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Why Should I Learn Guitar Scales?

When guitarists first get into lead guitar, they often ask this question. Scales can seem like nothing more than exercises, but in reality, they are the foundation for everything you play on the guitar. And not just for lead guitar, but for rhythm guitar as well.

There are many scales out there that you may one day want to learn, but many great guitarists will only learn and focus on an important few. There are even many examples of iconic guitar players who’ve used only one scale throughout their entire career. So don’t be too intimidated by the number of scales that are out there.

There are 5 essential scales that you should learn, and they all connect to one another. These scales are the major scale, the minor scale, the major pentatonic scale, the minor pentatonic scale, and the blues scale. All these scales come from the major scale, so once you get your head around how these scales are made, you’ll be able to easily apply all of them.

What are guitar scales?

Guitar scales are simply a group of notes played in an ascending or descending pattern separated by certain intervals. For most of the scales you’ll encounter, the intervals you’ll work with are half-steps and whole-steps. A half-step is the distance from one note to the one next to it (one fret). A whole-step is twice the distance of a half-step (two frets).

A good way to start understanding half-steps and whole-steps is to look at it on the keyboard of a piano.

Piano Intervals

So why should I learn guitar scales?

Guitar scales are not only the makeup of all the things you’ll play on the guitar, but they are required to play lead guitar. If you have any interest in writing your own guitar parts or improvising solos and licks then you’ll need a good understanding of scales and how they work.

Think of scales as tools in your tool belt. Some tools work better than others depending on the job. It’s up to you to decide which tool is best suited for the job, and how you want to use it.

Learn the most important guitar scales: The 5 Essential Guitar Scales

What is improvising?

Improvising is one of the most exciting things in music. It refers to “making it up as you go”. A lot of the greatest guitar solos of all time were improvised. Being able to come up with music on the fly takes a lot of practice and a lot of comfort with the scale shapes you use.

Learning how to listen to the notes you play and create memorable melodies off the cuff is one of the most beautiful and rewarding aspects of playing an instrument.

Start by learning the essential scale shapes, and then start working on applying them to real music.

Are you looking for more lead guitar lessons and relevant jam-tracks? The GuitarLessons.com Academy is Nate Savage’s step-by-step video training system. It has some great songs for lead guitar and it also covers many other important styles of music including rock, country, fingerstyle, metal, classical, bluegrass, jazz, and more. Best of all it includes a huge library of original jam-tracks so you can apply everything to music.