The Beginner’s Guide to Reading Guitar Scales

Guest post by Belle Arzadon

Photo by Brian Finifter

The Beginner’s Guide to Reading Guitar Scales

Guitar scales are a valuable tool for every guitarist. It’s never too early to start learning and memorizing guitar scales as these help you achieve a quicker and better grasp of guitar chords, play the lead guitar, and master many other guitar techniques.

C Major Scale

All lessons about guitar scales begin with familiarizing one’s self with the C Major Scale. This provides the foundation you need to learn other scales. The C Major Scale is composed entirely of natural tones or notes.

Naturally, the first note is the Major C. The next note would be D, E, and so forth until you find yourself back again to C. Now, just to remind you again, a Major scale has eight degrees: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C again. These respectively correspond to the numbers 1 – 8.

The eighth degree, which is the second C in your scale, is referred to as an octave. The first degree, on the other hand, which happens to be C as well in the Major C scale, is referred to as the root. Sometimes, it is also referred to as the “tonic” or “key note.” All scales are named after its root. Another term you should remember is interval, which is the distance separating one note from another.

All major scales have the same pattern of steps: Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half.

Once you’ve memorized this pattern, you’ll find it easier to write down scales and know every tone they’re made of.

Try testing this pattern out with the Major C scale. Start by playing the root with your first finger. Proceed towards the neck and subsequent strings. Notice how each note corresponds to the sequence of the pattern above. Play it again and this time, pay attention to the music it creates. Doesn’t it sound similar to the Do-Re-Mi melody you’ve grown up with? It should since that melody is based on the Major C scale.

Let’s practice the Major C Scale this time in the first position. If you recall, this position requires you to play notes belonging to the first four frets of your guitar. Pay attention to how the notes adhere to the pattern.

From Scale to Chord

You’ll now reap the first of many rewards for mastering guitar scales. By knowing how to create guitar scales, you’ll find it easier to master their corresponding chords. Simply start with the A minor, proceed to C, then go back to A minor. Practice this over and over and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Looking for guitar and beginner piano lessons? Check out Belle’s latest at Or read her latest post about bluegrass festivals at

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