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Scales Cheat Sheet

A Guide to Musical Scales For Guitarists

Scales Cheat Sheet Tutorial


This tutorial is meant to give you a good basis for learning guitar playing and hopefully becoming good at it as quick as possible. As any seasoned guitarists will tell you, learning guitar takes time and effort. This text aims to reduce the time through guiding you in the right direction straight from the beginning and hopefully towards a fruitful end.

C Major scale

If you are new to playing guitar or want to start, but are not sure where from, C Major scale is the right address.

So, navigate to C Major scale's page and its Notes and Key Signature section. There you will learn what notes C major scale consists of. It is a short section, so give it a quick glimpse only, commit to memory, that C is the tonic for the scale and move on.

Positions for C Major Pentatonic

Once you have had a seen the seven notes making up C Major scale, you are ready to pick up your guitar and actually start doing something with it in an organized manner. Navigate to the Positions for Pentatonic section on the page and learn all 5 positions you will find there as well as the correct fingerings for them. Start with a position under the C tab. Use the switch below each of the positions to switch over from notes to fingerings and back.

Picking up speed with metronome

At some point you will remeber a position well and feel comfortable with fingerings for it. As the next step you might want to make use of a metronome. Metronome is a great tool to improve speed of playing and learning how to play notes at regular time intervals.

In order to improve speed of playing, set yourself a reasonably high speed targer. Then, set the metronome to a speed that you can just about play all the notes in the position at, and work on that. Once you have achieved the speed, go up by 5 beats per minute on the metronome. Repeat, until you can play the position quicker than what you have set as your initial speed target for the position.

This basic exercise is something that you will find valuable for whatever sequence of notes or chords you might play in the future.

Power Chords

You have learnt the positions, have you not? It is time to get started with basic chords then. Navigate to the Chords section, open Power Chords tab, scan it quickly, pick up the guitar, choose C position you have just learnt and using correct fingerings for the position start playing all the power chords you can find in the position.

Once finished with the C position, move on to D position and again play all the power chords you can find in it. Repeat the exercise for the remaining three positions.

Basic Intervals

At this point you might be a bit used to somewhat similar sound of power chords. It is the P5 (Perfect Fifth) interval that is partly responsible for how they sound. Perfect Fifth interval occurs between two notes of a power chord.

Positions for pentatonic give some freedom in terms of what two notes one can play. Navigate to the Intervals section, choose the C position and play two random notes, one at a time, paying attention to correct fingerings. Check interval between the notes using the table in the Intervals section. For example, the interval between C and D is M2 (Major Second),interval between C and E is M3 (Major Third). You will want to know them all eventully.

At this point it is worth noting, that intervals between two notes differ depending on which note is played first. So, interval between C and D played in this order (down the scale) is M2 (Major Second).

However, if you play D followed by C (up the scale), the interval will be m7 (minor 7th). It is a good idea to focus on down-the-scale direction first, and move on to the up-the-scale direction only once you have developed some ability of recognising the first 5 intervals.

Learning intervals is not easy and it will certainly take you some time to get to hear them well. Nonetheless, knowing intervals helps immensely with learning more complex aspects of guitar playing, so make sure you spend decent amount of time for these exercises.

Positions for C Major scale

Once you have learnt your Power Chords and explored Intervals, it is time to take another leap. Navigate to the Positions sections and learn all the seven positions and fingerings for them. They are different to positions to the Positions for Pentatonic section, because of 7 notes found in each of them now. To supplement your knowledge of intervals check all the intervals between two notes in each of the 7 positions using the table in the Intervals section.

Triads, *7 and other chords

Once you are finished with positions and have given a go the new intervals, you are ready to navigate once more to the Chords section and learn all the other chords based on notes of C major scale. These more complex diagrams, like Triads and 7* chords have diagrams and fingerings given for each of them. Each of the chords can be found in one of the seven positions you know. As you practise these chords, make sure that you are in the position your chord is found in and follow the fingering given by a diagram of the chord.

Chord Progressions

Surely, by this point you have tried to string some chords together and also noticed that some of chord sequences sound better than others. It is time to move on to Chord Progressions section. Progressions give in it are some of the best sounding sequences of chords ever devised. A lot of contemporary music is based on them. You might want to play these sequences for a while, it will teach you how to change chords faster and faster. It will also train your ear further.

More Major scales to explore

If you completed the above steps you have learnt the most important bits of C major scale. Positions, Intervals, Chords and other stuff for other Major scales is the same, just shifted on the fretboard. You might want to check that for yourself through exploring one or more other Major scales. D Major scale sounds very good.

Navigate to the page for D major scale, and do the same exercises you did for C major scale. You will notice that D position in D major scale is identical to C position in C major scale, but found 2 frets down the fretboard. I encourage you to look closely at parallel positions, intervals, and chords for both these Major scales. Learning D Major scale should be a breeze now.

Beyond the Major scale

Once you mastered C major scale in Ionian mode and played a bit with D and possibly other Major scales, you might want to navigate to the Relative Scale section on C Major scale' page. It is a gate to A Natural Minor scale. Click the link and use the same process like you did for C major to learn your first Natural Minor scale in Aeolian mode. You will quickly notice a lot of similarities between C Major Ionian and A Natural Minor Aeolian. The latter is like the former, but its tonic is the 6th degree of the C major scale. Both scales share the same notes, positions and intervals. The difference lies in the location of all of them on the fretboard.

Harmonic and Melodic Minors

At this point, you might want to introduce some exoticism into your guitar playing and switch to A Harmonic or A Melodic Minor Scale. Both scales are to large degree similar to A Natural Minor, but sound distinctly different. You are encouraged to explore them in the same way as you did for C Major scale.

Putting it all together

Even though, this website consists of 60 scales, it is enough to learn well only one Major, one Minor, one Harmonic and one Melodic scale to notice that all the other scales in the same family are just shifted variants of the one you know. The same is true for pentatonics. By following the sequence of steps described above you have learnt the basics of guitar playing. Now you might want to find some piece of music in a scale you know best (be it C major or a A natural Minor), look at its tab, identify positions the notes are in, and start playing.

End of Introduction