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.
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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