Guitar Scale Basics and Theory

  • Scale in music is a group of related notes in a Descending and or Ascending order or Pitch.  Scales follow a pattern of Intervals.
  • Interval – the difference between two sounds.  The distance from one sound to another.
  • Half-Step – The smallest Interval movement on the Guitar (moving one Fret).  Also called a Semitone.
  • Whole Step – 2 Half-Steps in movement, therefore 2 Frets in movement.  Also called a Whole tone.  A Whole Step is 2 Semitones.
  • Octave – A repeated note in a Scale. Octave means “8 Tones”  in Latin, because Octaves are 8 Scale Tones apart.  
  • A Higher Octave Note Frequency is twice the Hz of the lower octave.  For Example, an A Note is 440 Hz, the Higher octave of that A note would be 880 Hz and the Lower octave of that note would be 220 Hz. 
  • Scales are notes that relate harmonically in some way.  Scale Patterns are beneficial to memorize for musicians who wish to create music and improvise.
  • Root Note – The note that is the basis of the scale pattern.  First note in the Scale and the letter Name of the Scale.
  • The Key of the Scale is named after the Root note. 
  • A Scale ends on the Octave of the Root Note.
  • The Type of Scale depends on the pattern of intervals the scale follows from the Root note to the Octave of the Root note. 
  • Diatonic Scale – A Scale that has seven notes with the eighth note being the Octave

the Major Scale

  • a Major Scale is a Diatonic Scale. Also called the Ionian Scale.
  • The Interval pattern for the Major Scale is: Whole  Whole  Half  Whole  Whole  Whole  Half (W W H W W W H). W = Whole Step. H = Half Step.
  • Is the most widely used scale in Western Music.  The Major scale is made up of 7 Notes with the 8th note as the Octave.
  • The C Major Scale is played with only white keys on the Piano, because it has no Sharps # or Flats b.  

Natural Minor Scale

  • a Natural Minor Scale is a Diatonic Scale. Also called the Aeolian Scale.
  • The Interval pattern for the Natural Minor Scale is: Whole  Half  Whole  Whole  Half  Whole  Whole (W H W W H W W). W = Whole Step. H = Half Step.

A Natural Minor Scale

  • A Natural Minor Scale has the same notes as the C Major Scale. The  A Natural Minor Scale is the Relative Minor to the C Major Scale .
  • C Major Scale is the Relative Major to the A Minor Scale.
  • For every Major Scale there is a Relative Minor Scale.

Chromatic Scale

  • Chromatic Scale – “A Set of all Notes”.  All Half-Steps and Twelve Pitches (12 Notes).  Each note is a Half-Step apart. 
  • A Chromatic Scale is not a Diatonic Scale.  
  • Can be played fret by fret starting from the 0 Fret to the 12th Fret, fret by fret, all on a single String.

Key Signatures

  • the Key Signature is found at the beginning of a piece of music after the Clef, before the Time Signature.  
  • uses sharps or flats, dictating the Key of the song.  Notes will follow the Key Signature throughout the entire piece of music unless changed by an accidental.
  • A Key is also the Scale of the song, meaning if the Key Signature is E minor, all the notes in the song will be from the E minor Scale unless changed by an accidental.

Key Signatures Examples

Key Signatures Treble Clef SHARPS

  • C Major/A minor Key signature has no sharps or flats.  (All the white keys on the Piano).  
  • C Major Key is the Relative Major of A minor Key.  A minor Key is the Relative minor of C Major Key.
  • G Major/E minor – E minor is the Relative minor of G Major.         1 Sharp.
  • D Major/B minor – B minor is the Relative minor of D Major.         2 Sharps.
  • A Major/F# minor – F# minor is the Relative minor of A Major.      3 Sharps
  • E Major/C# minor – C# minor is the Relative minor of E Major.      4 Sharps.
  • B Major/G# minor – G# minor is the Relative minor of B Major.      5 Sharps.
  • F# Major/D# minor – D# minor is the Relative minor of F# Major.   6 Sharps.
  • C# Major/A# minor – A# minor is the Relative minor of C# Major.  7 Sharps.

Key Signatures Treble Clef FLATS

  • C Major/ A minor – No Sharps or Flats
  • F Major/D minorD minor is the Relative minor of F Major.           1 Flat.
  • Bb Major/G minor – G minor is the Relative minor of Bb Major.      2 Flats.
  • Eb Major/C minor – C minor is the Relative minor of Eb Major.       3 Flats.
  • Ab Major/F minor – F minor is the Relative minor of Ab Major.        4 Flats.
  • Db Major/Bb minor – Bb minor is the Relative minor of Db Major.   5 Flats.
  • Gb Major/Eb minor – Eb minor is the Relative minor of Gb Major.   6 Flats.
  • Cb Major/Ab minor – Ab minor is the Relative minor of Cb Major.   7 Flats.

Summary of Key Points

  • There are many more Scale Patterns that will be covered in the Lessons.
  • A Half-Step on a Guitar is One Fret Movement.  A Whole Step on a Guitar is moving two Frets.  
  • H = Half Step, 1 Fret Movement. W = Whole Step 2 Fret movement.
  • A Scale ends on the Octave of the Root Note.
  • Comparing the Major Scale, Minor Scale and Chromatic Scale: The Chromatic Scale has no formula, it is all the notes played one after the other.  Major Scale formula W W H W W W H.   The Minor Scale formula is W H W W H W W.  
  • The Key Signature of a piece of music is also the Scale of the music.
  • For every Major Scale and every Major Key Signature, there is a Relative Minor Scale and Relative Minor Key.