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Guitar Scales: Lead guitar playing Before starting to learn and play solos itīs really important that you take a look at some guitar scales. You really donīt have to learn every scale but at least the most used ones. So if you are new to guitar scales I recommend you to start with pentatonics, then the diatonic scales, such as major and minor, and ofcourse the greek modes. Once you know all those, the next step are the harmonic and melodic minor scale with all their modes. Hereīs a review of all those guitar scales.

The Pentatonic scale:
This is the mother of all scales and ofcourse itīs the right one for starting to learn how to play leads. Wherever style you want to play, this is one of the most important scale in music. Fortunately, itīs a very basic and easy scale to start soloing, so letīs take a look at some pentatonic scales explanation:

A pentatonic scale is a musical scale or mode with five notes in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major and minor scale. The Pentatonic scale is formed of notes 1 2 3 5 and 6 of the major scale. Starting on C this produces C D E G A - a five note scale, hence the name penta-tonic. There are many possible Pentatonic scales but the most common ones are the "Minor" and "Major" Pentatonic.

Minor Pentatonic:
Ok, so letīs see a guitar scale chart for the A pentatonic minor: This is the first position, since the scale has 5 notes we will have 1 position starting on each note. For now we will see the main position, which is the first one:


Major Pentatonic:
This is the first position for the A major: Both minor and major pentatonic can be used in any style of music, but this great guitar scale is used mainly in Blues and Rock & Roll music. Thereīs a very cool trick that is common in blues improvisation, itīs when we have a major chord as a root and we play a minor pentatonic over it. Thatīs THE sound of blues…


Blues scale:
This is basically a minor pentatonic with the add of a sixth note, this is a sharp 4th or flat 5th (#4, b5). Ofcourse this is the right scale for playing a blues. Try it over minor 7th or dominant chords. Letīs see a the first position:


Now letīs take a look at diatonic scales:

Major scale:
This scale is also called Ionian mode and itīs one of the most used scales in occidental music. It is made up of seven distinct notes therefore we will have 7 scales positions. If you want to be a decent improviser at least you should know how to play this scale all over the fretboard. The same than a major chord, it sounds bright and happy
Ionian:
This is one of the greek mode, itīs the first degree and corresponds to the major scale. When you are starting to learn the modes this is the first one you should learn… Letīs see the chart of the first position including 6 strings:


Dorian:
This is basically a minor scale with a major 6th interval. It works great over a minor 7th chord. The dorian mode is one of the most used scales in blues and jazz music. So over a minor seventh chord we will use the dorian mode, but itīs important to take care of the music context.
This is the chart of the first position including 6 strings:


Phrygian:
This is another minor scale with a minor 2nd interval. It works great over a minor 7th chord. Also itīs common to play this mode over a mayor chord, so the name changes to phrygian major. Thatīd be the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale.


Lydian:
This is a major scale with an augmented 4th interval. It works great over a major 7th chord. This mode is commonly used by great players like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.


Mixolydian:
This is a major scale with a minor 7th interval. This mode is usually used over dominant chords. This is another scale commonly used in blues and jazz music, but also if you play it over a minor chord in a blues or funk context it will add the classic blues sound.


Aeolian or Natural minor:
This is the sixth degree and relative minor of the major scale. It works great over a minor chord. This is the right scale for example for a straight minor pop song…


Locrian:
This is a minor scale with a minor 2nd interval and a diminished 5th. This one is not very used… It works great over a m7b5 chord and itīs commonly used in jazz music.


Melodic minor
In classic music the melodic minor scale is different from the others minors, because when we go up the scale we use one pattern and when we go down the scale we use another. But in popular music is another story. It has a rich and big sound and its modes are pretty complex therefore this is one of the most used scales in jazz music.


Dorian b2:
This is the second mode of the melodic minor scale. As the name tell us is just a dorian mode with a minor 2nd interval. This is another scale often used in jazz and fusion music.


Lydian augmented:
This is the third mode of the melodic minor scale and as the name tell us is just a lydian mode with an augmented 5th interval. Again, another mode often used in jazz and fusion music. It works great over these chords maj7#5, maj7(#5,#11), maj13#5.


Lydian dominant:
This is the fourth mode of the melodic minor scale and itīs one of the most used modes in jazz and fusion music. It works great over dominant chords with 9, #11 and 13.


Aeolian b5:
This is the sixth mode of the melodic minor scale and as the name tell us is just a locrian mode with a raised 2nd. It works great over these chords: min7b5, min9b5, min11b5.


Super locrian:
This is one of the most popular modes of the melodic minor scale, the superlocrian or altered mode. This is a dominant mode based on seventh degree of the melodic minor scale. This scale works great over these chords: 7b5, 7#5, 7b9, 7#9, 7(b5,b9), 7(b5,#9), 7(#5,b9), 7(#5,#9), etc.


Harmonic minor:
The Harmonic Minor scale is a minor scale with a sharp 7th. This scale is one of the most used in classical music and also in the spanish style called flamengo. But also itīs the favourite scale of some heavy metal guitar heroes like Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen.


Locrian #6:
This is the second mode of the harmonic minor scale and itīs just a locrian mode with an augmented 6th.


Ionian #5:
This is the third mode of the harmonic minor scale and as you can see most of their names are derived from the major scale modes. This scale is just an Ionian mode with an augmented 5th interval. This sounds great over a maj7#5 chord…


Dorian #4:
This is the fourth mode of the harmonic minor scale and itīs just a dorian scale with an augmented 4th interval. This scale is pretty used in jazz music.


Phrygian #3:
This is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale and itīs just a phygian scale with a major 3th interval. This scale is also called like Major Phrygian, Jewish Scale, Gypsy Scale and Phrygian Dominant. It works great over these chords: Augmented, Augmented 7, 7b9


Lydian #2
This is the sixth mode of the harmonic minor scale and itīs just a lydian scale with an augmented 2nd interval. Try it over a maj7 chord…


Alt bb7:
This is the seventh and last mode of the harmonic minor scale and it has several names, like: Diminished, Superlocrian bb7, Ultralocrian… It works great over these chords: Chord simbols: Cdim, C°, C°7


Harmonic Major:
This scale is also known as Ionian b6. This mode is not very used but itīs great for spicing up your improvisations when you have a maj7 chord in the backing track. You will get a Maj7(b6) sound…


Dorian b5:
This is the second mode of the harmonic major scale. This scale is not very used, itīs a mix of a dorian and locrian sound. You can play it over a minor 7th chord and you will get a m7b5 sound.


Phrygian b4:
This is the third mode of the harmonic major scale and itīs one of the most used modes of the harmonic major scale. Itīs common to use this scale over dominant chords and also you can replace the altered scale by this mode.


Lydian b3:
This is the fourth mode of the harmonic major scale and itīs not very used. It looks like a lydian mode with a flat 3rd interval but it sounds pretty weird. So if you are a guitar nerd, you may want to use this scale together with harmonic and melodic minor to expand your music vocabulary.


Dominant b2/Mixolydian b9:
This is the fifth mode of the harmonic major scale and itīs one of the most used of the harmonic major scale. Itīs just a mixolydian scale with a minor 2nd interval. This mode is pretty used by jazz players because itīs cool for adding a minor 9th to a dominant chord.


Lydian Augmented #2:
This is the sixth mode of the harmonic major scale and itīs basically a lydian mode with an augmented 2th and 5th intervals. It works great over a maj7#5.


Locrian bb7
This is the seventh and last mode of the harmonic major scale and itīs also known as Locrian diminished 7. It works great over diminished and dim 7.


Hindu:
The Hindu scale belongs to the group of Indian scales. If you like to improvise over Indian music, then this is the right scale. The Hindu scale belongs to the group of Major scales and it is mainly used in ethnic music or jazz improvisation. Itīs basically a major scale with a flat 6th and 7th.



C Major Scale (C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C)

o |-o-|---|-o-|---|
o |-R-|---|-o-|---|
o |---|-o-|---|---|
o |---|-o-|-o-|---|
o |---|-o-|-R-|---|
o |-o-|---|-o-|---|
    1   2   3   4 
    |------------------------------0-1-3--|
    |------------------------0-1-3--------|
    |--------------------0-2--------------|
    |--------------0-2-3------------------|
    |--------0-2-3------------------------|
    |--0-1-3------------------------------|
E |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
B |-R-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
G |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
D |---|-o-|-o-|---|-o-|
A |---|-o-|-R-|---|-o-|
E |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
    1   2   3   4   5 
    |------------------------------1-3-5--|
    |------------------------1-3-5--------|
    |--------------------2-4--------------|
    |--------------2-3-5------------------|
    |--------2-3-5------------------------|
    |--1-3-5------------------------------|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
B |---|-o-|---|-o-|-o-|
G |-o-|---|-o-|-R-|---|
D |-o-|-o-|---|-o-|---|
A |-o-|-R-|---|-o-|---|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
    2   3   4   5   6 
    |------------------------------3-5--|
    |------------------------3-5-6------|
    |------------------2-4-5------------|
    |------------2-3-5------------------|
    |------2-3-5------------------------|
    |--3-5------------------------------|
E |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
B |-o-|---|-o-|-o-|---|
G |---|-o-|-R-|---|---|
D |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
A |-R-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
E |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
    3   4   5   6   7 
    |------------------------------3-5-7--|
    |------------------------3-5-6--------|
    |--------------------4-5--------------|
    |--------------3-5-7------------------|
    |--------3-5-7------------------------|
    |--3-5-7------------------------------|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|-R-|
B |---|-o-|-o-|---|-o-|
G |-o-|-R-|---|-o-|---|
D |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
A |---|-o-|---|-o-|-o-|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|-R-|
    4   5   6   7   8 
    |------------------------------5-7-8--|
    |------------------------5-6-8--------|
    |------------------4-5-7--------------|
    |--------------5-7--------------------|
    |--------5-7-8------------------------|
    |--5-7-8------------------------------|
E |-o-|---|-o-|-R-|---|
B |-o-|-o-|---|-o-|---|
G |-R-|---|-o-|---|---|
D |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
A |-o-|---|-o-|-o-|---|
E |-o-|---|-o-|-R-|---|
    5   6   7   8   9 
    |------------------------------5-7-8--|
    |------------------------5-6-8--------|
    |--------------------5-7--------------|
    |--------------5-7-9------------------|
    |--------5-7-8------------------------|
    |--5-7-8------------------------------|
E |---|-o-|-R-|---|-o-|
B |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
G |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
D |---|-o-|---|-o-|-R-|
A |---|-o-|-o-|---|-o-|
E |---|-o-|-R-|---|-o-|
    6   7   8   9   10
    |----------------------------------7-8-10--|
    |---------------------------6-8-10---------|
    |-----------------------7-9----------------|
    |----------------7-9-10--------------------|
    |---------7-8-10---------------------------|
    |--7-8-10----------------------------------|
E |-o-|-R-|---|-o-|---|
B |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
G |-o-|---|-o-|-o-|---|
D |-o-|---|-o-|-R-|---|
A |-o-|-o-|---|-o-|---|
E |-o-|-R-|---|-o-|---|
    7   8   9   10  11
    |-----------------------------------7-8-10--|
    |------------------------------8-10---------|
    |-----------------------7-9-10--------------|
    |----------------7-9-10---------------------|
    |---------7-8-10----------------------------|
    |--7-8-10-----------------------------------|
E |-R-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
B |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
G |---|-o-|-o-|---|---|
D |---|-o-|-R-|---|-o-|
A |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
E |-R-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
    8   9   10  11  12
    |---------------------------------------8-10-12--|
    |-------------------------------8-10-12----------|
    |--------------------------9-10------------------|
    |------------------9-10-12-----------------------|
    |----------8-10-12-------------------------------|
    |--8-10-12---------------------------------------|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|-o-|
B |---|-o-|---|-o-|-R-|
G |-o-|-o-|---|-o-|---|
D |-o-|-R-|---|-o-|---|
A |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
E |---|-o-|---|-o-|-o-|
    9   10  11  12  13
    |------------------------------------------10-12-13--|
    |---------------------------------10-12-13-----------|
    |-------------------------9-10-12--------------------|
    |-----------------9-10-12----------------------------|
    |-----------10-12------------------------------------|
    |--10-12-13------------------------------------------|
E |-o-|---|-o-|-o-|---|
B |-o-|---|-o-|-R-|---|
G |-o-|---|-o-|---|---|
D |-R-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
A |-o-|---|-o-|---|-o-|
E |-o-|---|-o-|-o-|---|
    10  11  12  13  14
    |--------------------------------------------10-12-13--|
    |-----------------------------------10-12-13-----------|
    |-----------------------------10-12--------------------|
    |--------------------10-12-14--------------------------|
    |-----------10-12-14-----------------------------------|
    |--10-12-13--------------------------------------------|
E |---|-o-|-o-|---|-o-|
B |---|-o-|-R-|---|-o-|
G |---|-o-|---|-o-|---|
D |---|-o-|---|-o-|-o-|
A |---|-o-|---|-o-|-R-|
E |---|-o-|-o-|---|-o-|
    11  12  13  14  15
    |--------------------------------------------12-13-15--|
    |-----------------------------------12-13-15-----------|
    |-----------------------------12-14--------------------|
    |--------------------12-14-15--------------------------|
    |-----------12-14-15-----------------------------------|
    |--12-13-15--------------------------------------------|
The red R signifies the root note position. See below for all fingerings.

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