If you’re an aspiring guitarist, you love those riffs played by your favorite guitar players. Taking some time to learn to play scales will help you acquire the skills needed to come up with your own improvised runs and riffs. If you think it sounds complicated, it’s really not. It just takes time and practice and not giving up.
Scales can be played in 5 different “positions.” When you’ve learned the positions for the type of scale (major, minor, pentatonic, chromatic, etc.) you want to learn, you will be able to play that scale in any key, depending on where you start on the fretboard. Ultimately you will learn the name of the note of every string on every fret, but you have to start somewhere. The keys of E and A are used often in blues and other pop music styles. E makes a great starting key, since the open sixth string is an E.
You will need a scale chart to see where your fingers need to go to make the notes of the scale. These are widely available in free online guitar lessons. These charts will show the root note in a different color so that you can keep track of them. The root note for the key of E is E. You’ve probably noticed that if a song does not end on a root note, you somehow don’t feel like it has finished.
Here’s a verbal description of how to play a basic E minor pentatonic scale in the first position. Your first note is the open sixth string. The second note will be at the third fret of the sixth string – this is a G. Now go to the open fifth string, an A. Next go to the second fret of the fifth string – a B. The next note is the open fourth string, a D. Now go to the second fret of the fourth string, and pluck an E. If you were reading a scale chart, this note would be in a different color because you’re back to a root. But you’re not done yet!
The next note is the open third string – a G. Now play the note at the second fret of the third string – an A. The next note is the open second string – a B. Then you play the third fret of the second string, which is a D. The open first string is another E, and would be noted again as a root on a scale chart. You can finger the third fret of this string for another G, and then reverse the whole process, going down the scale back to the original open sixth E string.
Practice this scale until you get proficient at it and you are on the way to being able to create your own improvised licks in the key of E.