What Are Scales and How to Learn Them

by Rodrigo Sanchez, Apr 8, 2022 . 6 min read

What Are Scales and How to Learn Them

Knowing what are scales and how to learn them is a central part of becoming a musician.

That is especially true for guitarists. This is because popular guitar styles are centered around chords and scales.

For instance, scales are a big component of a guitarist’s job if you want to play rock, blues, country, or jazz. Even classical guitarists need to devote serious time to learning scales.

Today, we’re going to learn that scales are actually very simple. The concept behind them is remarkably uncomplicated. Naturally, the hard part is knowing how to play scales all over the guitar neck and fast. Without further ado, let’s find out what are scales and how to learn them.

What are scales?

Simply said, a scale is a group of notes that happen in succession and have a certain structure. For instance, major scales have a particular structure that is different from the minor scale and others. 

Let’s take a look at one of the first scales musicians learn: the C major scale. It is composed of the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B. They happen in that particular order and have a set structure. 

The structure of a major scale features one full step between each note, except for the third and seventh notes, as those have only half a step.

For guitarists, that means two frets for each full step and one fret for each half step. 

How to learn scales

The best way to learn scales is by practicing them methodically. Just like anything, you start slow and with something basic. 

We can stay with the C major scale. First, you need to know the notes and the structure of the scale as described above. Then, it is important to learn it in just one position and one octave. 

Once you’ve mastered that, you can then move to another position on the guitar neck, and so forth. 

This will take practice and full-on concentration, but you can do it! It would also be of great help if you have someone or something to keep you accountable while you learn scales. 

Roadie Coach

Roadie Coach is a fantastic tool to have when learning scales. As a matter of fact, Coach will give you personalized help when learning a series of techniques and songs on guitar. 

Coach allows you to record your performances, which can help you hear your trouble spots as well as document your progress. This tool stores and organizes all recordings automatically, and you can also use them to receive personalized feedback on your practice sessions.

It comes with an interactive app and a library with songs that can be learned at different speeds so you can work at your own pace and improve. Simply said, Coach is a great tool to have if you are serious about making progress as a musician. 

Scales are deeply related to chords

Did you know that chords and scales are related? So much so that each chord has a scale and vice versa. Let’s stay with the C major scale to illustrate.

As mentioned above, this scale is composed of the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B. In that sequence, the first note is a C, the third is an E and the fifth is a G. Those three notes make up the C major chord. That simple!

In case you are wondering how that affects what you play, the answer is a resounding yes!

For example, let’s say you are playing an improvised guitar solo, you can use the C major scale whenever the song features a C major chord. You can also play the C major scale if the song is in the key of C. 

Also, if you are writing a song and there is a C major chord, you can use notes of the C major scale to create the melody and it will sound good. 

Don’t worry if that sounds too complicated now. It really isn’t, and you will realize this once you have just a little bit of experience. 

Scales are also related to arpeggios

One of the most beautiful aspects of music is that everything is connected. Scales, arpeggios, chords, keys, tonalities… they are all closely related. 

Remember the C major chord from above? Well, if you play the three notes of the C major chord, but one at a time instead of all together, you get an arpeggio.

Naturally, the C major arpeggio will be composed of the notes C, E, and G. And those are three of the notes that we find in the major C scale. 

The importance of scales

Scales are the backbone of music. Even if you have never consciously played one, chances are you’ve sung one when humming along to a song. 

It is important to say that to use a scale, you don’t have to play all of the notes that belong to it. Also, you don’t have to play the notes in that particular order.

In other words, if you play the notes E, F, C, G, B, you are using the major scale. 

How many scales do you need to learn?

Only you have the answer to that. Do you want to be an accomplished jazz musician? In that case, you need to know a lot of scales. 

Do you want to play blues and rock? Then you need to learn the blues scale, pentatonic, and the modes, and be really good at them. 

Do you like metal? Better get that metronome out and spend some quality time with it while learning scales. 

Knowing what are scales and how to learn them is crucial. In all honesty, if you solo, you are going to be playing scales a lot of the time. However, don’t think that scales are only important for playing solos.

Scales are a central part of music. They are present in every single song and musical fragment. Remember to have fun and go slow while learning them. Until next time. 



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