Guitar Note Mastery

Rock Guitar Lesson - Discover Two Essential Rock Guitar Scales

If you're new to rock lead guitar then you might be wondering what scales you need to learn. You probably notice that there are a seemingly infinite number of guitar scales out there. And it can often be hard knowing what the best ones are to learn. Who wants to waste valuable time learning scales that aren't essential to rock guitar?

Before I tell you the two essential scales, I need to quickly mention another scale...the major scale. Although this scale isn't the most essential for soloing in a rock style, I need to explain it so that you will understand the theory we'll cover later on in this lesson.

Understanding The Major Scale

You may have read in a book that the major scale has the following formula...

W  W  H  W  W  W  H

(W=Whole Step=2 fret distance)

(H=Half Step=1 fret distance)

So what does the above formula mean?

This formula tells you the distance in pitch between each note of the major scale. (Some geeky people like me call this the intervallic structure of the major scale). What this means is that if you worked out the notes of the G major scale on the thick E-string you would do the following...

  • Play the first note (G) at the 3rd fret.
  • Play the second note (A) at the 5th fret.
  • Play the third note (B) at the 7th fret.
  • Play the fourth note (C) at the 8th fret.
  • Play the fifth note (D) at the 10th fret.
  • Play the sixth note (E) at the 12th fret.
  • Play the seventh note (F#) note at the 14th fret.
  • Play the last note (G) note at the 15th fret.

I highly recommend grabbing your guitar now and playing this scale. That way you'll understand the make-up of the scale a lot better. Once you have played it a few times, then you're ready to move onto the first essential rock guitar scale...


Essential Rock Scale #1: The Minor Pentatonic Scale

I can't even imagine playing rock without knowing this scale. There are thousands and thousands of rock guitar licks that use this scale. No, that's not an exaggeration...there are countless rock solos that make use of this scale. And you'll definitely hear many of the greats like Angus Young, Slash, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix using this scale.

The minor pentatonic scale is a five-note scale that contains the following scale degrees: 1 b3 4 5 b7. (Some people refer to these numbers as the "musical spelling" of the scale). In case you're wondering, these numbers tell you what you need to do to the major scale in order to create the minor pentatonic scale. Let's work out the notes of the G minor pentatonic scale now to make things clearer...

Step One: Write out the notes of the G major scale. This gives us...

G A B C D E F# and G

Step Two: Because the scale degrees of the minor pentatonic scale don't include a 2 or 6, we need to remove the second and sixth notes of the G major scale. So this would give us...

G B C D F# and G

Step Three: Because the musical spelling of the minor pentatonic scale has a b3 and a b7, we need to flatten the third and seventh notes of the G major scale. Doing this would give us...

G Bb C D F and G

These notes form the G minor pentatonic scale.


Essential Rock Scale #2: The Natural Minor Scale

This scale is also called the Aeolian mode. It's another really important rock guitar scale, and you'll hear it being used in many rock guitar solos.  It's a seven-note scale that contains the following scale degrees: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. Let's now work out the notes of the G natural minor scale...

Step One: Write out the notes of the G major scale. Doing this gives us...

G A B C D E F# and G

Step Two: Because the musical spelling of the natural minor scale has a b3 and a b7, we need to flatten the third and seventh notes of the G major scale. Which gives us...

G A Bb C D Eb F and G

These notes form the G natural minor scale.

So there we have it...two essential scales that any budding rock guitarist needs to master. I recommend getting a good scale book, and start learning them all over your fretboard. Sure, it can be a bit tedious learning scales. But playing blazing guitar solos with them makes the hard work worthwhile!

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