Scales and Arpeggios

Learning Scales and Arpeggios

The words ‘scales and arpeggios’ often conjure up images of monotonous exercises and endless repetition. Really though, scales and arpeggios are the very essence of music. They are the resources from which we improvise and compose solos and melodies.

Learning scales and arpeggios can be very satisfying when introduced in the correct way. When learning scales and arpeggios you will be set tasks that are both musical and engaging.


The style of music that you are most interested in learning, will largely determine which scales you learn and in what order.

For electric and acoustic guitar, the minor pentatonic scale, in its five forms, is usually the scale you’ll learn first; in classical guitar it is the major scale.

In each case you’ll learn what to do with these scales. How are they used effectively in music? How can we be creative with them?

Other scales that you will learn may be:

  • Minor blues
  • Major pentatonic
  • Major blues
  • The major modes
  • Harmonic minor
  • Phrygian dominant
  • The melodic minor modes
  • Half-whole diminished

Mastering scales is essential to making sense of music and opens doors to new repertoire and musical creativity.


Arpeggios are the notes within a given chord. As with scales, studying arpeggios is not just about learning their definition or the patterns on the fretboard. You will learn how to use arpeggios creatively and to understand their use in compositions.

As with scales, the arpeggios you learn will be in part determined by the styles of music you are most interested in. Some of the most common arpeggios used in music are:

  • Major triad
  • Minor triad
  • Diminished triad
  • Major 7th
  • Dominant 7th
  • Minor 7th
  • Minor 7b5
  • Diminished 7th

Each of these arpeggios can be performed using multiple different shapes. This can seem daunting. However, learning music theory alongside arpeggios and scales brings meaning to seemingly anonymous patterns.

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“It’s easy to think of scales and arpeggios as academic concepts. But each one is a unique musical flavour that can be used in your musical creations.”

– Stuart Bahn