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Lyle Ronglien >> Fretboard Theory >>



Fretboard Theory

Lesson 2 - Scales

Lyle: Scales. Guitar students don't want to practice them, yet teachers like me keep bringing up the subject. Scales are used by the greatest of players, in all styles of music, and use them to great advantage. Scales-as-obstacles are what most guitarists seem them as; yet scales-as-tools is how you should treat them, to aid you in your musical vocabulary.

Lyle: Remember that it is important to execute the scale. Learn the first three notes of the first scale perfectly. If you can do that, you can perform anything to perfection. After the first three notes of the scale the rest is just a variation on the theme. Learn a scale, or part of a scale at a time. Put the scales to use as soon as you learn them. Use them in the music you are playing or improvise with them either solo or with a jam track.

Lyle: What are scales? Scales are visually and audibly recognizable. Then notes of a scale form a smooth line and gradual sound.

3 octave E Phrygian scale

Lyle: Scales are one member of a family of musical elements, which also include arpeggios and chords. A chord is a group of notes, which occur, or sound harmonically, at the same time. An arpeggio is a group of notes, which do not occur at the same time, but rather in succession, melodically. A scale is also a group of notes sounded in succession, but with a smooth and gradual sound. If played together they do not make a chord.

chord - arpeggio - scale

Lyle: Scales appear in every kind of music in the world. Here are a few examples:

scale examples 1

Lyle: These scales are not restricted to these specific styles. They can be used as tools in many different styles.

Lyle: If you can sing or envision “do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do” then you already have in your possession everything you need to learn scales. By simply moving “mi” down a half step you have the ascending melodic minor scale. If you start on the “la” you have the natural minor scale.

scale examples 2

Lyle: Scales are used in virtually every style of music. You can use scales in single lines:

scale example 3

Lyle: They can be broken into segments:

scale example 4

Lyle: Scales can be played simultaneously, as found in classical music:

scale example 5

Lyle: Scales can also be played in fragments:

scale example 6

Lyle: These are only a few ways scales are used for musical use. One thing is clear, you need to master scales!

Lyle: The first and main scale you should master is the Major scale. It has 7 tones plus the octave. The Major scale formula is:

whole step - whole step - half step -
whole step - whole step - whole step - half step

Lyle: Playback this TAB to see this formula laid out on the neck. All degrees are a whole step apart except between the 3 and 4, and the 7 and R (root).

C Major scale - 5th string

Lyle: Here are a few of my favorite Major scale patterns. Since none of these patterns have open strings, each pattern can be moved to any other key, simply by moving the pattern to start on a different root note.

C Major scale - example 1

C Major scale - example 2

Lyle: You can practice playing these C Major scales against this jam track:

Jam Track in C Major

Lyle: Now you have a few good major scale patterns to work with. If you really want to get serious about learning how to play in one key all over the neck, then these 5 patterns are for you.

Lyle: Here are the full 5 fingering patterns of the C Major scale. These can be moved to any other key.

Fingering I

Fingering II

Fingering III

Fingering IV

Fingering V

Fingering I - octave higher

Lyle: Most of the time these patterns are thought of as numbered, not as modes, when you're crusing through a key, such as this in C major.

Lyle: Be aware of all the C notes within each of the 5 patterns.

Lyle: All other scales use a formula that relates to the steps in a Major scale.

Lyle: To learn a new type of scale, you first learn the new formula for that scale. For example, the natural minor scale formula is 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - b6 - b7. The 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are lowered by one fret compared to the major scale. It doesn't matter what key you're in, this is the formula. Here's an example showing the C Major and C natural minor:

C major and C minor

Lyle: Always remember the Major scale formula as W-W-H-W-W-W-H.

Lyle: If you were to play a 1 - 2 - b3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7 scale formula, you would be playing a Dorian Minor scale. It only has the 3rd and 7th degrees lowered by one fret, compared to a Major scale.

C Major and C Dorian

Joel: Can one also use h-w-w-h-w-w-w just to be different?

Lyle: Yes. Each scale has it's own unique formula. No two scales are the same. Each scale has it's own inherit melodic sound to it. Each scale relates to a chord or a key somehow. Each scale has it's own application. Don't be afraid to learn scales.

Lyle: There just isn't enough time in one session to explore and learn each scale and it's fingerings. If you understand the main scale, the Major scale and it's intervals, then other scale formulas, chord formulas, and arpeggio formulas will be much easier to learn and understand.

Lyle: You have to start somewhere! I feel the Major scale is the best place to start.

Lyle: Here's a list of other scale formulas. Try playing these on a single string:

Major - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Dominant/Mixolydian - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7
Lydian - 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, 7
Relative Minor - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
Dorian Minor - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7
Phrygian Minor - 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7
Locrian Minor - 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7
Harmonic Minor - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7
Jazz Melodic Minor - 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Minor pentatonic - 1, b3, 4, 5, b7
Minor Blues - 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7
Major Pentatonic - 1, 2, 3, 5, 6
Major Blues - 1, 2, b3, 3, 5, 6
Whole Tone - 1 - 2 - 3 - #4 - #5 - b7
Diminished - 1, 2, b3, 4, b5, b6, bb7, 7


Lyle: Here's the chords used in the jam track:

chords for jam track

Lyle: There are only 12 tones in western music as we know it. There are many combinations of different ways these 12 tones can be played melodically.

Lyle: Time to take a break!


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