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#1 2008-06-07 10:07:52

jerome.oneil
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Scales - A Primer

What is a scale?

Scales are the foundation of music.  They are the basis for everything else you will do in music.  Chords are derived from scales.  Melodies are derived from scales.  Harmonies are built on scales.  It is worthwhile to learn them.   To someone unfamiliar with scales, they may seem complicated, or intimidating, but the reality is that all scales are built using a few simple and easy to understand rules.  If I can understand it, so can you. 

Music is all about intervals.  A single note doesn't have a whole lot to say for itself.  It is only in contrast to other notes that they become interesting.   The difference between any two notes is referred to as an interval.  The fundamental unit of intervals in music is called a "tone" or a "whole tone" (not to be confused with a "whole note").  The smallest intervalic unit you can play on your guitar is a "half tone."  On your guitar, a half tone is the difference of one fret.  That is, if you strike a note at the 3rd fret of any string, and then strike it at the 4th fret on the same string, that is a half tone.   Likewise, a whole tone is two frets difference.

A scale is just a repeatable pattern of intervals between octaves.

So what patterns make up scales?

The two primary scales we deal with are "major" scales, and "minor" scales.  They are related.  We will consider the "major" scale to be the parent of all other scales we talk about.

The interval pattern for the major scale is

Root  tone tone half-tone tone tone half-tone root

You often see the particular note indicated in roman numerals.  So "root" is I, etc.  It's just an easy way to write which note you are playing, independent of which key you are playing in.

On your guitar, you can hear this pattern by playing the following tab on any string.

-0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12-

It does not matter where you start that pattern.  If you play it, you will have played a major scale.

So, to summarize.

Scales are made up of repeating patterns of intervals.

The major scale interval pattern is "Root  tone tone half-tone tone tone half-tone root"


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#2 2008-06-07 10:15:41

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns - C Shape Pattern

So, scales are patterns of intervals.  The guitar fretboard lends itself well to patterns.  It is really just a big grid.  And in fact, scales can be played by simply fretting patterns that represent those same intervals.  So no matter where you play the pattern, you can play a scale in that key.

Below I've included a diagram of a chord shape you probably already know.  C major.  Where you fret is highlighted in red.   You can see all of the notes of that scale by their "Nashville number" (I II III IV, etc).  If you play those notes in order starting out on C, you have played the C major scale.   Down on the 12th fret you can see the exact same pattern, but because the root (the I) is on A, when you play that pattern, you will be playing A major instead.  We call this ability to move scale patterns around all over the neck "Portability."  It applies to chords, too.  If you fret the C shape chord down on the 12th fret, you played A major.   

http://img261.imageshack.us/img261/6094/cshapeportabilityrr6.jpg

I will go over five scale patterns, and show you how they relate to each other.  All of the patterns are portable, and relate to a common major chord shape that you most likely already know.


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#3 2008-06-07 10:29:05

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns (cont) - The A Shape Pattern

The A pattern is portable, too.  I've added the complete fingerings to demonstrate it's relationship to the A chord shape.  I will also place the pattern in position to play C major, as above, so you can see how many different ways you have to play a given chord, or scale.

Also note that this pattern is portable not just up and down the neck, but across it, too.  At least until you hit the B string.  That is because the interval between any two strings is a the same from the E string to the G string.  So here you can see this pattern used in two different locations to play the C major scale.  Again, no matter where you put the I (the root), if you play that pattern, you are playing the scale named by the root.

http://img258.imageshack.us/img258/7894/ashapeportabilitywa9.jpg


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#4 2008-06-07 10:37:34

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns (cont) - The G Shape Pattern

The G shape is also portable.  Here it is playing C and A, just like we did with the C shape pattern.  This pattern is also portable across the neck as well as down, so you could fret it with root on the E string, and you would be fine.

http://img44.imageshack.us/img44/4487/gshapeportability.jpg


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#5 2008-06-07 10:42:09

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns (cont) - E Shape Pattern

You should be getting the hang of this by now.  So here is the E pattern.  This is C major for both examples.

http://img222.imageshack.us/img222/493/emajorcshapenh5.jpg


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#6 2008-06-07 10:48:52

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns (cont) - D Shape Pattern

The D shape pattern is good to use if you like to play in the upper registers.  If you like to bang on the skinny strings, practice this one a lot.    The following are E major and C major. It's a hard one to fret for chords (for me, anyway) but it's a useful solo scale.

http://img25.imageshack.us/img25/8503/dshapeportability.jpg


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#7 2008-06-07 11:03:01

jerome.oneil
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Scale Patterns (cont) - Summary

OK.  So there are five basic major scale patterns you can practice with.  Some things to work on when you practice.

0. Practice a lot.  Use these scale patterns to make up little songs and melodies.  Run them in order.  Do whatever you need to to stay interested until you can play them all.

1.  Focus on learning where the root for each scale is for each pattern.  You should know that if you're playing C, then root is under your index finger for example.

2.  Remember that these examples only show you one octave.  You can (and should) run the scales past what is shown all the way across the fretboard.  For example, here is the complete C scale pattern at the 12th fret.  This is the A major scale.

http://img258.imageshack.us/img258/3886/amajorcshapefulleb1.jpg

I'll leave it to you as an excercize to figure out the rest of the scale patterns from edge to edge.


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#8 2008-06-07 11:52:30

4gits&counting
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Registered: 2007-09-25
Posts: 21

Re: Scales - A Primer

Thank you.

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#9 2008-06-17 13:41:01

Zurf
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From: Virginia, USA
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Re: Scales - A Primer

This is extremely useful!  Thank you for taking the time to prepare this and share it with us.

- Zurf


"Forced means you're painting a train blue."  - Jets60
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#10 2008-06-17 14:03:28

geoaguiar
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Registered: 2007-03-24
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Awesome Thanks


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#11 2008-06-20 05:38:07

GaryS
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Registered: 2008-06-20
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Been playing a long time and have never applied myself to learn any theory. This site is the best Ive ever found. Your posts make what I've been doing by ear so much easier to understand. Thanks

Gary

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#12 2008-06-27 22:23:32

KAP54
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From: London Ontario Canada
Registered: 2008-06-04
Posts: 1728
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Jerome.
This certainly is a quality post you've put together.Visually seeing it the way you have it down will help myself and others immensely.
Thanks for all your hard work.
KAP54


Just Keepin on Keepin on
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#13 2008-10-17 21:33:54

livebaitman
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Registered: 2006-05-01
Posts: 80

Re: Scales - A Primer

Jerome - thanks a lot for all this work.  You have put a lot of time into it.  I have been studying the complete C scale pattern shape at the 12th fret (A major scale) shown in your last diagram in this thread.  Would you please check the intervals for the 5th and 6th strings?  Either I am missing something (most likely) or there is a mistake.  The VI is listed twice on the 5th string and the IV is missing on the 6th srting.  I think the 6th string should look like the 1st string, correct?

I seem to have inverted the IV and the V. On the larger chart.

Good catch.  I'll see if I can't get it straightened out.  The computer I did those on is busted, though, so I'll have to see if I can resurrect it.

Last edited by livebaitman (2008-10-17 21:36:03)


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#14 2009-01-18 13:14:00

Krapyl
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From: Östervallskog Sweden
Registered: 2006-03-04
Posts: 23
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Jerome, thank you wery wery much!
I posted a couple of posts last night, where I said I did not expect a easy explanation to this,
but WOW, I got it now! I can practise the scales, and it comes easy as well, cause I have been playing a lot, for 16 years.
big_smile I understand 3ds 5ths 7ths and so on, and roman numbering, up to 7!
Ståle


Rome all ways

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#15 2009-01-25 19:56:45

AllenTC2
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Registered: 2009-01-20
Posts: 4

Re: Scales - A Primer

I've just got to say, as a noob, this is the most intimidating guitar-related thing I've seen yet. I'll revisit thread after I've gotten my feet wet. : )


You do, however, have to be just slightly off your rocker to want to do all the tough stuff (both heavy offroad and long distance highway) on the KLR, but with the right amount of stupidity, you can do anything with the bike.

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#16 2009-01-26 17:22:56

jerome.oneil
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From: Bellevue, WA
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Re: Scales - A Primer

Don't let it intimidate you.  It's really not that complicated.  A little practice and a little study, and you'll have a moment of clarity.  Then the sky is the limit!


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#17 2009-02-07 09:58:13

bodyjam
Junior Member
Registered: 2008-07-14
Posts: 1

Re: Scales - A Primer

This explanation is fantastic!

It now makes a lot of sense -- thank you.

I am having trouble seeing the scale based around the G shape:

http://img292.imageshack.us/img292/1940 … itypm0.jpg

I can't see it on my browser.

Does anyone else have this problem?

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#18 2009-02-09 09:35:33

jerome.oneil
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From: Bellevue, WA
Registered: 2006-06-15
Posts: 3070
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Re: Scales - A Primer

I can see it, but it's coming from my account so it's not a good measure of success.

If anyone has any problems with seeing the images, please let me know right away.


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#19 2009-04-02 03:40:59

andy2691
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From: toronto canada
Registered: 2009-03-29
Posts: 4

Re: Scales - A Primer

Finally! Something I understand. Very useful.

Andy

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#20 2009-04-02 16:43:44

aabb
Senior Member
From: MI
Registered: 2009-02-27
Posts: 129

Re: Scales - A Primer

Hi Jerome, you've provided so much info-GREAT JOB!!-  I'm having trouble seeing the image for the D shape, I've typed in the address all I get is a 404 error.


Ron

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#21 2009-06-24 07:33:31

jerome.oneil
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From: Bellevue, WA
Registered: 2006-06-15
Posts: 3070
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Re: Scales - A Primer

I'm seeing more of the images being broken here.  I've found that the hosting site I use is arbitrarily re-arranging the URLs, which is a generally bad thing.


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#22 2010-06-04 03:33:37

Pablo Luciano
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From: phillipines
Registered: 2010-06-03
Posts: 1
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Re: Scales - A Primer

thanks 4 the info's

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#23 2010-07-04 22:06:37

joetraff
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Registered: 2010-07-04
Posts: 2

Re: Scales - A Primer

Wonderful post newbies like me.
Your effort is much appreciated.


spam is not allowed in the forum *removed by mod - MKM

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#24 2011-06-02 07:58:01

butlersdog
Junior Member
Registered: 2011-05-04
Posts: 9

Re: Scales - A Primer

This was really a nice primer to read about.in order to play it well and correctly. I just hope that things would go out well and it would help you out in the long run. Thanks for this one. Appreciate the effort to give this to us!

Last edited by butlersdog (2011-06-04 02:41:36)

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#25 2012-07-28 06:06:36

microguy
Junior Member
Registered: 2012-07-28
Posts: 1

Re: Scales - A Primer

I am studying this lesson and appreciate it greatly, but wanted to let you know some of the scale images are broken. Thank you.

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