale, the Phrygian modal scale and the harmonic minor scale.
The scales are shown as diagrams and in notation with tab. Play them on your own guitar to compare their different sounds.
- If you are interested in learning Spanish guitar, visit this page: Learning Classical Guitar. It contains useful information, plus some inspiring videos of some of the great classical guitarists.
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One characteristic of many Spanish guitar scales is the semitone interval between the first and second notes. This is often used in traditional Spanish music. The first two scales shown below demonstrate this feature.
In the fret diagrams below, the blue notes are the root notes of the scale.
Click on the links below to see other ways of playing the scales in different positions.
Spanish Guitar Scales – The Spanish Gypsy Guitar Scale
The Spanish Gypsy guitar scale is widely used in Spanish music. It has an Eastern sound, and reflects the Moorish influence on Spain.
Spanish Guitar Scales – Phrygian Modal Scale
The Phrygian modal scale is another scale used in Spanish music, and is often used in improvisation when a Spanish sound is desired. It is the third mode of a major scale. (See Guitar Modes and Phrygian Scale Guitar for more information).
The Phrygian modal scale is shown below in TAB & notation:
Spanish Guitar Scales – Harmonic Minor Scale
Another scale widely used in Spanish music is the harmonic minor scale. Although not strictly a Spanish guitar scale (it is used in many forms of music), the harmonic minor scale is often used in flamenco improvisation.
For more information on this scale, see: Harmonic Minor Scale Guitar. TAB for this scale is shown below:
Spanish Guitar Scales Conclusion
Although there are many other scales in use in Spanish guitar music, the three scales shown above are very widely used in flamenco and traditional music of the region. Incorporate them in your playing to give your music an instant Spanish or Latin sound.
The guitar has long been associated with Spain, and is the Spanish national instrument. The origins of the modern guitar in all of its shapes and forms can be traced back to early fretted instruments played in the region.
- You can read more about the guitar’s Spanish origins in this article: history of the guitar.
- For an introduction to playing classical guitar, see How To Play Spanish Guitar.
Want To Improve Your Knowledge Of Guitar Scales?
Guitar Command has created a special album of backing tracks that allows guitarists to improvise with specific scales.
Find out more (and hear sample tracks) here: Guitar Scales Backing Tracks.
The album is also available from many other online stores, including iTunes.