Guitar Scales 101


Authored by Larry Baione


Course Code: OGUIT-121

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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.
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
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.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric or acoustic guitar


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended electric option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and a microphone stand.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

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. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Larry Baione

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 with 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. 

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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.

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Robin Stone


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.

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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. Read Less

Tim Miller


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"

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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


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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