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Guitar Scales

From Modes To Diatonic Major and Minor

"Finally! A guitar scales page that is useable..."

To get your own copy of the major and minor guitar scales scroll to the bottom of this page!

When you're thinking scales on the guitar, you have to delve into the mists of time right back to the ancient Greek empire, and the days of Pythagoras, to see that today's scales and guitar notes are derived from what the Greek's referred to as... "Modes".

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The main modes the Greek's used were named after the "tribes" that were prominent in Greek life and culture at the time. The main names are: Ionian; Dorian; Phrygian; Lydian; Mixolydian; Aeolian and Locrian. Two of these modes, namely the Ionian and the Aeolian, are the same as the modern guitar scales of C Major and A minor. That is, they both have the same starting and finishing point e.g. C to C and A to A. This is what these modes look like in notation...

Over time thru the "Dark Ages", the modes were "acquired" by the Christians monks for their sacred music. It is interesting to note that these modes or scales used to be arranged in a descending order, but the monks turned them around to be ascending (going upwards) in order. No one quite knows why they did this though I have heard it suggested that the monks thought the music should be... "Uplifting towards heaven".

Possible I suppose, although that does seem a rather fanciful and sentimental reason. However, the modes were used in various forms over the ensuing centuries. Then came a fateful turn for Western music... Alan Isaacs and Elizabeth Martin writing in the "Dictionary Of Music" (Chancellor Press 1982) recount...

"In the 16th century, the Swiss monk Henry of Glareanus set out modes and assigned Greek names to them, although many of his identifications with the Greek modes were incorrect.

Some of the modes were of little practical use, but with the development of harmony in music, two modes (the Ionian and the Aeolian) were found to be the best suited to harmony, and they became known, from the 17th century onwards, as the major and minor scales on which most music has since been based."

So these two modes form the basis of all scales you use today. The word scale is a derivative from the Latin word "scala" meaning "ladder". You can think of your scales as a sort of ladder in that you "climb" the different rungs to achieve different notes at different pitches. If you put all these different notes together, you have a scale!

Scales are vitally important, not only for the classical guitarist but any guitar player worth his "salt". Scales help immensely with technical advancement and prowess. Indeed, the famous Segovia once said... "The practice of guitar scales enables one to solve a greater number of technical problems in a shorter time than the study of any other exercise."

Guitar scales also help you to learn the fingerboard and makes your fingers more supple, flexible and quick. Scales are also important as they are the underlying "building blocks" of chords and indeed harmony.

One excellent scales exercise I use is the Chromatic exercise...

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Here is a free PDF copy including Tablature that matches the above video for you to use...

To save the files just right click on the PDF and save to folder or desktop...

If you really want to know your fingerboard, then there is really no way around learning scales to have thorough fluency and understanding of what you're doing. Even though I'm a classical guitar player I try to learn as much about all guitar styles as possible.

That includes scales and modes. If you're just beginning to learn scales and modes I suggest you consider the words of the famous electric guitarist Al Di Meola... "I would suggest starting your scale education with the major and minor scales, and after that, diminished, augmented, and whole-tone.

Then depending on what kind of music you want to play, the modes should be learned. My theory is that you should learn it all. Once learned you can play whatever you want, and your playing will be more advanced, and you'll have a better understanding of the instrument." Wise words indeed!

Here are the main Major sharp scales used today in music notation. Enjoy!

Here is an excellent resource for understanding guitar scales...

Here are the main Major flat scales used today in music notation...

Next is the minor sharp guitar scales. Notice the double sharps in the last two scales. This is because these scales are what is known as harmonic minors where the 7th note of the scale is raised by a semi-tone (1 fret).

This scale, according to Ralph Denyer... "developed out of the principles of harmony applied to the construction of chords."

Finally, the main minor flat guitar scales...

Guitar Scales in PDF

To save the files just right click on the PDF and save to folder or desktop...

I've created these guitar scales for you in the major and minor (harmonic and melodic minors) modes so that you can practice learning the notes of each scale. Additionally, they are basically on the first 4 frets only and over 1 octave to help you learn them more easily.

If you want major and minor scales that are over the entire fret board then I highly recommend you buy the really inexpensive Segovia Major and Minor Scales...

Just right click and "SAVE AS" on the PDF icon above to save to your desktop or click on the icon to open a copy into a new browser...

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A Bit About Me...

Welcome to LCG! I'm Trevor Maurice, owner of this site. I hope you find inspiration in these pages to help you with  your journey of learning to play the classical guitar. You can read more of my story here...

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