Lesson Five – Intro to Scales

Scales are the bane of anyone just starting to learn how to play guitar. They’re seen as uninteresting and pretty tuneless.

In isolation, they can be dead boring. But if you take a little time to understand how scales are constructed it will help you enormously with finding the right chords for a song, and allow you to use the easiest and most fluid fingerings when playing.

So – what is a scale. Very simply, it’s a group of notes, usually starting with the tonic note, played in ascending or descending order, and finishing on an octave of the tonic note. If you play a C major scale then  C is the tonic note, a D minor scale will have D as the tonic note.

And there are ways to bring them alive by adding a bit of swing, or playing the notes in a different order to vary the scale patterns.

Diatonic Scales

These are scales that are made up of half and whole steps, with the first and last note being the tonic.

Non-diatonic Scales

These are scales that may include intervals greater than a whole step such as the pentatonic scale and the blues scale – much loved by guitarists.

There are thousands of possible scales but we’ll start with the most useful and basic one – the Major scale.

The Major Scale

If you’ve ever sung Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Te-Do then you are already familiar with the major scale. It’s a diatonic scale with a pattern of whole and half steps in the following order (where W = whole step, and H = half step)


The C Major scale is the easiest to remember as there are no sharps or flats, just the natural notes.

The pattern of intervals is W-W-H-W-W-W-H  (see the piano keyboard in Lesson Three where all the notes are on the white keys)


A C Major chord is formed using the tonic, the third and the fifth notes of the C Major scale.


More about scales very soon!

Please take me to

Lesson One – Staff, Clef and Measures, or Bars

Lesson Two – Note Duration

Lesson Three – Note Pitch and the Guitar

Lesson Four – Time Signatures