When NOT To Learn Scales

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This lesson has been very useful and maybe should be related as soon as we learn the minor pentatonic on the beginners’ course since I started to search for extra scales trying to speed up my learning to be able to learn solos.

But the point is that, as Justin states here, Is not of use for me to learn more scales as I can only play random notes of the pentatonic without maken much sense out of it.

So I’ll keep with the beginners’ course and the Theory Course until I’m ready according to Justin’s curriculum.


Rumil - same here. I am glad I found this early on. Time to make some music with it.


Yeah. And you already can use the same shape to improvise in any key, so… I’m using it to improvise in blues in A key, G and E :grin:


I found learning the 5 shapes to be really helpful. You obviously don’t have to learn all the scales, but the 5 shapes tied together with the CAGED system is a really good thing to know. I find notes sound different depending which string you use, so having the option to move around the neck is nice. Not so important for absolute beginners, get there when you get there, but if you know enough to branch out a bit, I think it’s useful.


Yes, absolutely, as a longer-term aim it is a good place to reach towards.
In the early stages however, I believe there is too much truth in Justin’s advice to ignore it.
With one scale pattern you can and must learn to be musical. Moving on without having become musical is to do not much more than teach your fingers to move in patterns for no purpose.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

Hi! So, Justin said that you should not learn more patterns of the scale or any new scale at all if you don’t know how to make music with the first scale/patter, so my question is: How do I make music with my scale? :frowning: I’m into Blues, Jazz and Rock but I can’t come up with any interesting ideas using the minor/major pentatonic scale

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Hey Alonso,

Put on a slow backing track, say a blues 145 progression, and just start playing a few notes from the scale. Listen for what it sounds like, what notes sound ‘better’ over the 3 different chords. See if you can come up with a simple melody. Change up the rhythm. Experiment. You’ll be surprised what you can do with just 3-4 notes. This is start of using the scale musically.

Cheers, Shane

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Alonso, that’s a good tip from @sclay. I’d add to that to try and follow the chord changes, play the chord tones as they say. So if playing over that slow blues in A, over which you can improv using the A minor pentatonic, then the chords will be A D and E. YOu could start off just playing those notes over the chords to get familiar with the changes and sound of the chords.

Then as you go add in addiional notes paying attention to how the last note you play in a phrase sounds over the chord. The note that matches the chord will always sound good and so will some others in the scale.

Another approach is to learn some of your favourite solos, intros or outros that are played in minor pentatonic. That will help you connect what you are hearing to how it is played and help you develop feel and technique.

YOu may also want to look at the 321 Guitar CHallenge here in the Community, watch some of the attempts to get the vibe and give it a go.

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I thought I was getting somewhere with this!

Why aren’t we playing the F#m pentatonic over the key of A? I.E. the relative minor key.

Is it just a blues thing?

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@Richard_close2u Richard time for you to jump in here as I rapidly swim out of my depth …

Dave, I think using the A minor pentatonic brings some note choices that clash with the major chords, especially when playing the 7 chords. And that clash plus the phrasing contributes to the3 sound and feel of the blues.

To dig deeper you could look at the notes that are in the chords of blues in A and then look at the notes in the F#m pentatonic. That would no doubt be enlighting when you review all the chord tones and the notes in the scale.

But I am no expert.


You can Play the A major pentatonic (same notes as F#minor Pent) over the R and 5 chords but over the 4 chord you’d switch to the D Major Pentatonic. The Am pentatonic has the note C# which really sounds bad over the D or D7 chord which contains the note C.

The down side to playing the Major pentatonic is you won’t have the blues sound, the clash of the Flat 3rd of the scale an 3rd of the chord is the biggest contributor to the blues sound.
Using the Major pentatonic will give you more of a country vibe and none of the blues licks you’ve learnt will work. Which could be a good thing if your playing Country or a master of the Major sound like Slash who can make it work very well in Rock.


@liaty I knew Justin had a lesson on using the major pentatonic in blues so went looking for it.
He explains what I was saying better than I did and at the end he explains why it not the F# minor pent. It’s a grade 7 lesson but Justin does a really good job of explaining the Major Pent.


Cheers Rick

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Yep, you’ve just spoken to me directly here. One major question though: How do you define ‘making music’ from a scale?

I’ve been learning all these things just assuming that at some stage, it would click as to why I was doing it.

Is there a lesson somewhere that will say 'hey, you know this scale, so now you can make this music? ’

And, by music, are you talking solos or everything?

Apologies if this is an unreservedly ‘dumb’ question.

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You can make music however you want. Any note can follow any note, and any note can be played with any other note.

A standard tried and true method to make music is the following.

You have 12 notes in the western scale. Use seven of these notes in a particular order to construct a major scale. The order is tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone. So if you start with C you will end up with
e.g C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C


Now you make chords by stacking thirds giving you C major, D minor, E Minor, F major G major, A minor B Diminished.

Now you can make a song. Come up with a chord progression with those chords then play a melody using the 7 notes. It’s just a recipe. It’s a recipe that has been used for thousands of songs. It is not compulsory to use this recipe.

Blues typically does not use the recipe. Jazz does not always use the recipe. 12 tone music never uses the recipe. Rock music does not always use the recipe (its typical to use four major chords in a rock song)

Understanding the recipe helps you because so many songs use it. It can make it easier to understand and remember a song. If you come across a backing track that use the chords C major, F major and G major then you can improvise using the C major scale because you are using a recipe that works and that people enjoy.

Alternatively you could use the C minor pentatonic over the C F G progression. Now you are using a different recipe, the blues recipe. People love that recipe.

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