Scale Vocabulary

Obviously, if you are reading and studying this page you understand the importance of developing a working knowledge of scales. When we are music students you are curious about music. A good deal of that curiosity is satisfied through the study of scales. Since there are hundreds of scales in our musical traditions, the next logical question is; What scales?

All serious guitar students at one point or another come across or acquire an encyclopedic book like Slonimskys' Thesaurus Of Scale And Melodic Patterns or the Grimore series or something similar. Although these books are wonderful to own they are very daunting. When a student asks me what scales and modes of those scale to study I have found the perfect answer: apart from the obvious necessary scales play the ones you like. This refocuses a student and shifts the lesson, and the ensuing practice back to the real issue, creating the real and interesting music you want to create. If you were to take out your thick book of scales and modes and simply begin to memorize all the scale patterns you could would that really make you a better player. I think your time is much better spent learning the scales you like to hear and then figuring out what kind of music you can make with the scales. It goes without saying but we, as guitarists, really should be listening very closely to everything we play.

Major Scale

Natural Minor Scale

Major Pentatonic

Minor Pentatonic

Major Blues Scale

Minor Blues Scale

Essential Scales

For most people playing and studying the modern guitar, the six scales suggested to the left constitute the essential starting point for a working scale vocabulary. Your copy of THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER has these illustrated with their root notes on both string 6 and 5. My industry standard text, Guitar Scale Guru has a complete fret board study of the essential scales.

The Sound Of Music

The quality of a scale or chord is the general overall sound it makes. It is of course, possible to pair or match a scale with a chord. Such as matching (playing) a C major scale against a C major chord. Or better yet, to create a melody comprised of the notes in the C major scale to be sounded against that C major chord. Because the C major chord is derived from the C major scale, any melody you create using the C major scale will assume the quality of the scale. As you study the animation to the right, the 3 concepts you should take from it are:

The sound of the C major scale can be defined or summarized by the C major chord.

The sound of the C major chord can be defined or summarized by the C major scale.

Melodies using notes belonging to the C major scale are infused with the sound qualities inherent in the scale.

Whole Tone Scales

As I said earlier, there are hundreds of scales and modes in our western system of music. The ones to learn are the ones that are favored in the styles you play, and the ones you like. I am sure you will like the whole tone scale. The quality of the scale is one that implies a lack of tonality. Most people think it has a lifting effect, or causing a sensation of expectancy in the ear of your listener. The formulas is an easy one: all the notes in the scale are separated by one whole step. The chord sound which best describes the whole tone scale is the augmented or augmented 7th chord sound. For purposes of explanation I am going to use a simplified (but still useful) version of the whole tone scale in the following animation. For professional extended fingerings consult your copy of THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER.


Listen to and play the exercise above several times. What are the words, styles or perhaps even specific songs that pop into your head? As I said before, the whole tone scale is often associated with a lifting sensation in the ear of the listener and a way to raise the listeners sense of expectancy. The only limit to any scale, sound or musical device is your imagination. One good way to cultivate your creativity and imagination is to associate words with the sounds you are learning.

As you progress to the musical examples notice how just a few notes or small pieces of the scales are used to create the desired effect. The mistake we all make when learning new scales is to recite them from beginning to end when trying to use the scale in a musical situation. This is like trying to have a conversation with someone by reading words one after another out of the dictionary.


It Isn't Just For Jazz

Most commonly, the whole tone scale is associated with jazz music. To be more specific, with dominant 7th chord types. That's because the contains 2 very sweet chord tones, the 3rd (E) and the 9th or 2nd (D). In addition it contains 3 very cool sounding altered notes F# (a flat 5) G# (a sharp 5) and the all important flat 7th or Bb. If you want to play convincing jazz you must be able to play all sorts of interesting and hot stuff over dominant 7th chord types.


It's a mistake to think that the whole tone scale is only reserved for jazz players. Just below, listen to and learn a simple whole tone lick to be used for a blues intro.


Below the whole tone scale is used to create an introduction to a pop song. This example was written in same style as Stevie Wonder's classic You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.

Diminished Scales

For educational purposes we're going to use a useful, simplified version of the diminished in the following animation. For professional extended fingerings consult your copy of THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER. The chord sound which best describes the diminished scale is the diminished or diminished 7th chord sound. The chord sound which best describes the diminished chord is the diminished or diminished chord.

Mr. Inside And Mr. Outside

Once again, listen to and play the diminished scale exercise and used descriptive adjectives to solidify your comprehension of the diminished sound. Many people describe the diminished sound as being tense, outside or implying a temporary destabilization of the key or a lack of tonality. When a lock or a scale sound cool in a weird sort of way because many of the notes in that lick or scale are not locates inside the chords spelling or in scale of the key you're playing in, its called playing outside or referred to as an outside sound. It's controlled disonance.Of course, playing notes drawn directly from the chord or key in which your soloing produces that nice inside sound. The one that is consonant and harmonious.

Diminished Returns

There are actually two diminished scales with a root note of C. They are called the 1/2 - whole and the whole - 1/2. These names are derived from their respective formulas as they appear below. The diminished scales are also referred to as symmetrical diminished scales because their formulas are a repetitive series of 1/2 steps and whole steps.

  • The whole - 1/2 diminished scale is used with a diminished chord.
  • The 1/2 - whole diminished scale is used with a dominant chord
1/2 - whole
whole - 1/2


Jazz musicians are know for their command of scales and scale sounds. The whole - 1/2 diminished scale is a favorite choice to add color and interest to dominant seventh chords. The example below uses the whole - 1/2 diminished scale with a root note of C to add interest and tension which is resolved by arriving on a chord tone when the progression changes to the new chord, F 7.

Incredible World Class Products From Master Guitarist Karl Aranjo.

Karl Aranjo’s instructional books have become international best sellers and industry standards. Written in a relaxed, clear, no bull and entertaining style these books are guaranteed to dramatically improve your playing and or teaching. Featuring great graphics, studio quality CD's and tight text Karl's’ work is packed with just exactly the type of information and professional level theory you have been searching for!

If you are a player, teacher, school representative or shop owner Karl Aranjo’s instructional books and educational products will instantly improve your program and keep your students focused and directed. Learn what thousands of happy guitarists, teachers and businesses have already learned; you simply can't lose with this incredible world class material!

Cool Chords includes red hot CD with 57 recorded examples If you are studying, learning or teaching today's’ guitar Cool Chords is guaranteed to become your new favorite tool! It’s the entertaining and rock and roll way to learn chords, progressions, rhythm, musical notation and critical terminology. This breakthrough method doesn't’t rely on the tedious practice routines or boring study rituals of the past, instead you’ll be having fun and rockin’ out with one of 57 studio tracks while learning to play the great rhythm guitar, classic chord forms and the new and hip sounding Cool Chords which are such a big part the modern guitar sound. List price $14.95, your price: $12.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book
Guitar Buddy -a new method includes a cool CD with 75 recorded examples and password to an interactive educational web site dedicated to your success! The lost of art of learning and teaching the guitar is learning to play and think in the open position. All styles of playing require a firm grasp of the open position and Guitar Buddy imparts this core knowledge in a highly entertaining and enjoyable style which makes the process seem fast, fun and easy. This is a playing method which has the student perform 75 excellent and full sounding examples with a red hot, studio quality CD, which gives today's’ students and educators just exactly the kind of the sound they have been searching for. The method culminates with 5 full length solos suitable for recitals or performance. List price $17.95, your price: $15.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
A Blueprint For Hot Guitar -licks, tricks and techniques includes 2 Red Hot Studio CDs with a total of 116 professionally produced tracks. In your hand will be the blueprints for the guitar lessons we guitarists have always needed and wanted, the types of lessons that clearly teach hot moves, cool grooves and no nonsense professional level theory that quickly gives a player new musical fun along with many insights, skills, ideas and tricks. The kinds of lessons that mean playing hot, new, interesting and great sounding guitar today! . The Blueprint will get you thinking about and doing real work on: continually evolving a vocabulary of interesting chords and chord tricks, picking out leads, melodies and single line parts, learning musical and tasteful rhythm grooves to play behind a singer or soloist and developing solid musical ideas and concepts to contribute to original songs or arrangements. Written for those who want to know the secrets of professional guitarists and teachers. List price $19.95, your price: $17.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
Guitar Scale Guru has become an international best seller and industry standard. The book is all about scales, how to play them & what to call them. Included is a detailed examination of all the essential theory involved with playing and writing contemporary guitar music in the most musical and logical way possible. When you're interested in some particular scale, application or theoretical concept, look it up in the extensive table of contents. This allows you to return to your business without getting hooked into some structured series of method books that don't fit in with your style, books that are of little of no interest to you as a busy player. Karl is confident you will benefit from his tireless efforts to give you the best possible printed material . Guitar Scale Guru is the book you’ve been looking for. Your price: $13.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)
Guitar Chord Guru has become an international best seller and industry standard. If you’re a teacher or serious student of the guitar, the material presented here can be your secret weapon. Each page quickly imparts critical concepts and allows you to continue teaching and studying without drawing a ton of your own circles, arrows, footnotes and chord graphs. At last, all the essential diagrams, drawings and information concerning theory, chords and their uses in one logical, easy to read book. The printed material in these pages is simply the best! Guitar Chord Guru cuts through the bull and shows what you want and need, it truly is the book you've been looking for. Your price: $12.95. Include $3.OO Shipping per book (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD)

The Ultimate Guitar Poster at over 3ft. By 2ft. is a must have focal point every practice room and guitar studio! Contains a boatload of top notch information and hot looking graphics guaranteed to save and maximize your valuable practice time. It’s all there:
Complete notes for TAB, Jazz Chords, Open Chords, Traditional Open Scales, Lead Scales, Theory and so much more. (including the incredible, free, interactive web site you're currently enjoying) It’s a professional guitarists encyclopedia that fits neatly on the wall of your practice space. Your price: $11.99.



  • 2 Posters For $20.00
  • 3 Posters for $25.00

(Foreign orders add $10.00 USD per ORDER)

Free Shipping On Package Deals !

Chord Guru, Scale Guru & A Blueprint For Hot Guitar. For those whose time to
get serious has arrived. $43.00 FREE SHIPPING

Chord Guru, Scale Guru. Great for teachers
professionals and all serious players $27.00 FREE SHIPPING

Chord Guru, Scale Guru & THE ULTIMATE GUITAR POSTER. Great for teachers
students and beginning to intermediate players $35.00 FREE SHIPPING

Cool Chords, Guitar Buddy. Great for teachers
students and beginning to intermediate players $27.00 FREE SHIPPING

(Foreign orders add $6.00 USD per package deal)

Ordering Is Easy!

Specify products ordered & Include $3.OO Shipping per item. (Foreign orders add $6.00 USD per item) Pay safely and securely on line at PAYPAL (account is at GUITARU.COM (click on "resources")

For all other inquiries, or for mail order Email:

Support Excellence In Free On Line Guitar Education

Even though it is far superior to many of its competitors, this site is and always will be free. I am honored to have visitors and hope that I have helped and can continue to help your playing and teaching by developing more and better instructional aids, videos and animations. As I am continually developing and significantly investing in this site I ask you to please consider ordering my books or making a small donation (PAYPAL account: to help cover my development and operating costs.