Guitar Music Theory - 3 Ways To Analyze Guitar Scales

When learning guitar music theory about guitar scales, it's a good idea to be aware that there are three main ways of analyzing the notes of any scale. Each of these methods of analysis causes you to think differently. And therefore, they are all useful.So what are the three methods? Let's take a look at them now…

Method One: Note Names.

Method Two: Scale Degrees.

Method Three: Intervals.

The easiest way to explain this guitar music theory is to look at an actual example. Please take a look at the guitar scale below…

A Natural Minor:

 A Aeolian Guitar Scale

Let's analyze this scale using the three methods…

Analyzing Guitar Scales Method #1: Note Names

Using this method you simply work out the names of the notes, and then write them above the TAB. Here is the same scale with the note names shown…

 A Aeolian Scale - Note Names

I recommend that you do this for EVERY scale fingering that you do. Why would this be a good thing to do? How would it help your guitar scale music theory knowledge?

Analyzing Guitar Scales Method #2: Scale Degrees

To work out the scale degrees of any guitar scale, you need to compare it to the major scale that starts from the same note. In our example, we need to compare the notes of A Natural Minor to the notes of the A Major Scale. Please take a look at the diagram below…

(Important: The note names in bold text are the notes of the A Major Scale).

 Scale Degree Table

So here's a question for you. Looking at the table above, what do you think the scales degrees are for the A Natural Minor scale?

If you guessed 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, then you are 100% correct!

Here are a few important points…

  • Because the notes A, B, D and E of both scales are the same, then the scale degrees are the same for both scales.
  • The notes C, Fand G from the A Natural Minor scale are ONE fret lower than C#, F# and G# from the A Major scale. This means…
    • C=b3
    • F=b6
    • G=b7

Now that we have worked out the scale degrees of the A Natural Minor scale, let's write them above the TAB…

A Aeolian Scale - Scale Degrees

I highly recommend working through this process with all the guitar scales that you learn.

Analyzing Guitar Scales Method #3: Intervals

Please have a look below at the diagram below, which shows the A Natural Minor scale…

 A Natural Minor Table

Before we analyze the diagram, let's look at a few basic things about intervals…

  • An interval is the distance between two notes measured in pitch.
  • A distance of a whole-tone (2 frets) is called a Major Second.
  • A distance of a semi-tone (1 fret) is called a Minor Second.

So what would be the interval between each of the notes of the A Natural Minor scale? Please refer to the above diagram to work them out.

And here are the answers…

  • A to B = Major Second (Maj 2nd)
  • B to C = Minor Second (Min 2nd)
  • C to D = Maj 2nd
  • D to E = Maj 2nd
  • E to F = Min 2nd
  • F to G = Maj 2nd
  • G to A = Maj 2nd

And here is the scale fingering we looked at earlier. But this time I've shown the interval between each pair of notes…

A Aeolian Scale - Intervals

So what would be some advantages of doing this? How would doing this help improve your guitar music theory knowledge?

A Few Final Thoughts…

We've only scratched the surface here. It is just a short introduction to the three different methods of analyzing guitar scales. In future articles we will look at both the advantages and uses of each method in detail. For now, please do the following…

  • Analyze at least 10 different scales using the three methods.
  • Come up with at least 3 ways each method will help you improve your guitar music theory.

See you next time!

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