The Modern Pallette

The hard work in the study of lead guitar playing is memorizing is memorizing and cleanly executing scales and scale patterns. please don’t rush to the store and buy a book of 1000 scale patterns because you can do quite nicely any style of modern music once you understand the six most important scales lead guitar playing. those scales are the major scale, the natural minor scale, the major pentatonic, the minor pentatonic, the major blues scale and the minor scale. I understand the study of scales to me virtually an endless topic but if you want to get in the game and play it well, the six scales are your ticket. I look at the scales in the same way a painter looks at his pallette -he can see his choices right in front of him and has easy access to any one.

Apply Root 6 & Root 5 System

In this lesson you will learn how to play each one of those six scales in any key, all over the neck. in two different positions. For each of these scale soundsyou will learn two fingerings, or versions of each one -a version with its root note located on string six and another version with its root note located on string five. This of course is called root six and root five thinking and hinges on the ability to quickly and correctly identify the letter names of the notes on string six and string five of your guitar.

Once you have learned to play a scale pattern, practice them until their fingerings come to you effortlessly, instantly and automatically. Play them, I mean really play over and over again until they become like your favorite turns of phrase or vocabulary words, things you like to say over and over again. they are totally committed to your deep memory. The hard work part the studying lead guitar playing as I mentioned earlier is this training and, drilling until the sound of each scale is firmly committed to your ear and have them totally under your fingers.

Major Scales

When applying the root 6 and root 5 system of thinking to the key of C major, reduce the key to the two major chords pictured at left: a root 5 C major chord located on fret III, and a root 6 C major chord located on fret VIII. Most guitarists are always thinking about and linking to chords.

This picture outlines the corredct thinking and gives you a quick and easy frame of reference, I always tell my students, "the key of C lives on the 7th fret and the 3rd fret".

Pictured at right, is arguably the most common major scale form on the guitar. The scale is labeled as being in position VII but the diagram indicates that the C root note is found on fret VII -therefore your first note, C, is played with finger two.

At far right is a simple animation meant to reinforce the point that scale patterns move up and down the neck in a clean and easy fashion.

Root 6

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The root 5 C major scale is perfect complimemt to the common knowledge scale form pictured above and when you think of these two scale patterns as your first line defense core knowledge and two most important patterns you gain a considerable amount of neck coverage in the key of C.

The animation at far right helps you visualize common transpositions.

Root 5

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Major Scale Reference & Play Along

This lesson is all about ear training, visualizing, drilling and executing. Play along with recording until you are perfect sync with me, playing a solid stream of quarter notes. First you will hear the root 5 scale, then the root 6 scale, listen carefully and reproduce the exercises on your guitar with the same care and attention you give to important music.

The root 5 C major is an optional fingering which has you shifting your position one fret higher for the D - E and F notes located on string two, this speed fingering is different from the one we learned in lesson 9 of this course. Both are of equal importance and value.

Major Pentatonic Scales

A major scale lacking degrees 4 and 7 is a major pentatonic scale. Again we are focusing on the key of C and playing only the root 6 and root 5 versions of the scale, the most common forms of the scale patterns and the one professional guityarists consider the easies and most recognizeable fingerings.

If you ar egood at solfege, think of this scale as ; "Do - Re - Mi - Sol - La".

Root 6

Root 5

Major Pentatonic Scale Reference & Play Along

Play your steady stream of quarter notes in perfect sync with me on the recording. Treat these exercises as ear training studies to be completed with effortless mastery. So you understand exactly what you are supposed to play and hear, listen to each example once before playing it.

Major Blues Scales

The major blues scale (a.ka.a known as blues no. 2) is a mjaor pentatonic with a flat 3rd. It is a greast addition to your arsenal and not to be overlooked. I had many years of education and professional playing experience before I discovered and began to use this little gem. You will not regeret learning it my friends.

Root 6

Root 5

Major Blues Scale Reference & Play Along

The addition of the flat 3 blue note (Eb in this key) the scale takes on a modern and cool quality, bluesy enough but still melodic and tuneful, even when simply running the pattern, the major pentatonic scale manages to shine its little light. When using the first finger as is indicated in the diagram, playing the scale has an easy and natural flow.

Natural Minor Scales

Consider this point a shift in your focus from a listening standpoint because we are shifting to the minor tonality, the polar opposite of major.

Listen for the dark yet rich quality of the natural minor scale and try to identify the flatted 3rd, 6th and 7th degrees so you truly understand the difference between the major scale and the natural minor scale.

Natural Minor Scale Reference & Play Along

I would again ask you to listen to the exercise once befor matching me note for note on the fingering patterns. The root 5 version of the scale sits neatly in position III, so will be starting with your first finger on the C root note, fret III string 5, and your third finger will play on fret III for the entire exercise.

The root 6 version of the scale is in position VII but has you briefly shifting your first finger between frets VII and VIII this a speedy and very common way to play a root 6 minor scale. The fingerings are illustrated in the diagram below.


Minor Pentatonic Scales

The minor pentatonic is the number in rock and also in blues lead guitar playing and many fine players use this scale as the basis for their entire style. The root 5 scale however is another scale pattern that when learning, is easy to overlook. Make sure you lock both of them down in your memory banks.

Minor Pentatonic Scale Reference & Play Along

I would pay a lot of attention to these two patterns, practicing them without the play along track until you are burning right through them in an effortless and seamless fashion.

Minor Blues Scales

The addition of a flat 5 blue note (Gb in the key of C) transforms a minor pentatonic scale into a minor blues scale. Although the correct name for this scale is ' 'the minor blues scale' it is most often simply called 'the blues scale'. Again, don't make the mistake of overlooking or discounting the root 5 version as there is some serious mojo in that puppy.

Minor Blues Scale Reference & Play Along

These scales, also called 'box patterns' fit neatly in their respective positions except for the temporary shift of finger one necessary to play the root 5 scale as is indicated in the diagram.


This lesson is designed to help you develop your scale vocabulary and is meant to be a necessary task reflective of the efforts you will continually in your life long journey as a student of the guitarist. Sometimes it is all about rote memorization and hard work, this exercise is a small hill to climb but an important one that I suggest you study and practice with often.