Introduction: Guitar Scales

The Theory of scales

The scale is a continuous sequence of tones and contains all tones of a key. In the common keys of today’s western music system (Major & Minor), there are seven different tones between the root and the octave (in the example C major scale from c1  to c2 ). The interval between those notes is always one whole tone step, with two exceptions: 

  • in the major scale, the semitone step is between the 3rd / 4th or 7th / 8th tone
  • in the minor scale, the semitone step is between the 2nd / 3rd or 5th and 5th / 6th tone
The C Major Scale

Beginner Scales in the First Position

The basic scales in the first position, the area up to the 4th fret on the fingerboard, form an important introduction to melody playing on the guitar. They should be part of the regular practice schedule for all beginners. The scale practice requires a stable position of the left hand: the thumb rests in the middle of the neck, all four fingers are close to the fretboard. The right hand plucks the strings alternating between index and middle fingers  

Here are six basic scales, first in their abbreviated form (from root to fifth):

  • The basic scales without accidentals: C major and A minor

  • The scales with a # sign: G major and E minor

  • The scales with a flat accidental: F major and D minor


C Major

A Minor


G Major

E Minor


F Major

D Minor

Recommended Study Pieces

Scales are usually the most one-sided part of the regular study routine of a musician, so let’s look at some nice pieces to add some color to these exercises. Here is a list of pieces from all kinds of genres that contain short scale passages and are appropriate for beginning guitarist:

  • Ode to Joy (excerpt from Symphony Nr.9) – L. v. Beethoven
    • Famous classical melody with partial G-Major scale
  •  A Groovy Kind of Love – Phil Collins
    • Classic Pop song with Partial C-Major Scale

Complete your knowledge with the full scales in Part II.  

Newsletter Updates

Sign up to receive information about new sheet music and videos!