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SC-000 • Scales Index Page on Scales

Shown here is lots of information about the scales, including my favorite fingerings, alternative fingerings and patterns that I know are in common usage, and most importantly, the information you need to know to make music with them! :)

So first of all, CONGRATULATIONS on making it to this page! Lot of people are scared by the word "scale" they kinda know they should learn some, but they think they're boring and hard and complicated but...

Scales are great fun when you know how to make music with them!

Before you start on learning scales it's very important you know: why you should learn a particular scale, where you can use it, how to make music with it, what pattern (or system) to learn and when to forget it!

In this series of lessons I hope to show you all that and more and get you making music out of scales as soon as possible, and realising that they were not designed to make children hate music (which is what I thought until I was about 16) but are a really useful tool for writing, improvising and understanding music!

You'll find lots of information about the most commonly used scales and modes, including my favourite fingerings, alternative fingerings and patterns that I know are in common usage. Some of it is here as 'reference material' but these lessons are all about you making music from scales. Hope you enjoy them!

I've put them roughly in the order of importance: The Major Scale, The Minor Pentatonic, The Major Pentatonic, The Major Scale Modes, The Melodic Minor, The Harmonic Minor, Symmetrical Scales and Crazy Stuff!


Scale Basics

SC-101 • Beginners Scale FAQ
Lots or people got a bit confused by all the information here about scales, so here is a little scale FAQ that I hope answers many of the questions often asked by guitar players that are new to scales.

QT-005 • When NOT to learn scales
I thought I'd include this lesson here, was part of my Quick Tips series but it's an important little lesson that might well be valuable to you right now!

SC-102 • How To Practice Scales
Playing scales up and down can get well boring and is not particularly useful if you want to make music with them. In this lesson I take you through various practice routines you might like to try out!

SC-103 • Sequence Studies (also called Pattern Studies or Melodic Patterns)
Use these to turn scales into melody. A technical, scientific and mathematical concept applied to guitar. Like rocket science? then this lesson is for you ;) lol

SC-130 • Demystify The Minor Scales
There is a lot of confusion around the minor scales, which ones go where and why you might use one over the other... Well this lesson is an attempt at explaining how they are linked and theory purpose. This lesson is NOT FOR BEGINNERS, you will need to understand basic harmony (how chords are built etc.) to understand this lesson!

SC-150 • Scale Comparison Chart (REFERNCE for ADVANCED students)
This chart will show you the notes in all the common scales and modes, so you can compare them and start to understand the different ways that each scale is used. This is NOT FOR BEGINNERS - this is for more advanced players.

SC-160 • Relationships between notes and chords
This is another NOT FOR BEGINNERS lesson, maybe aimed at people looking at the Major scales, scale construction and perhaps even making up scales. Also useful for analysis of jazz solos when you have that eternal question "why are they playing this note over that chord?" :) 

The Major Scale

The Major scale is the most important scale you will ever learn. Although the Pentatonic is used a lot in rock and blues, The Major Scale is mega useful and you will find that you refer to it all the time! It is also easy to learn to improvise with and you will find that once you know it you will see it used all the time.

SC-201 • The Major Scale: Essential Information
The Major Scale is one of the most important scales that you can learn (along with the Pentatonic Scale). Modes are derived from it, and understanding it well can give you insights into chord construction and all sorts of theory elements of music. It's a big deal - don't miss out!

SC-202 • The Major Scale: Why and How
In this lesson I explain a bit about why the scale works and how we get the the 'Diatonic Chords' (chords in the key) and what that means for you for improvising and understanding.

SC-203 • The Major Scale: Improvising & Jamming
This lesson explores the practical application of the G Major Scale (Pattern 1) over the chords in the Key of G. I'll show you how to 'set up' a fun jam and how to keep your ears open!

SC-204 • The Major Scale: The Five Patterns
The system of Major Scales I recommend for all players is based on the CAGED system and there are 5 Patterns that interconnect which allow you to play all over the neck! Don't be in a hurry here, using to use one pattern well is a lot better than knowing all five but not being able to make music from them!!

SC-205 • The Major Scale: The Seven Patterns (3NPS System)
The other common Major Scale pattern system is "The Seven" (also called the "3 Note Per String" system). In some circumstances it has advantages but in my humble opinion "The Five" is a much better foundation (it's based around The CAGED System) and until you feel comfortable with improvising all over the neck with them, this 7 Pattern system should not be explored.

SC-206 • The Major Scale: Sequence Study in 3rds
By far the most useful Sequence Study to use with the Major Scale is 'playing in 3rds' so in this lesson we run through how to play Patterns 1 and 2 'in 3rds' and discuss how to learn the remaining patterns.

See further down this page for the Modes of the Major Scale.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

The Minor Pentatonic is a really useful scale for blues and rock and you will use it for your entire playing life. It sounds really cool and has many uses. If you want to get into the blues then you totally need to get this one down. It is equally as important as The Major Scale. The minor pentatonic scale is often the first scale learnt by guitar players because it is easy to play and fun to use to start your blues improvisation.

If you want to play Blues you will probably be better off working through my free Blues Lead Guitar Course because that will show you how to use this scale more comprehensively than these lessons!

SC-301 • The Minor Pentatonic Scale: Essential Information
The Minor Pentatonic is often the first scale people learn because it's easy to play, fun to use and is the foundation alphabet for The Blues language, something most people want to play. This lesson we look at what it is and give you some groundwork before we start playing it!

SC-302 • The Minor Pentatonic: Why and How
In this lessons we look at where the pentatonic notes come from and what chords go with this popular scale. Why we get these particular five notes and how to use them

SC-303 • The Minor Pentatonic Scale: Improvising & Jamming
Now we're going to get you jamming using the A Minor Pentatonic, show you how to set up a jam or use a backing track. This is a taster for the much more comprehensive (and still free) Blues Lead Guitar Course.

SC-304 • The Minor Pentatonic: The Five Patterns
If you want to know the Five Patterns but don't want to learn all the good stuff you get in the Blues Lead Guitar Course, then this lesson I show you all five patterns, the common fingerings and common mistakes.

SC-305 • The Minor Pentatonic Legato Sequences
Learn how to effectively use legato (hammer-ons and flick-offs) to make some cool Legato Sequences ;) Makes playing them faster a little easier too! This is a cool trick, easy to get the basics down, but you can spend LOTS of time on exploring this...

Blues Lead Guitar DVD

Essential Blues Lead Guitar Course DVD set
If you want to learn to play Blues Lead Guitar then you'll love my easy step by step approach, this the first module in my revised (2016) course and contains 13 lessons (plus two DVD bonus lessons) and Jam Blues 1 backing track CD and some reference pdf files. It is a replacement for the old "Blues Lead 1" course: improved structure and high quality video and audio.

Blues Lead Guitar Course DVD (with bonus content and Jam CD) available in The Justinguitar Store.

The Major Pentatonic Scale

I've has an interesting relationship with the Major Pentatonic, for many years I didn't really 'get it', I found it hard to use and it never seemed to feel right, so I just ignored it. But as I've explored more Blues I've found I like it more and more and now I love it and use it all the time!! Though not quite as easy to use in Blues as the Minor Pentatonic (see Why and How!), it's GREAT for major key improvising and really worth checking out!

SC-401 • The Major Pentatonic Scale: Essential Information
This lesson will show you the five common positions of the Major Pentatonic.

SC-402 • The Major Pentatonic Scale: Why and How
There are a few ways of using the Major Pentatonic scale, as a straight up country scale, as a different flavour over a regular Major Scale sequence or mix it into Blues.

SC-403 • The Major Pentatonic Scale: Improvising & Jamming
So lets get using thsi bad boy over some great chord sequences! We'll look at a few different approaches and get you changing your scales with the chords.

SC-404 • The Major Pentatonic Scale: The Five Patterns
Here you'll find all five patterns of the Major Pentatonic Scale to help you get your country vibe on! Although they have the same visual shape as the Minor Pentatonics you have to be extra aware of the root notes!

Please note that the Major Pentatonic Scale is covered in the later parts of the Blues Lead Guitar Course.

Modes of the Major Scale

Modes suffer from possibly more confusion than any other topic that I know of on guitar, but they are actually very simple... In this new series I hope to dispel some of the myths and explain what they are and how to use them.

SC-501 • Introduction To Modes
This lesson just covers some basic information on the modes to get you going before you start.

SC-502 • What To Know Before You Start Learning Modes
The title probably says it all... make sure you know all this stuff before you embark on the course!

SC-503 • Diatonic Chord Sequences
The first and most important step in beginning your journey. I hope you understand this before you get going but this lesson should serve as revision and maybe add in a few things that you didn't know.

SC-504 • Why Use Modes?
In this lesson I explain why we need modes and give you some examples to try out so you can HEAR why it is that we need to understand modes.

SC-505 • Modes In Series
A series of modes all come from the same major scale and understanding this is the first step in understanding how we use modes. It's also important to get familiar with the order of the modes too.

SC-506 • Modes In Parallel
Now we're going to look at all the modes that have the Tonal Centre of C. Requires a bit of counting and making sure you are confident with your tones and semitones.

SC-507 • Calculating Parent Major Scales
Now that we have looked at the modes in series and parallel, I'm going to show you some super short cuts so that you can work out the Parent Major Scale of any mode in a few seconds!

SC-508 • Comparing Modes
Now you can calculate them we start to look at them in more detail and compare them side by side and look at how and why they are different and how that effects using them.

SC-509 • ? on hold in case i think of something needed here!

SC-510 • How To Practice Modes
The following series of lessons are going to go through all the modes one at a time and give you some tips on using each one. But it helps to have a little routine that you can use to get the sound of the modes in your head.

SC-511 • The Ionian Mode
In this series we explore each mode, looking at each note and how it is used! We're starting here with Ionian, essentially the same thing as The Major Scale, but we check it out anyway...

SC-512 • The Dorian Mode
My personal fave, a very easy to use mode is our Dorian. Mixed in with some blues licks and you have a very nice pallet indeed :) Plus there are some links to some licks found in the blues course...

SC-513 • The Phrygian Mode
Bit of an odd one this, sounds kinda Spanish, but not a very commonly used mode. Quite a few notes to treat with caution, so you have to spend some time with this one to get it sounding good.

SC-514 • The Lydian Mode
Lydian rocks, it's a cool sound, the sharp 4 just has a real nice tension about it. Some people believe our whole music system should have been based on this sound rather than the major scale...

SC-515 • The Mixolydian Mode
Probably the second most used mode, very cool in blues and jazz, really outlines Dominant 7th chords great. Only one note different from the Major Scale (and one note different to the Dorian too!), this one is one to give a lot of time to, you will use it lots!

SC-516 • The Aeolian Mode
The natural or "Pure Minor", but it's not as commonly used as you might think, especially in pop, rock and jazz, it's the Dorian that is played most often. Santana uses the Aeolian lots, and it can sound awesome.

SC-517 • The Locrian Mode
Well last and least... this scale is hard to use and only used over min7b5 chords, so only in jazz, and usually by the time you get to be using this, you'll be using mode of the melodic minor (Locrian Nat2) over min7b5 chords anyway... but I couldn't really have just left it out altogether now could I? Or could I? ;)

SC-XXX • Minor Modes and the Minor Pentatonic

SC-XXX • Examples Of Modal Playing

SC-XXX • Combining Modes With Arpeggios

SC-XXX • Joe Satriani's Pitch Axis Concept

The Melodic Minor Scale

The melodic minor scale is a more advanced scale used mostly in jazz and fusion. It has some very useful modes contained in it, but make sure that you can use the major scale and the minor pentatonic confidently before you even start thinking about this scale. If you don't know why you should learn a scale, then you shouldn't bother! For reasons why you would want to use it, check out my jazz lessons!

SC-601 • The Melodic Minor Scale: Essential Information
To put it as easily as possible, the Melodic Minor Scale is a Major Scale with a flat 3 (b3) which as many of you will know, the b3 is what makes minor 'minor'. Personally I use the modes of this scale far more than any other way!

SC-602 • The Melodic Minor Scale: Why and How
There are a few situations where this scale is REALLY useful and if you want to get into jazz then it's pretty much essential that you get to know it.

SC-603 • The Melodic Minor Scale: Improvising & Jamming
In this lesson we look at a few of the ways it is commonly used and give you some ideas for jamming and practicing with it!

SC-604 • The Melodic Minor Scale: The Five Patterns
Here you'll find the five most common scale patterns that I use and some tips on getting them under your fingers and into your ears!

SC-605 • The Modes of The Melodic Minor Scale
In this lesson we look at each of the 7 modes of this scale and how they are commonly used. You really need to make sur eyou got your theory head on when you look at this!

The Harmonic Minor Scale

This scale has a very classical (baroque) sound. It has some specialised uses, but again should only be looked at after the major scale has been mastered. If I'm honest about it, I don't think I ever use this scale! That's not to say you shouldn't use it, if you play neoclassical music (Malsteen style!) then you'll be loving it... but for me, I just don't hear it so it never comes out!

SC-701 • The Harmonic Minor Scale: Essential Information
The Harmonic Minor started life simply to get a Dominant 7th chord on the 5th degree of the scale! It's good for creating HARMONY, hence it's name... but a few strange folk still like using it to create melodies...

SC-702 • The Harmonic Minor Scale: Why and How
Why you may or may not wish to spend your time learning this scale and how to go about it if you do! It's pretty good fun to play about with.

SC-703 • The Harmonic Minor Scale: Improvising & Jamming
Lets see what chords we can get to jam with this bad boy and what happens when we do. There's some pretty interesting chords lurking in this pool of notes ready to bite your head off!

SC-704 • The Harmonic Minor Scale: The Five Patterns
Here you'll find the five most common scale patterns that I use and some tips on getting them under your fingers and into your ears!

SC-705 • The Harmonic Minor Scale: Modal Introduction
In this lesson we look at each of the 7 modes of this scale and how they are commonly used. You really need to make sur eyou got your theory head on when you look at this!


The Whole Tone Scale

The Whole Tone Scale is a very interesting and cool sounding scale with a very specific perpose. Used in the right contect it sounds awesome!! and the Symmetrical Diminished Scale.

SC-801 • The Whole Tone Scale: Essential Information

SC-802 • The Whole Tone Scale: Why and How

SC-803 • The Whole Tone Scale: Improvising & Jamming

SC-804 • The Whole Tone Scale: The One Position!!


The Symmetrical Diminished Scale

The Symmetrical Diminished Scale is another very interesting scale usually used in very specific situaltions, I really like this one, sounds super hip in jazzy fusion situaltions.

SC-811 • The Diminished Scale: Essential Information

SC-812 • The Diminished Scale: Why and How

SC-813 • The Diminished Scale: Improvising & Jamming

SC-814 • The Diminished Scale: The One Position!

Weird Scales that you probably won't use much ;)

Only learn scales when you know that you need to use them! If you are looking at doing more advanced scale concepts, like say The Lydian Chromatic Concept For Tonal Organization For Improvisation by George Russell then you should not need my help figuring out the scales. Really interesting book btw, if you are into full on experimental theories, though when I bought it I remember it cost a fortune, and though it's an interesting read, I never really used any of it!