These guitar scales charts will hopefully help you to get to grips with the many different guitar scales that actually do exist. All chords and all forms of music come from scales, and learning scales for your particular musical preference is crucial if you want to play any level of lead guitar at all.
Note: There are 3 or 4 charts for each scale to show the following variations. Also, if you take these charts and put them on your website, please have the decency to give a link to this page or my home page, thank you.
1/three notes to each string with notes, 2/three notes to each string with finger positions (in most cases), 3/box/cage style with notes, and 4/box/cage style with finger positions. Just scroll down from the first chart of each scale to view the other versions of that same scale.
There are also some chords at the end of each chart that work with the scale of the chart they're on.
As far as my research suggests, the earliest scale forms are credited to the ancient Greeks. These scales were named after the Greek's most highly regarded tribes. They were the Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian and Mixolydian tribes that most guitarists know as modes. These scales all contained eight notes each including the octave. These scales were originally written in descending order and were equivalent to the white keys of a keyboard. The Dorian scale descended from the note of E, the Phrygian scale descended from the note of D, the Lydian scale descended from the note of C and the Mixolydian scale descended from the note of B.
During the middle ages musicians of the Christian church used these scales in their playing, but for one reason or another, these musicians changed these scales in various ways. First of all they changed their direction so they ascended instead of descended. Secondly, the notes that the scales started on were also changed. In addition to this they also changed their name from 'scale' to 'mode' as recognised today and illustrated on the guitar scales charts further down this page.
These changes made it so the Dorian mode ascended from D to D, the Phrygian mode ascended from E to E, the Lydian mode ascended from F to F and the Mixolydian mode ascended from G to G. In addition to this, if it wasn't already slightly confusing, was the fact that the old Greek Lydian scale that originally descended from the note of C, was renamed the Ionian mode and now ascended from C. Also, the original Greek Mixolydian scale that descended from the note of B now ascended from B and was renamed the Locrian mode, and the scale that started on the note of A was named the Aeolian mode. This meant that there were now seven modes in total with each one representing and relating to one of the white keys of the keyboard.
The charts on this page illustrate only five guitar modes in total though as the other two, namely the Ionian mode and the Aeolian mode, were predecessors of the diatonic major and diatonic natural minor scales, also on this page. Therefore, the Ionian mode is represented by the major scale as it has the same step-pattern and the same sound. While the Aeolian mode is represented by the natural minor scale as they too have the same-step pattern and therefore the same sound.
During the Middle Ages the source of all melody came from the system of modes, but by the early sixteenth century the ever-increasing development of the more complex harmonized melodies, that contained two or more melody lines, marked the decline of the modal system.
The seventeenth century brought the development of a new musical language. The concept of 'tonality' formed the principle of 'keys' and all music was written with a specific 'key signature'. This 'key signature' identified the 'tonic' (first note of a scale) and therefore the 'key-centre' or 'home key' which gave the scale its characteristic sound. Each guitar scales chart on this page is in the key of 'F' for example. Therefore, F is the 'tonal centre' or 'home key' of all the scales and modes illustrated on this page.
Scales offer the basic tools for melody and improvisation, as well as the underlying structure for chords. Many guitarists often overlook their importance seeing them as a boring chore. This is rather unfortunate for those who wish to ignore them for the following reasons.
A scale on any instrument is a series of notes that form a progressive sequence between any one note and that note's octave. The word 'scale' is derived from the Latin word 'scala' meaning 'ladder'. A ladder is exactly what a scale is, with each rung of the ladder represented by a note, and the spaces between the notes known as 'intervals'. A scale can either ascend to reach its higher octave, or descend to reach its lower octave.
The note that any scale starts on is known as the 'tonic' or 'root note' although the term 'root note' is a more technically correct term for the note that a chord is built upon and not that which a scale starts on, with the term 'tonic' being more technically correct as the starting point of a scale. To keep things simple though, I like to use the term 'root note' (as many do) as a general term for both the tonal centre and starting point of both a scale and a chord. Each root note is highlighted in red on every guitar scales chart that follows.
There are many different scales all of which are created and differentiated by their individual step patterns. These individual patterns are influenced and formed by the 'intervals' (spaces) between the single notes of each individual scale.
Each guitar scales chart further down briefly describes the individual step pattern of its respective scale in its descriptive title heading as 'intervals'. As we have established, the type of scale, and therefore the overall 'flavour of sound' that it produces, is distinguished by its individual step pattern which is determined by the scale's individual size of intervals, with intervals being the spaces between the actual notes of the scale.
Intervals, as we have seen, are the spaces between the notes. For example; the major scale has a step pattern that is made up of the following intervals;
Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone.
Remember, a tone is a 2 fret jump from one note to the next. A semi-tone is a 1 fret jump from one note to the next. In the United States you would say a 'whole step' for one tone (2 fret jump) and a 'half step' for a semi-tone (1 fret jump). A summary of this can be seen below;
Tone = (whole step/2 frets)
Semi-tone = (half step/1 fret)
This means that if you started on the note of 'F' at the first fret on the bottom 'E' string (the fattest string) and played the intervals above for the major scale only on the bottom 'E' string therefore moving along the string, the notes would be; F, G, A, A#/Bb, C, D, E, F. The eighth note of the major scale is the first octave which is the same note as the tonic/root note (first note of any scale and name of the scale) but in a higher pitch.
We don't play scales on one string like this though as it would be impractical and a bit silly. When we play scales we utilise all the strings or at least those strings that contain the notes of the scale we want to play. This can obviously be seen clearly in the charts further down, which, if you are a beginner, will become much clearer to you as you learn, practice and play the scales over time.
An octave is basically the first repeated tonic/root note of any scale. So, if the first note of a scale is 'F' then the first octave of that scale would be the next 'F' up the string which is 12 frets away. It would be higher in pitch but it would still be the note of 'F'. This principle is the same for every note of the entire fret board although we would of course run out of notes further up the neck of the guitar which is another reason for playing scales using all or many of the strings.
As we have seen, the first octave is always twelve frets away from any note. Now, whether this is the six, seventh or eighth note played in a scale all depends upon the intervals and therefore the step pattern of the scale that is being played. If you look closely at the guitar scales charts you will see this for yourself. The minor/major pentatonic scale for example has a step pattern that determines the first octave of the scale to be the 6th note of that scale. This is because the pentatonic scale (major or minor) has a tone and a half (3 frets) jump between the root and the second note of the scale. It has the same interval of 3 frets between the fourth and fifth notes of the scale too. The rest of the intervals of this particular scale are all one tone which as we now know is 2 frets. These relatively big intervals (jumps) combined make the pentatonic scale a relatively small scale with regard to the number of notes it contains before it reaches its first octave.
All subsequent octaves of the pentatonic scale are therefore always six notes away from the previous octave with the first octave being six notes away from the tonic/root note. As we have now established, all octaves are indeed the same note, but just in a higher or lower pitch depending on whether you ascend (go up) or descend (go down) the scale.
Now if we look at the individual step pattern of the blues scale we see that its step pattern, because of its size of intervals, means its octaves are 7 notes away from each other within the scale. The first octave is still 12 frets away from the tonic/root note of the scale just as all the octaves of any scale or any note in fact are 12 frets away from one another as always. But, the first octave of the blues scale, as opposed to the pentatonic scale, is 7 notes away from the tonic/root note of the scale and all octaves of the blues scale are therefore 7 notes away from the previous octave and subsequent octave within the scale.
Likewise, the major scale and many other scales have a step pattern that determines the octaves to be 8 notes apart from one another but as always still 12 frets apart overall.
The real importance of all this theory is a matter of opinion. Learning about intervals and octaves does have some importance in jazz guitar and is also useful to some extent in other guitar styles too, but it isn't absolutely crucial. To me personally, it is something that I have just picked up. I believe it's a good thing to be able to at least understand a bit of this stuff and build on it as you go as it can only be of benefit in the long run. It's important that we don't get too bogged down with it though and lose the 'feeling' of music and playing the instrument.
To me, learning the scale patterns, remembering where the root notes and octaves are, knowing what type of chords the scales are played over, becoming fluent with the scales of your choice and learning to play them in time to a backing track or music are the most important principles of scale theory. The great Bob Marley said "music is a feeling" and he was right. Learn a scale pattern, feel the music and try to play that pattern in time to a song or backing track.
After all, music is about playing an instrument not the theory behind it. You'll pick up what you need as you go along. If you want to study the theory then that's fine too of course., as you can still be technically and theoretically proficient and still have feeling. For those of you that don't or find it hard to though, don't worry about it that's all I'm saying. You can still become a good musician without being a theory wizard.
Playing Three Notes on Each String
Apart from the pentatonic scales, these guitar scales charts illustrate both the traditional 'box style' method for playing scales as well as the 'three notes to each string' method. This approach, that plays three notes to a string, may seem harder at first than the standard box-shape scales, but in the long-run this method will give you a greater range as most of these scales contain two octaves. The fact that there are often two octaves means there are often three root notes within that particular scale too. With practice you'll be able to use these root notes to home in to as a kind of musical anchor to bring you back to the home key that you'll be playing along to. These extra root notes will also give you more options to help you to identify a particular key and relevant scale, thereby enabling you to run backwards (down a scale) from the higher notes on either of the top E or B strings. This is a great help for playing nice melodic lines down a scale from the higher notes within that scale.
Learning scales with 'three notes to a string' will also encourage more movement along the neck as each scale effectively covers six frets. This is better than burning a hole in one place so to speak and in my opinion offers a generally more melodic way of playing.
Plectrum Picking Technique (Glide Picking)
Playing three notes to a string also allows nice long runs, George Benson style! By playing three notes to a string and learning a certain way of picking the notes with the plectrum that emulates 'stroking the strings', allows you to play very fast and clean, with practice of course! The video at the top of this page shows you how this is done.
Alternatives for Ease of Playing
If you don't have youth on your side and you're only just starting out on the guitar, or if you're just looking for something more simple, then it will more than likely be best for you to start with the 'box scale' version instead of the '3-notes-to-a-string' version of whatever scale you want to learn. Box scales are the same scales in essence as they contain the same musical notes as the '3-notes-to-a-string' version. They are however generally slightly easier to play as not every string utilises three notes. This means they don't cover more than five frets each and therefore require less of a stretch with the fret board hand. In fact, many box scales only cover four frets. This effectively makes box scale patterns a slightly easier scale pattern to play than the '3-notes-to-a-string' version of the same which all cover a distance of six frets.
Another simple method for playing scales, particularly for beginners, is the simplified, one octave versions. They offer are far easier way to play scales than the longer two and three octave versions on this page. I will be creating a page for these 'easy guitar scales' with charts and an accompanying video soon.
The pentatonic guitar scales at the bottom of this page are obviously also much easier to play compared with the other scales offered here. Pentatonic guitar scales only have two notes to each string in a box pattern format making them rather simple and far easier to play in comparison to the other scales.
It's all a matter of what you want to do and what type of music you want to play. At the top of each guitar scales chart is an informative heading describing what musical style/s that particular scale is typically applied to. This will hopefully help you to get an idea of what you need if you don't already know.
Most of the guitar scales charts that follow are in the key of 'F'. The reason I did this is because it allows you to start on the lowest fretted note of the fret board which for me personally made my learning of these scales a little easier in my early learning days. Maybe this is more of a psychological association than technically true, who knows. Either way that's what I've done.
For those that don't already know, to change the key all you have to do is slide any of the scale patterns up or down the fret board to locate different tonic/root notes. You just play the exact same pattern but in a different place on the neck, it really is that simple. This changes the root note and therefore the key and overall tone of the scale being played.
If for example you play the first pattern of the major scale on the third fret, the root note now becomes 'G' because that first finger that was originally on 'F' (the first and lowest note on the bottom 'E' string) is now starting two frets up on 'G'. You play the exact same scale pattern but it now starts on 'G' so it becomes a G major scale in this particular case.
All root notes are highlighted in red on all guitar scales charts and all other charts as usual for this site. Make a mental reference of where these root notes are in relation to the scale shape as you go. Learn each scale shape well before moving on to the next position and then blend the two together by sliding from one note of one position to another note of the next position and so on. Use the middle or ring finger of the fret board hand to do this.
Unfortunately, the notes on the '3 notes to a string' charts are a little too small to see due to the number of fret boards on these particular charts. All the root notes for this page are obviously 'F' anyway though because each scale here is in 'F'. Notes are shown clearly on the second box scale charts of each scale however which should suffice. If need be, all the other notes can easily be worked out by applying the chromatic scale which is discussed hallway down the guitar lessons for beginners page.
It's more important to know where the root note positions are rather than what they are called though at this stage, particularly if you're just starting out with scales and you're feeling a little overwhelmed.
Important Points to Remember
These guitar scales charts offer a wealth of information that if studied correctly, and practiced consistently, will unlock the entire fret board to your fingertips. Study these charts well. Take care to observe the fret numbers, where the root notes are and to get the pattern right. With regard to the finger positions, be strict. Do not cut corners and cheat yourself by sliding fingers up to make the scale easier to play. Practicing like this will always leave you limited in your playing. Use all of your fret board fingers in the way shown in the charts. This will make you are far more versatile and better guitarist in the long run, believe me.
Learning to move scales around the fret board, and therefore changing the key, is important too. This helps to train your ear as well as becoming more familiar with these patterns being played at different places on the guitar neck. This will help you to become more familiar with the entire fret board which can only help to make you a better guitarist overall.
In time you'll be able to instinctively and audibly know where the root notes are as well as to adapt and play these scales however and wherever you like anywhere on the neck. This marks the beginning of soloing. Be patient and diligent.
Note: One very important point to remember is; sometimes one or two notes particularly in the box scale charts could just as easily be played on the next string down one or two frets back depending on the note in question. There really isn't much in it to be honest but thought I would just mention it in case this came up for you.
The point is, whilst these guitar scales charts and their fingering patterns are musically correct, you can play around with them as you please providing you still play the right notes of course. Every note repeats itself on the fret board so if you find a slightly more comfortable way of playing any of these scales, you are of course at liberty to do so which would of course be the best thing for you as an individual.
Just stick to the principles and try not to cheat by taking short cuts that limit you later on. Make certain that you use all of your fingers to the maximum effect, even though it may seem slightly harder in the early stages. Stick with it because it will get easier as time goes by, which time will inevitably do.
All scales are a learning tool. They teach you where to put your fingers and also how to move them. Every fantastic solo you ever heard is a creative way of playing a particular scale, nothing more. Once mastered, scales act as a reference to the music that you're playing to. With practice you'll use them to make up melodies, melodic lines and solos effortlessly.
The major scale is by far the most important scale to learn as all other scales, modes and chords come from this one scale. Once mastered any other scale or mode will be much easier to learn as they are all only a variation of the major scale fingering pattern. This is shown clearly in the descriptive heading of each guitar scales chart further down as 'major scale comparison'.
If you only want to play blues guitar though then the pentatonic and blues scales are the ones for you. If that's the case then why note take a look at the blues guitar scales and for Jazz the jazz guitar scales.
The major scale is the cornerstone of all modern Western music and many other types of music too. This scale forms the basic building material for all chords and can therefore be recognised as the basis for all music around the world. When we talk about a major seventh, minor seventh, or a major ninth chord for example, we are relating to the major scale. All the modes are also formed from and related to the major scale.
All the other scales are a variation of the major scale too. By raising or lowering certain notes of the major scale a different fingering pattern is formed and therefore a different sound is created and a new scale is born.
Learn this scale well and all other scales will be much easier to learn.
The major scale has an upbeat, happy quality to its overall sound.
Scroll down for more Major Scale options
The natural minor scale is the first of the three minor scales, the other two minor scales are the harmonic minor and melodic minor which are discussed further down. The natural minor scale is also known as the relative minor scale because it has a close relationship with the major scale. This can be seen by starting to play any major scale from its sixth note and then continue to play the rest of that major scale as if you had started from its first note (tonic/root note). By starting on the sixth note, the step pattern of the major scale becomes altered. This new and different step pattern creates a completely different scale and therefore a completely different sound. This new scale is the original major scale's relative minor scale. They share the same notes but sound different to one another as they have a different step pattern. This is another way of learning this scale and becoming familiar with its major relativity.
This scale is one of the saddest sounding scales of all and is therefore used to express sadness, sorrow and pain.
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The melodic minor scale is often referred to as the Jazz Minor Scale as it is played more in jazz than anything else. The melodic minor scale is the same as the harmonic minor only the interval (space) between the 6th and 7th notes of the harmonic minor is reduced by a semi-tone (1 fret) by raising the 6th note. This gives the melodic minor a smoother melodic flow making it one the most important minor scales for jazz.
The melodic minor scale contains both major and minor qualities making it ideal for expressing a wide range of emotions.
Scroll down for more Melodic Minor Scale options
The harmonic minor is quite an unusual sounding scale that is popular in classical music, especially the Baroque period. It is a popular scale with classically influenced heavy metal and rock musicians.
Scroll down for more Harmonic Minor scale options
The diminished scale is commonly used in certain forms of jazz but also in heavy metal where it is played over the flat five power chord.
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As its name suggests, the whole tone scale is made up entirely of intervals of one whole tone. The scale therefore goes up its range in jumps of one whole step (two frets) between each note. This means it isn't anchored to any one tonal centre which gives the scale a floating type of quality and feel.
The pentatonic scale dates back thousands of years. It is the most commonly used scale in blues and rock music, but both the major and the minor pentatonic scales are also used in jazz. The pentatonic scale remains one of the most popular and commonly used scales today.
Below this chart is the same scale in the key of G.
Here's the same scale as above but in the key of G.
The major pentatonic scale is most commonly used in country, rock and blues music, but is also used in jazz.
The major pentatonic has a bright, jubilant quality when played over specific chords.
Below this chart is the same scale in the key of G.
To view a comparison chart of both the minor and major pentatonic scales, take a look at the bottom of the pentatonic guitar scales page.Back To Top
Here's the same scale as above but in the key of G.
This following chart shows the minor blues scale in the key of 'G' as I already had this chart for the blues guitar scales page. Just move this scale back two frets on the fret board to play it in 'F'. In fact, you can move it anywhere on the fret board that you like, just like all other scales and chords can also be moved to different positions on the neck. This changes their root note, tonal centre and key.
The blues scale, as seen here, adds the #4/b5 to the pentatonic scale. This offers a great opportunity for chromatic runs and blues turnarounds as well as adding a bit more 'blues flavour' when played in a certain way over specific chords.
So basically, the minor blues scale is the minor pentatonic scale with the addition of one extra note known as the 'blue note'.
The major blues scale appears to have the same basic look as the minor blues scale just like the major pentatonic appears to be the same as the major pentatonic in its appearance. The minor and major blues scales are different scales though in exactly the same way as the minor and major pentatonic scales are also different to each other.
So basically, the major blues scale is the major pentatonic scale with the addition of one extra note known as the 'blue note'. In addition to this is the often confusing principle of the major blues and minor blues scale's differences, which is exactly the same principle as the minor/major pentatonic scale differences which only become apparent when they are played over specific chords.
The main difference from a soloing point of view between the minor pentatonic/blues scale and the major pentatonic/blues scale is the simple fact that the minor versions are played over minor, minor sevenths and dominant sevenths, whereas the major versions of these scales are played over major, major sevenths and also dominant sevenths.
The major and minor pentatonic scales, and the major and minor blues scales are therefore common scales for soloing over a standard I, IV, V blues chord progression such as those at blues guitar chords.
Adding 'blue notes' to the pentatonic scale forms the blues scale which creates a bit more 'blues flavour' to your solos. The pentatonic and blues scales are also played in jazz and jazz-blues as well as many other musical styles too.
The 'blue notes' can be played or not depending on what atmosphere you want to create at that particular time during your solo. As I have already mentioned, playing the blue notes also offers an opportunity for playing chromatic runs within your solo to create dynamic tension.
The concept of modes is often confusing to beginners as it was to me in my early days. Modes can be understood in the same way as other scales as they, like scales, are indeed only a series of notes that ascend and descend with a pre-determined step-pattern. By learning your major scales well you will access the modes with ease. The Dorian mode is the major scale with the 3rd and 7th notes lowered by one fret (one semi-tone or a half-step) The Dorian mode can also be played by starting any major scale from the 2nd note and continuing the original major scale finger pattern from that point on. In this sense it could be seen as a scale within a scale.
The Dorian mode has a warm, soulful sound and is one of my personal favourites.
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The Lydian mode is a result of raising the fourth note of a major scale by a semi-tone (one fret or half-step). This gives the Lydian mode an open, airy type of atmospheric quality.
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The Mixolydian mode is the result of lowering the seventh note of the major scale by one fret (one semi-tone or one half-step). This mode adds a bit of harmonic colour to your blues guitar solos. Bring your solo in and out of the major/minor pentatonic and major/minor blues scales and into the Mixolydian to spice up your blues!
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The Phrygian mode is formed by lowering the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th notes of the major scale by one fret (one semi-tone or one half-step). When played over appropriate chords, this mode has a real Spanish flavour that lends itself well to flamenco and similar guitar style improvisations. For this reason it is often referred to as the 'flamenco mode'. The Phrygian mode is also used in fusion and speed metal improvisation.
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This mode is formed by lowering the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th notes of the major scale by one fret (one semi-tone or one half-step). The Locrian mode has a rather eerie sound and is probably the least used mode/scale in Western music and tends to be used mainly by jazz guitarists over the minor 7b5 chord. The Locrian mode does however play an important role in Japanese and Hindu music.
Scroll down for more Locrian Mode options
I sincerely hope you've found what scale or mode you were looking for or at the very least, something you weren't looking for! The guitar scales charts offered above are an attempt to highlight the most common and possibly the most important guitar scales in general use today, at least in the Western world anyway. There's a vast amount of guitar scales, modes and variations of the same in existence throughout the world, and far too many for me to list in total here.
Please visit this site again soon though as I will continue to add more charts, information and videos over time.
Please help to grow this site by clicking the pay it forward link further down and/or by sharing it on your favourite social site. Many thanks.
Keep up the practice!Back To Top