Pro guitar players, question about scales here?

so I've been learning guitar for a few years now. I'm pretty good with it, I've learned a lot of chords and can create my own tunes and do some covers as well. but literally last night I started learning about scales, because I wanna become a lead guitar chick and put a thrash metal band together. my question is, how are scales incorporated into songs? And don't think that I'm just meaning metal songs but how are they incorporated into any song?


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  • A scale is a particular set of notes that work well with each other, just like a chord. A chord is a way of playing a note, but adding a few other notes that ‘play well’ with it to make the sound fuller. Each song has a regular note it expands from. This is the key. When you know the key, usually a chord that becomes common in a song, you can then just play notes from scales associated with that note.

    For example: I could play a song in the key of D. Say I play a chord pattern of DAGD. Key is D. So to solo you can simply play a D scale over what I’m playing. The D scale contains all the notes that will work well with anything I’m playing in D.
    There are other scales that can work as you learn them but for now keep it simple. More complex songs shift key at certain parts. In your soloing you can change scales to match the key.
    A simple way to try is to record a chord pattern for a song or find someone on YouTube playing a simple one. Play it back over and over and just play notes from the scale associated with the key over it. You can be soloing this afternoon if you learn one scale and try this.

    • great explanation on this, thank you!

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    • @DonRomeo true. The most common tends to be major, then you can branch off to variations as you like but all tend to be slight variations of the major scale like all houses follow a basic foundation of floors, walls and roof but you can vary room shapes, sizes, types etc. But all have the foundation of a common structure. Once you can build the basic house, it becomes easy to alter the rooms and shapes to your liking.

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What Guys Said 7

  • Learn by following the blues. Learn blues techniques, get blues guitar books, learn from YouTube and learn by ear. Rock and metal are really just blues with distortion, so if you wanna learn how to solo in rock and metal, why not get down to the basics and learn from the blues?

    • cool, thanks!

    • But wouldn't it be great if people werent encouraged to play the blues? Then we wouldn't be stuck with all this inane pentatonic shite. and rock-based music might actually evolve.

    • @DonRomeo tbh I tend to see rock and metal being pretty diverse. I consider myself kinda thrasher but I'm open minded with other forms of metal and rock

  • Scales are sets of notes at specific intervals, and the notes in a particular scale are fixed to the root note or 'key'.

    A scale is best seen as played on one string, but chord sequences are almost always in a scale too. The pentatonic scale is the most common in rock, which for song writing I often try to avoid. A scale is like a ladder with fixed intervals (rungs on this ladder are called 3rd, 5th etc and relate to their pitch relative to the key note), and once you know how to play a scale in one key (from one root note), you can shift it up the fretboard and it takes exactly the same shape from any starting key. With the exception of the G to the B string of course, and narrowing of the frets as you go up the board.

    Most metal in my opinion is so unmusical that it doesn't even use scales. Death or doom or whatever, at least. So they are more for lead riffing, and to sum up a scale there, its simply 'what notes fit over the background chord'.

    Girls playing guitar are awesome! There are about five of you in the world, so eat your spinache and take care of yourself!

  • Chords are a group of notes played together that sound good. Scales represent the notes and playing lead, you are making the melody which typically follow the chord sequence but played as single notes rather than together.

  • You only need to learn a few scales, so hopefully that gives you a confidence boost.

    Instead of focusing on the scale itself, think about it as - What tune should this solo be doing? Like... If a singer was to sing the solo, what notes would they hit, and do it like that. From your ears and brain, rather than your fingers.

    Natural Major and Minor. Major and Minor Pentatonic.
    The Blues Scale (Which is adding one more note to the Pentatonic)
    Those are the only scales you really need.

  • Don't just play scales. Let your ears guide you. I'm an acoustic guitar player though so I don't think we have much in common. I play with instinct.

    • well I do play some acoustic as well, I can do your trick too. my dad actually does that same thing as you, as he plays mainly acoustic these days. he doesn't even know scales, but plays with instinct.

    • can't stand acoustics! But totally get your point, Id been playing guitar for five years before I ran into modalities and shit, and that was intimidating as a kid. I guess you havea musical ear like me, cos 'it just fits', but if someone doesn't have a musical ear they might want to go into it. For jazz lead though, that can even help me, but I rarely bother!

  • Every song has a key, and the key indicates what scale to play. It starts getting more complicated when you try using modes and I'm not able to explain that stuff

  • Pentatonic is the best way to run through quick solos.


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