Guitar Scales Explained

On a standard guitar there are generally 6 strings and 21 frets. For the purpose of this lesson we are just going to work with the first 12 frets of the guitar to explain some basic guitar music theory. If a guitar is in standard guitar tuning the notes on it’s fretboard will look like this:

open string 3rd fret 5th fret 7th fret 9th fret 12th fret
E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E
A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A
D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D
G G# A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G
B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B
E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E

Tones and Semitones

Tones and semitones are the basic building blocks of musical theory.

1 tone is equal to 2 frets on the guitar fret board, whereas as semitone is equal to one fret. For example if you are on the 1st fret of the A string a semitone up would be the second fret or A#, and a full tone up from the second fret would be fret 4, also known as C#.

How Scales are Formed

Scales always have a pattern. For example, the pattern of every major scale is consistent and it is as follows:

Tone-Tone-Semitone-Tone-Tone-Tone-Semitone

As an example the notes in the C scale are shown below:

tone tone semitone tone tone tone semitone
C ^ D ^ E ^ F ^ G ^ A ^ B ^ C