Guitar Scales 101

Author: Larry Baione   •   Course Code: OGUIT-121

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

  • Constructing the Major Scale on the Fingerboard
  • Position Playing on the Guitar
  • Playing the C Major Scale in Second Position
  • Playing the C Major Scale in Seventh Position
  • G Major Scale in Second Position
  • G Major Scale in the Seventh Position

Lesson 2: Major Pentatonic Scales, F Major Scale, and Fingering Type Review

  • Major Pentatonic Scales
  • F Major Scale and Fingering Type 1
  • AF Major Scale in Seventh Position

Lesson 3: The D and A Major Scales

  • D Major Scale in Second Position
  • D Major in Seventh Position
  • A Major Scale
  • A Major Scale in the Ninth Position

Lesson 4: Minor Pentatonic Scales and Minor Blues Scales

  • A Minor Pentatonic Scale Fingering 1
  • C Minor Pentatonic Scale Fingering 2
  • Improvising with the Minor Pentatonic Scale
  • The Blues Scale

Lesson 5: Dorian and Mixolydian Scales

  • Constructing Dorian Scales
  • Dorian Fingerings from the Parallel Minor Pentatonic
  • Dorian Fingerings from Parallel Major Scales
  • Constructing the Mixolydian Scale
  • Mixolydian Fingerings from Parallel Major Scales

Lesson 6: Scale Exercises

  • Five Major Scales in One Position
  • One Scale in Five Positions on the Guitar
  • Connecting Scale Forms: Playing Three-Octave Scales Using Mirror Fingering

Lesson 7: Major Scales Played Intervalically

  • Major Scale in Thirds
  • Five Fingerings for Major Scales in Thirds
  • Major Scale in Fourths
  • Two Fingerings for Major Scale in Fourths
  • Larger Intervals

Lesson 8: Modes of the Major Scale

  • Definition of a Mode
  • Names of the Modes of the Major Scale
  • Playing One Octave Modes of the Major Scale—Key of C
  • Diatonic Chords of the Major Scale and the Corresponding Mode
  • D Major Scale and Its Modes
  • G Major Scale and Its Modes
  • C as Every Mode in the Major Scale
  • G as Every Mode in the Major Scale

Lesson 9: Harmonic Minor Scale

  • Constructing the Harmonic Minor Scale on the Fingerboard
  • Playing the A and D Harmonic Minor Scale in Second Position—Fingerings Based on Parallel and Relative Major Scales
  • Playing One Octave Modes of the A and D Harmonic Minor Scales
  • A and D as Root of Every Mode of Harmonic Minor Scale

Lesson 10: Melodic Minor Scale

  • Constructing the Melodic Minor Scale on the Fingerboard
  • Playing the A and D Melodic Minor Scale in Second Position
  • Playing One Octave Modes of the A and D Melodic Minor Scales
  • A and D as Root of Every Mode of Melodic Minor Scale

Lesson 11: Symmetric Scales 

  • Constructing the Whole Tone Scale on the Fingerboard
  • Two Whole Tone Fingerings
  • Constructing the Diminished Scale on the Fingerboard
  • Two Diminished Scale Fingerings

Lesson 12: Three Octave Scales

  • Three Octave Whole Tone Scale Fingering
  • Three Octave Diminished Scale Fingerings

Larry Baione

Author & Instructor

Larry Baione is Chair of the Berklee College of Music Guitar Department, Baione has been a faculty member since 1974 and has been chair since 1990. He has studied from Lenzy Wallace, Mick Goodrick, Bill Harris, William Leavitt, Bucky Pizzarelli and Jim Hall. He received his Bachelors in Music from Berklee and his Masters in Music from New England Conservatory. When attending Berklee, he received the Downbeat Hall of Fame Scholarship award.

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 Amabassadors 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, settings that range from solo guitar to big band. He continues to perform and give clinics throughout the world. His recent recording Playing Time consists of original compositions and standards in a trio setting.

Robin Stone


Robin Stone is an associate 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 by 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. She graduated with academic honors and is a member of the Phi Kappa Lambda music honors society. She received her Master's degree in jazz studies from New England Conservatory in 1988, where she studied composition with William Thomas McKinley and George Russell.

Tim Miller


Tim Miller offers a distinctive voice to the world of jazz guitar. His career has taken him to Paris, New York, and presently, Boston, where he is currently an associate professor of guitar at Berklee College of Music. Guitar Player magazine characterized his playing as "pure melody consciousness with remarkable control, a breathy, violiny tone [and] bell-like consistency." Miller's music combines explosive raw energy that is artistically balanced with soulful melodic compositions.

While living in Paris, he played extensively with drummer Aldo Romano. This led to recordings and European concerts and jazz festivals. Miller later joined the faculty of Berklee College of Music in Boston and recorded Sides with saxophonist George Garzone. He also played in a quartet with fellow guitarist Mick Goodrick. In 2005, Miller released his first solo recording Trio, which has received critical acclaim. Recently, Miller has released his most personal recording to date, Trio Vol. 2, and he is performing his latest music throughout the US and abroad. His recent performances include concerts and festivals with Paul Motian, Randy Brecker, Mark Turner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Gary Thomas, Gary Husband, George Duke, Chris Cheek, Keith Carlock, among others. He is currently cowriting a music harmony book with Mick Goodrick to be released in 2008, while also composing new pieces for his next recording.

Dan Bowden


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.

Thaddeus Hogarth


Born in the U.K. and raised in the West Indies, Thaddeus Hogarth is an associate professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. A two-time winner of the Independent Music Award for R&sB/Blues (2001, 2006), he has been a prominent guitar player and singer-songwriter on the New England music scene since 1990, when he graduated from Berklee. He leads his own group, the Thaddeus Hogarth Band, featuring David Buda on bass, Joey Scrima on drums, and David Sparr on keyboards. They have shared the bill or stage with such legends as Tower of Power, Average White Band, James Montgomery, Fred Wesley, and Johnny Winter, and were recently hand-picked to represent Bose nationwide for the launch of its revolutionary live music amplification technology.

His work also includes collaboration with the reggae legend and Grammy nominee, Sister Carol. Prior to this, Hogarth was the principal singer-songwriter and guitarist for Heavy Metal Horns, known for their original heavy hitting funk-rock grooves and full brass sound. The band released two CDs with international distribution—Heavy Metal Horns (Square Records) and Horns In The House (Polystar Japan/Danger), in addition to garnering awards such as Best New Band (Boston magazine, 1990) and Outstanding Club Act (Boston Music Awards, 1992). Since then, he has released four award-winning solo CDs and a live concert DVD, and is the author of Funk/R&sB Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves, and Sounds (Hal Leonard/Berklee Press). His music and voice can be heard worldwide in full-length and independent short feature films, commercial television, PBS, and MTV. Billboard magazine describes Hogarth's music as "Soul Terra Firma," and the Boston Globe calls him a "guitar virtuoso."

For more information on Thaddeus Hogarth, visit his Web site at:


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.

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

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    12 weeks
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