Learning Scales: What You Need to Know

For this article a few words of guidance to get you through the process of learning scales.

Why would you like to learn scale? You probably can play by now a handful of chords and with these you can probably play most of the songs you like.
When it comes to playing single notes you probably can play most of the simple intros of your favourite songs.
Why on earth would you like to burden yourself with the thought of gettting into scales?
Because it will help you with music theory, get to know the fretboard better, become freer on the guitar, and with music in general. All of these issues are deep, and ongoing goals. Not everyone does have the patience and willingness to stick to these goals and fight their way through it.
Get into learning scales because you feel you would like to know more about your instrument and music in general, do not get into it because other people tell you so!

For those who decide scales are for them there are a few steps you can take to make the subject clearer and more fun:

Most people will get introduced at some point to the Pentatonic scale. Often people will get scalepatterns and with that they have to do it. Then they often get confused: What are all these patterns about? How do they work? What is the relation between all of them?

My own approach when it comes to teaching scales is to introduce students to the major scale. Usually I will give the example of key of C because it relates to the keyboard, which is visual and most students do understand what they can see.

From the major scale I will then make the relation to the relative minor scale (Still a seven note scale!). From there I can then jump to the Minor Pentatonic scale, which contains similar notes as the relative minor. Of course the Minor Pentatonic Scale only contains five notes instead of the usual seven. But hopefully, by now, students can see the relation, and they will also have a better understanding where these scales come from.

What happens next in a unguided situation: Students get bombarded with scalepatterns which show these five notes all over the fretboard. Good for the abstract and dedicated student, wrong for the majority of learners: Too much information, way too soon, which leads to frustration and confusion.
My  own solution to this issue is to introduce students to one pattern, let them to get familiar with this, get them to play with it. Once students feel confident with this one pattern, and they also understand what lies underneath these five tones, then it is time to move on to the next scalepattern.

Follow this process through for all the other four remaining patterns and you get the picture.

The previous example may be a ideal situation, as most people will get a lot of patterns at some stage but they will still be unaware of how to use them. Usually it depends on the students own willpower and motivation to break down these scales and to see the bigger picture.
It also helps if students like a certain style of music where a lot of improvisation is the norm. Once I have given them a scale they immediately know how to use it to play riffs and melodic ideas. Students who are not familiar with the idea of improvising usually need more time to get used to the idea of playing spontenous musical ideas. 

Once you get to grips with the Major scale and the minor Pentatonic you may get curious to see how the modes work. Well the seven modes can be introcuded in a similar way, as they all relate back to the same major key I mentioned earlier on.

Have patience and stick to it.
Hope to see you soon again,