What Are The Best Guitar Scales To Learn First?

In this lesson we take a detailed look at the answer to this question…"What are the best guitar scales to learn learn first?"

This is a really important question to answer. Because there are so many guitar scales that we could learn, it is very valuable to target only the ones that we feel will help us most. Before I give you an answer to this question, I need to make a REALLY important point…

The music you love will give you the answers!

By analyzing the songs you learn, you will find out what scales you should learn first. For example, if you like blues, then you will notice that a LOT of blues guitar solos use pentatonics or blues scales. So these would be the scales that you would need to learn first.

As a personal example, I learnt a HUGE amount about the major scale modes by analyzing the transciptions to Steve Vai's "Passion And Warfare" album. It took many hours to do, but it really helped me to understand what modes I needed to learn to play in that style. It also helped me to understand how to use them in real life playing situations!

But what if you're not yet at the level where you can analyze the songs that you learn? If this is the case, then I recommend learning songs from quality guitar magazines like Guitar Techniques (my personal favorite). Each time they teach a song or solo, they describe in detail what scales are being used.

Now that I've made this important point, let's take a look at what guitar scales I think that you should learn first. I'll also give you good, concrete reasons why I think they are essential…

Essential Guitar Scale #1: The Major Scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7)

The major scale is such an important scale to know. Here are a few reasons why…

  • There is a VAST amount of music in many styles that uses it. Thousands and thousands of melodies have used it.
  • It is vital to understand the major scale in order to understand music theory.
  • It is an excellent scale to learn to help develop your ears.
  • ALL other scales can be derived from it. In order to understand other scales, you first need to understand the major scale. To see what I mean by this, please check out the diagram below…


Don't panic if you don't totally understand some of the diagrams in this lesson. (Some people don't fully understand what the numbers mean). Just read through this lesson and extract the key points.

If you DO want to understand what the numbers mean, I'm currently giving away a free mini-course on guitar scales. You can sign up to that course by going to:

Free Guitar Scales Mini-Course

(I can't guarantee I'll keep giving the free course away forever. So if you go there now, and it's no longer available…then you've  missed out). 

Major Scale Diagram

Please take a few minutes to study the diagram. After you've done that, please write down any observations that you have.

This diagram gives us some useful insights. Here are two really important points…

Important Point #1: Memorizing a scale is made easier by linking it to something that you already know.

Notice how you can go from one scale to the next, by just changing one note? This makes things easy for memorization. For example, the lydian mode is exactly the same as the major scale except it has a #4. So if you already know the major scale, then learning the lydian mode is made much easier. It's just a matter of changing the 4 to a #4.

Important Point #2: All scales stem from the major scale.

Remember the concept of Six degrees of separation? The idea that everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth?

It's the same with guitar scales! I haven't wasted the time to prove this, but I'd be surprised if there was a scale that was more than six steps away from the major scale. On the diagram above, ALL scales are found within three "steps" of the major scale!

Moral of the story? Get to know the major scale really well. Ideally it should be learnt over the entire fretboard rather than just memorizing a few scale fingerings. If you need help with this, I recommend finding out more about my Guitar Scale Mastery course.

Just in case you are brand new to the major scale, here is a useful two-octave fingering for the A major scale…

A Major Scale: A B C# D E F# G# A

A Major Scale Fingering

And here is the same scale fingering written out in TAB. It is played usingalternate picking, starting with a downstroke. Also pay careful attention to the fretting-hand fingerings shown underneath the TAB. These are the exact fingeringsthat I use. Of course…feel free to change the fingerings if you find an approachthat works better for you…

 A Major Scale Using TAB

Let's now take a look at the next important scale to learn…

Essential Scale #2: The Major Pentatonic Scale (1 2 3 5 6)

Like the major scale, the major pentatonic scale is a vital scale to learn. Thereare MANY songs, solos and melodies that use it. If you've never played this scalebefore, here is a useful two-octave fingering for the A Major pentatonic scale…

A Major Pentatonic Scale: A B C# E F# A

A Major Pentatonic Scale Fingering

And here is this fingering written out in TAB…

A Major Pentatonic Scale Using Tablature 

Once you've memorized this fingering, please check out the following diagram…

 Major Pentatonic Scale Diagram

Now let's take a look at the third essential guitar scale to learn…

Essential Scale #3: The Minor Pentatonic Scale (1 b3 4 5 b7)

EVERY guitarist needs to master this one! The minor pentatonic scale is anincredibly important scale and is used in many styles of guitar playing. If you've never played this scale before, here's a useful two-octave fingering of the A Minor Pentatonic scale…

A Minor Pentatonic Scale: A C D E G A

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

And here is the same fingering written out in TAB…

A Minor Pentatonic Scale Using TAB

Once you've memorized the above, please take a look at this diagram showing you one reason why it's so important to learn…

 Minor Pentatonic Scale Diagram

Learning the minor pentatonic scale is so valuable. A big reason is that once you learn it, then it learning other scales is made much easier. Notice in the above diagram how we can create new scales by adding one or two notes to the minor pentatonic scale. Very cool…and it also makes it a LOT easier to rememberthe new scales. :-)

Final Thoughts…

I hope you enjoyed this lesson. I also hope it has made you realize by focusing on mastering just a few scales, you can make HUGE improvements to your guitar playing. Mastering the three scales we looked at will definitely lay down a verystrong foundation. And this will make learning additional scales MUCH easier.

Until next time…practice those scales!

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