Scale study is a fundamental building block to guitar mastery. Accomplished guitarists use scales to add color, mood, depth and feeling to their playing. When you hear an amazing solo by Frank Zappa or Robert Fripp, you can be sure that these players are directly referencing their extensive knowledge and internalization of scales. Guitar Scales 101 will help you to organize the often-ambiguous guitar fretboard, and provide you with the knowledge to confidently navigate the instrument and develop your technique. The course begins by looking at the major and pentatonic scales, and how these scales work at different points up the neck. You’ll then learn to construct and play blues, Dorian, and Mixolydian scales in all keys, and apply these scales to performance-based weekly musical examples and practice exercises. In addition, you will be studying the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales and modes. With weekly assignments that you can record and upload to your professor for review, you’ll greatly improve your single-line technique, and gain a firm understanding of the possibilities available within the guitar’s fretboard.
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Construct and play two-octave major scales in all keys, in two different fretboard positions.
- Construct and play pentatonic, blues, major, melodic minor and harmonic minor scales and their modes in most keys.
- Effectively use these scales in your own playing.
- Develop good guitar technique through scale exercises.
Lesson 1 Major Scale
Lesson 2 Major Pentatonic Scales, F Major Scale, and Fingering Type Review
Lesson 3 The D and A Major Scales
Lesson 4 Minor Pentatonic Scales and Minor Blues Scales
Lesson 5 Dorian and Mixolydian Scales
Lesson 6 Scale Exercises
Lesson 7 Major Scales Played Intervalically
Lesson 8 Modes of the Major Scale
Lesson 9 Harmonic Minor Scale
Lesson 10 Melodic Minor Scale
Lesson 11 Symmetric Scales
Lesson 12 Three Octave Scales
Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements
Completion of Music Foundations or Music Theory 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have at least one year of playing experience and the ability to play some scales and chords on the guitar. Guitar tablature and some chord blocks, in addition to traditional notation, will be used throughout the course.
Students are required to record video for assignments. You can use your smartphone, digital camera, or webcam to do this. If you do not already have a preferred video software, you can use the built-in recorder tool within your assignment post. You can play the backing track through your speakers as you record and the microphone will pick up both the guitar (acoustic or through an amp) and the track as you play along.
- Electric or acoustic guitar. Check outReverb for guitar deals*
- A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
- A printer is recommended for printing music examples used in the course
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course.
- OS X 10.10 Yosemite or higher
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal Microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
Author & Instructor
Larry Baione is the former chair of the Berklee College of Music Guitar Department. He has been a faculty member since 1974 and was chair from 1990 to 2018. He has studied from Lenzy Wallace, Mick Goodrick, Bill Harris, William Leavitt, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Jim Hall. He received his Bachelor’s in Music from Berklee and his Master’s in Music from New England Conservatory.
After graduating Berklee, Larry was principal guitarist in the Army Band, stationed in Washington D.C. He performed in the White House and throughout the United States with the Army Blues. In 1996, Baione toured South America for the State Department as one of the inaugural Jazz Ambassadors representing the unique American art form.
Larry is author of the Berklee Practice Method for Guitar. He performs in numerous jazz, concert, and recording ensembles, in settings that range from solo guitar to big band. He continues to perform and give clinics throughout the world.
Dan Bowden is an unusually versatile guitarist and teacher, specializing in a wide range of styles including rock, jazz, blues and R’n’B. With over a dozen instructional books for the guitar to his credit, Dan has reached guitar students worldwide. His best-selling titles include: Wes Montgomery: The Early Years, Mel Bays Complete Accompaniment Method For Guitar, and Electric Blues Guitar Workout. Along with doing freelance performing in the Boston area, Dan plays and records with the blues, roots and originals group: Stingy Brimm. He has taught guitar at Berklee since 1989, and is himself a Berklee graduate. Dan’s first guitar effect pedal was an original 1960’s Maestro Fuzz-Tone. He has continuously used effects since that time.
Tim Miller offers a distinctive voice to the world of jazz and rock guitar. He is currently a professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. Guitar Player magazine characterized his playing as “pure melody consciousness with remarkable control, and a breathy, violin-y tone”
His most notable recordings are Trio and Trio Vol.2. Tim has performed/recorded with Dweezil Zappa, Paul Motian, Randy Brecker, Mick Goodrick, Mike Stern, Ben Monder, Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez, David Liebman, Greg Osby, George Garzone, Mark Turner, Jerry Bergonzi, Gary Thomas, George Duke, Gary Husband, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Antonio Sanchez, among others.
Tim has also co-authored a book with guitarist Mick Goodrick titled Creative Chordal Harmony for Guitar (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard). Additionally, he is the author of the Berklee Online course Guitar Ensemble Techniques. Read Less
Robin Stone is a professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. While she teaches many styles of music, she concentrates on the history and playing styles of classic rock guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and the Allman Brothers. She has taught at Berklee since 1990, when she became the second woman ever hired in the Guitar department.
Stone is the managing editor and web designer of the Guitar department’s online newsletter, “Open Position,” which showcases the many talents of the faculty and provides an insider’s look into the work being done in the school’s largest department. She contributes articles under the title “String Theory,” exploring harmonic concepts for guitarists. In 1993, she composed a piece entitled “Adagio for Oboe and String Orchestra,” which was released on the MMC label. In 1996, she was awarded the Japan Foundation’s Uchida Fellowship, allowing her to live in Roppongi, Tokyo, to study the traditional Japanese instrument, the Koto.
Stone received her bachelor’s degree in professional music from Berklee in 1983. In 1988, she received her master’s degree in jazz studies from New England Conservatory, where she studied composition with William Thomas McKinley and George Russell.
Stone graduated from NEC with academic honors and became a member of Phi Kappa Lambda musical honors society.
When taken for credit, Guitar Scales 101 can be applied towards these associated programs:
Associated Certificate Programs
- General Music Studies Professional Certificate
- General Music Studies Advanced Professional Certificate
- Guitar Skills Professional Certificate
- Jazz Guitar Professional Certificate
- Guitar Advanced Professional Certificate
Associated Degree Major
- Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar