Which Scales to Learn First on the Guitar?

Which Scales Should I Learn First on Guitar?

When it comes to teaching students how to practice scales on the guitar, one of the most common responses guitar teachers hear is, “Do I have to?”

The short answer is “Yes!”

The long answer is also yes, but I’ll explain why you need to learn your scales and which scale you should learn first on the guitar.

Why Learn Scales on Guitar?

Learning scales is critical for several reasons.

Technique: Scales are great for building your technique. In fact, practicing scales solves most—if not all of—the technical problems you’ll encounter learning to play the guitar.

Music Theory: Scales help you to understand music theory. That’s because the major scale is like the alphabet in Western music. Melodies are created from the major scales’ notes, chords are built from stacking notes of the major scale, harmony is created by organizing chord progressions from the major scale, and songs are created by combining melody and harmony.

Ergo, major scales are the foundation of all of the music you know and love.

Creativity: Third, learning the major scales is great for unlocking your creativity. If you do not believe me, please allow me to ask you a few questions: Would you like to write better melodies? Study the major scale. Want to learn how to harmonize that killer melody you just composed? Study the major scale? Want to write better chord progressions? You guessed it. Study the major scale.

1. Learn The A Minor Pentatonic Scale on Guitar

If you read the last paragraph, this might come as a shock, but I don’t recommend learning the major scale first. Instead, I recommend learning the minor pentatonic scale first. That’s because it’s the most common scale in rock music, and it’s used in hundreds if not thousands of classic rock songs.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale Fretboard Diagram
The A Minor Pentatonic Scale

2. Learn The A Major Pentatonic Scale on Guitar

The major scale isn’t even the second scale I would recommend. That’s the major pentatonic scale. The two scales are closely related. In fact, I like to think of them as twins. While the minor pentatonic scale sounds dark and brooding, the major pentatonic scale sounds happy-go-lucky.

The A Major Pentatonic Scale Fretboard Diagram
The A Major Pentatonic Scale

3. Learn The C Major Scale on Guitar

Finally, you’ve arrived at the major scale. Thanks for hanging in there with me. The major scale is the third scale you should learn on the guitar. That’s because the first two scales are the most commonly used in rock. Plus, the big intervallic leaps (that’s the distance between any two notes) provide the pentatonic scales with a unique sound that’s easy to make music with.

The C Major Scale Fretboard Diagram
The C Major Scale

So the next time you hear someone whining about practicing scales on the guitar, you’ll quietly chuckle to yourself. That’s because you now know scales are a great way to improve your guitar technique, increase your u understanding of music theory, and unlock your creativity. Plus, you’ll know which scales you should learn and what order, so you can confidently respond, “Yes, you must learn your scales, and here’s why . . . “

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Brian Parham
Brian Parham

Brian Parham is the founder and creator of the Rock Dojo, an award-winning guitar program for kids. He’s also the author of three guitar method books for kids, the 2018 Teacher of the Year by Lessons.com, the 2018 Rising Star of Oregon by the Small Business Administration, and an award-winning artist. He’s currently pursuing an Advanced Professional Guitar Certification from Berklee School of Music. When he’s not rocking out on the guitar, Brian enjoys reading comic books, binge-watching Cobra Kai, and spending time with his wife.

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