Knowing my guitar scales pays off for me in every way possible as a guitar player. Not that I consciously think about them all the time when I play my guitar, because the movements are innate now. For instance on Saturday night, we were at a friends house for dinner and a jam. When we went to jam after dinner, my knowledge of scales came in handy.
Before I get going, I’m not saying that learning guitar scales is the first thing to do if you are a beginner guitar player. You need a good guitar curriculum to follow and learn to play guitar, correctly. Without bad habits. At some point in the early stages you will be introduced to scales. I am saying you will need to work diligently at learning the finger patterns for each scale system. I am also saying you are NOT in a race, so take your time to learn them well. Have you ever heard the saying “fast is slow, and slow is fast“? Take it to heart, enjoy yourself while you learn, and don’t rush, you will be the winner in the end. About the time you are sick of practicing them, they will start to become lodged in your muscle memory and the fun will start.
For instance, if you learn the finger pattern to the G Major Scale, them in effect, you know the finger pattern to the major scale for every note on the string you choose to play the scale on. Since there are 12 notes between the open notes [no strings pressed down], at the nut, up to the 12th fret, you automatically will know 12 scales. Why, because every fret is a note in the major scale, and uses the same pattern for any note you choose to start on. If we choose the low E string to start on as a reference, maybe you will understand better.
In the picture of the G Major Scale [below/left], the top 1/4 wide blank place between the words G Major Scale and the first thin line is the Nut, or Zero Fret. The first thin line is the first fret, the second thin line is the second fret, the third thin line is the third fret [there is a bold 3 next to it]. And so on to the last fret.
Note: A real guitar neck has from 14 to 24 frets on it in total, depending on the type and brand. All guitars have at least 12 frets.
In a G Major Scale, the starting note is always G. On the Low E string, the thickest string, the open string [nothing pressed down] is an E note. Press the low E string down between the nut and the first fret and pluck the Low E string [with your right hand] and you are now in the key of F. Between the first and second fret would then be F#, between the second and the third fret is G. So our scale starts between the second and the third fret of the Low E string.
Note: The 3 black circles with the white numerals: 2, 4, 2 in the G major pattern, are the Root Note, or G in this case. The numerals inside the circles that are white or black, designate where your fingers should push down allowing a beginner guitar player to play the pattern correctly with proper technique. Play the root note just like it was not black, just another note. It is not even important to know the note names, just the pattern. Disregard the G Minor Pentatonic [blues] Scale on the right for now. It is simply another popular scale pattern. Don’t complicate the issue now.
It’s darn easy to remember the notes and locations of each note on the neck of your guitar for the major scale. However, it’s not necessary to learn the names of the notes until you can play the pattern fluidly. At the same time you can’t help but learn the names of each note/fret on the string you choose to start the scale on, by default. It sounds hard, but believe me, you will remember the finger patterns fairly fast, and that is what’s important. Just concentrate on the pattern. Once you learn this pattern, I have all sorts of cool exercises you can do with the major scale to improve you picking and fingering. At some point you will have a lot of fun playing with scales and making nice sounds, just give it some time and practice.
If you think are like me, then you are learning the major scale in 12 different keys. And that makes me feel smart. The truth is that when I don’t know a song, I just figure out what key it’s in, and play the notes in the pattern I learned and remembered in the key the song is in. Obviously I have to play the right beat and rhythm too.
It adds a degree of versatility to my playing. Even the best guitar players, including the greatest guitar players ever, know their scales. They may not consciously know the technicalities of the scales or theory behind them, but you can bet they are using scales. They may not have had a lick of training, but along the way those finger patterns were etched in granite because they sound good and were performed thousands of times. Their fingers have become accustomed to the patterns they use all the time. I had to work hard to learn them.
It was well worth the time spent too. On Saturday, to my surprise, I played a bit of lead to some Latin beat music and then right on to a slow blues song. I’m no Hendrix, just an average intermediate guitar player. But, we had a great time on Saturday night. My scale-ular knowledge tuned out to be useful and fun. Everyone enjoyed my non intrusive lead. It was a little bit embarrassing for me, but I definitely liked it!
Thanks if you are still reading. I hope it makes sense to you. I hope to start to make a few short video guitar lessons to help out. Let me know what you think? You can learn this stuff at any of the sites I recommend. If you want to read more online guitar lessons reviewed, then put your mouse on the text link and click it. GuitarPlayersCenter.com for online guitar lessons has your back covered.