The obvious place to begin is to ask what
is a guitar scale?
A scale is, simply put, a sequence of notes. The
spaces between each note
(intervals) are what define the sound of that sequence.
What if we play
sequence of notes without any gaps between them? We get the chromatic
which, if played out on one string, would look like this...
That's the chromatic scale
played on the G string,
from the open G string to the 12th fret G octave. That's 12 notes,
G and 12th fret G
are the same note and count as 1 note in the
sequence. Each note represents a degree of the scale.
also apply the chromatic scale to any other string (e.g. open A to 12th
open B to 12th fret B etc.)
If you've taken the fretboard
lessons (don't worry if you haven't yet) you'll know that
there are 12 notes in total on the guitar
fretboard. The chromatic scale is note 1 to note 12, without any gaps
(12 consecutive semitones, in other words).
Now, the chromatic scale isn't
used much as a musical scale
because it's not very... musical. But theoretically, this scale is the
elementary scale of them all, as it includes every note we will ever
just on the G string though, obviously).
When we remove certain notes
from the chromatic sequence, we can
create more musical sounding scales. Let's try removing notes from
the chromatic scale on the G string:
So again, from open G
fret G we have a sequence of
notes, but this time there are gaps (intervals) between some of the
notes and therefore fewer notes before we reach the 12th fret octave
(only 7 this time). Try playing this pattern of notes on
the G string, or any string. Remember to start on the open string.
That diagram above is a G
scale (more on individual
scales later!). It's a G scale because we started on the note
G. In other
words, the G note is note number
1 in the scale as it lies on the scale's 1st degree,
also known as the root
note. The root note defines the tonal center (or key) of
scale. As time
goes on, you'll learn how significant this is.
When playing a scale, you
won't necessarily always start
on the root note, but just knowing where the root note is in the scale
So that's ultimately what
scales are! Of course, scales are most
often played across more than one string. For example, the G scale
above can be
condensed to play across more than one string within the space of just
So again, the root notes
lie on G,
and it's exactly the same scale as above, just in a lower register
sounding) and across 3 strings rather than 1. We can also continue that
from the higher root note on the D string, and cover the remaining 3
strings for a higher register of the same scale.
We could also apply the scale
in relation to an A or D string
root note, which would change how the pattern looks (more on this in
If we filled in the gaps
between those notes, we'd get the
chromatic scale again!
This type of scale that spans
just 4 or 5 frets is known as a boxed
scale pattern. Boxed patterns are a good place to start, but
want to break out of those boxes.
Expanding out of the box
allows you to use more of the fretboard,
which allows you to play
scales more fluidly. It frees up your fingers and your
That's why each of the scales
lessons on this site begin with
the boxed patterns and then expand out to cover more of the fretboard.
same scale, just with more fretboard coverage.