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5 Scales Beginner Guitar Players Should Know

As a beginner guitar player, or even a relatively seasoned guitar player for that matter, you’re always looking to make the best use of your time. Therefore, it’s important to be efficient with what you’re learning to make sure it has the most value to improving your playing. When it comes to scales, some are more valuable than others. In this lesson we go through five main scales you should know to get the most bang for your buck.

Why these scales?

I chose these scales because the return on investment is really high. With only so much time in a day and everybody’s desire to accelerate their progress, you can get a lot of miles out of these scales relative to the time invested in learning them. Given that a couple of the scales are relative scales (major/minor scales that share the same notes), you can learn them with great efficiency and be able to apply them in multiple ways.

Also, these scales widely used across many genres of music, which opens the door to 1000s of songs.

Essential scales for beginners

The scales aren’t arranged in any particular order as far as importance, but make note of the relative scales. It makes sense to learn these scales one after another since they utilize the same scale shapes relative to their position on the fretboard.

G Major Scale

The G major scale is such a popular scale. There are enough songs in the key of G to keep you busy for a lifetime.

The G major scale is a 7-note diatonic scale that consists of the notes G – A – B – C – D – E – F#

G major scale notes and intervals

Now let’s take a look at the scale pattern for position 1 of the G major scale. The first diagram shows the notes of the G major scale, the second diagram indicates the intervals and the last diagram is the recommended fingering for playing the scale pattern.

Position 1 of the g major scale, including notes, intervals, and fingerings
Guitar tab for position 1 of the G major scale

View the G major scale lesson for a full breakdown of this scale, including all 5 CAGED positions.

E Minor Pentatonic Scale

The E minor pentatonic scale is derived from the E minor scale, which is the relative minor of G major. This means that the notes of the E minor scale (E – F# – G – A – B – C – D) are the same as the notes for G major (G – A – B – C – D – E – F#). In the case of E minor pentatonic, it only contains five notes:

E minor pentatonic scale notes and interval qualities

Below we have diagrams for the first position of the E minor pentatonic scale. Once agin the first diagram shows the notes, the second diagram the intervals, and the third diagram recommended fingerings for playing the scale.

Position 1 of the E minor pentatonic scale, including notes, intervals, and fingerings
Guitar tab for position 1 of the E minor pentatonic scale

View the E minor pentatonic scale page for all 5 of the CAGED positions.

C Major Scale

Right up there with G major, the C major scale is another very popular scale with a ton of songs written in this key. The C major scale is the only major scale to contain all natural notes: C – D – E – F – A – B

C major scale notes and intervals

Diagrams for notes, intervals, and recommended fingerings for position 1 of the C major scale are below.

Position 1 of the C major scale, including notes, intervals, and fingerings
Guitar tab for position 1 of the C major scale

View the C major scale lesson for a full breakdown of the scale positions.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

The A minor pentatonic scale definitely is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) pentatonic scales and used across many genres, particularly blues based music.

As with G major and E minor, we have another relative scale relationship with the A minor scale being the relative minor to C major. Therefore, the A minor pentatonic scale is derived from the same scale shapes as the C major scale. Once again, being a pentatonic scale, A minor pentatonic only has 5 notes:

A minor pentatonic scale notes and interval qualities

Below we have diagrams for the first position of the A minor pentatonic scale, including notes, intervals, and recommended fingerings.

Position 1 of the A minor pentatonic scale, including notes, intervals, and recommended fingering
Guitar tab for position 1 of the A minor pentatonic scale

To learn the rest of the positions of the scale, review the A minor pentatonic lesson.

D Major Scale

Last, but not least, we have the D major scale. D major is a particularly bright and happy scale and another popular choice of key for music across the various genres. It contains the notes D – E – F# – G – A – B – C#.

D major scale notes and interval qualities

Below we have the first position of the D major scale with the notes, intervals and recommended fingerings.

Position 1 of the D major scale, including notes, intervals, and recommended fingering
Guitar tab for position 1 of the D major scale

Once again, I have a full D major scale lesson to help you learn all of the positions of the scale.

Wrap up

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to the guitar. Prioritizing the most useful concepts that give you the most to work with is essential to make the best use of your time. These scales give you a lot to work with in terms of expanding your musical capabilities across a wide range of applications. Learn them thoroughly and they will really open up your guitar playing.

AGT book of scales cover

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