how to learn scales on guitar

The Best Way To Learn Scales On Guitar In 2023 – Expert Teacher Shares His Guitar Learning Hacks

Guitar playing is a very rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges.

One of the biggest challenges that guitarists face is learning scales and making music out of them.

Many beginners find it hard to master the use of scales and play them fluidly, but with the right approach, it’s possible. In this article, I will take you through some of the most common problems faced when learning scales on guitar, and my favourite memorisation method which I’ve helped thousands of guitarists use to better learn scales.

Common Problems Faced When Learning Scales On Guitar

There are several common problems that guitarists face when learning scales, including:

  • Struggling to remember the notes in the scale
  • Inconsistent finger placement
  • Slow playing speed
  • Difficulty in transitioning between different positions
  • Lack of fluidity when playing the scale
  • Having to relearn scale patterns over and over again

These problems all stem from the core problem of not knowing the scale well enough and not learning in a way that is conducive to long-term retention in memory.

Wouldn’t learning how to play the guitar be so much better if you could just learn your scales once and remember them forever? Let’s learn how.

Chunking – The Best Way To Learn Scales On Guitar

The best way to learn scales on guitar is to use a technique called “chunking”.

Chunking is the process of breaking down a complex task into smaller, more manageable pieces. This makes it easier to learn and remember, and also helps you build up to playing the scales more fluidly.

Here’s how you can apply chunking to learning scales on guitar:

  • Start by practising just a few notes of the scale at a time
  • Once you’ve mastered those few notes, add a few more
  • Keep adding notes until you can play the entire scale
  • Practice playing the scale in different positions on the fretboard

By breaking down the scale into smaller pieces, you’ll find it easier to learn, remember, and play.

minor pentatonic scale lesson
Connor playing a guitar solo using the Minor Pentatonic scale live on stage at our student concert.

How To Play A Minor Pentatonic Scale On Guitar

A minor pentatonic scale is a great place to start when learning scales on guitar. Here’s how you can play it:

  • Start by placing your first finger on the 5th fret of the low E string and your pinky finger on the 8th fret of the same string. – Play these two notes 3x.
  • Play the 5th fret and 7th fret on string 5 – play these two notes 3x then connect them to the original two notes 3x.
  • Add in the 5th and 7th fret on string 4. Repeat the process of playing the new string 3x and adding in the previous strings.
  • Add in frets 5 and 7 on the third string.
  • Play frets 5 & 8 on string 2
  • Play frets 5 & 8 on string 1
  • After playing each string individually three times, put the entire scale together!

By learning the scale on guitar this way you’ll only have to learn the scale once, but will remember it forever. More importantly, every future practice session can be spent improving the scale instead of relearning it!

Minor Pentatonic Scale For Guitar

Applying This Method To Learning Other Scales On Guitar

Once you’ve mastered the minor pentatonic scale, you can apply the same learning process to other scales. Simply break down the scale into smaller pieces, practice each piece until you’ve mastered it, and then move on to the next. (Going string by string works best!)

Below is a list of scales you should learn to play on guitar:

  • All 5 Minor Pentatonic Scale Shapes
  • The Major Scale (and all 7 of its modes)
  • The Minor Scale
  • The Dorian Scale
  • The Mixolydian Scale
  • The Lydian Scale
  • The Melodic Minor Scale
  • The Harmonic Minor Scale
  • The Double Harmonic Scale

Troubleshooting & Additional Levels

If you’re having trouble learning scales on guitar, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are a few tips to help you troubleshoot:

  • Break the scale up into individual strings and practice each one in isolation before putting it all together.
  • Go as slow as you need in order to play the notes without making a mistake. If you’re making mistakes then slow down!
  • Reach out to a guitar teacher for help.
  • watch my video on how to learn scales so you can see my method in action.

If you’re looking for additional levels, try exploring different scales and modes. Each scale has its own unique sound, and by mastering them, you’ll develop a broader understanding of music theory.


In conclusion, learning scales on guitar can be a challenging task, but with the right approach and some perseverance, you’ll be playing them fluidly in no time.

By using chunking, playing slowly at first, and practising effectively, you’ll quickly learn how to play scales and make running up and down the guitar fretboard effortless.

If you liked this lesson on Scales you can apply a similar approach to learning chords with our article “how to quickly and easily memorise guitar chords

About The Author

Meet Michael Gumley, an experienced guitar teacher with over 15 years of experience.

Michael has had the privilege of teaching over 1000 students to play guitar and has a passion for combining learning psychology and memory hacks with modern teaching methods. With his extensive knowledge and experience, Michael has honed his craft and developed a teaching method that truly works. He is committed to helping his students reach their full musical potential and has a reputation as a trustworthy and expert guitar teacher.

Whether you are a beginner guitarist or an experienced musician, Michael has the skills and expertise to help you reach your goals and become the guitarist you’ve always wanted to be.

If you’re looking for guitar lessons In Melbourne get in touch to book a FREE trial session with Michael.

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