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Classic Guitar

Introduction to scales

The practice of scales is an essential step to learn to play guitar.

A scale is always based on a given note. This note is called the scale's tonic.
There are different schemes for adding other notes to the tonic, exploring different consonances between the notes, and thus producing different effects on the listener.
This way there are different types of scales.
For instance, scales with 5 notes are called pentatonic. Scales with 7 notes are called diatonic.
When counting the notes of a scale, a note that is exactly the same as another note already in the scale but simply one octave higher or lower does not count as a new note.
For instance, a scale with the notes C, D, E, G, A, and again C is a scale with 5 notes, not 6.

There are different types of diatonic scales. The most used are the major and minor scales.
The major scales are the ones in which the consonance between the notes is better. Major scales are best suited for joyful songs.
Minor scales are best suited for sad or nostalgic songs. There are three types of minor scales: natural, melodic and harmonic.

What tells a major scale from a minor scale is the number of halftones between its notes.
The 12 halftones are:
C
C sharp or D flat
D
D sharp or E flat
E
F
F sharp or G flat
G
G sharp or A flat
A
A sharp or B flat
B

For instance, the major scale of C comprises the notes C, D, E, F, G, A and B. This is the scale of the white keys of a piano.
In this scale, the number of halftones between the notes is 2 2 1 2 2 2 1. So this is the structure of a major scale.
If we start on any other note, for instance F sharp, and jump exactly the same number of halftones, we get the major scale of F sharp, which is: F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, B, C sharp, D sharp and F.

In summary, the structure of the most used diatonic scales is:
Major scale: 2 2 1 2 2 2 1
Natural minor scale: 2 1 2 2 1 2 2
Harmonic minor scale: 2 1 2 2 1 3 1
Melodic minor scale: 2 1 2 2 2 2 1

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