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Rock Music Guitar Theory For Beginners & How To Read Scale Charts

Here’s some MUST KNOW guitar theory. You’ll discover the most famous music scale, power chords, how to read scale charts and more!


The Major Scale & Scale Charts

Here’s a jam packed lesson for you! One of our teachers here at Campfire Guitar Star, Mike B, refers to this as “Lesson-ception” in reference to the movie “Inception”. In the movie, the characters experience “dreams inside of dreams” where new ideas can be formed. In “lesson-ception”, there are “lessons inside of of lessons”, where new guitar concepts and a deeper understanding of the guitar are formed! So let’s get started!

You probably know the major scale already! It’s something very recognizable. You’ll hear the “Sound of Music” tones as you play through the scale – “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do”. It has a positive, happy sound as opposed to the darker and moodier sound of a minor scale.

Another thing about the major scale is it is known as “Ionian”. The name is from a series of 7 very important musical scales called “Modes”. The major scale (aka “Ionian”) is the first of the 7 modes. The next 6 modes, in order are: Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. After going through this chapter and when you fully understand how to read scale charts, I encourage you to learn all 7 modes!

guitar scales modes

All the modes are fantastic finger exercises and the foundation for understanding how music works. They are also the building blocks of many famous solos, riffs and licks…. So if you like that kind of thing, then you’re in for a treat! And some hard work :)

Reading a Scale Chart with the G major scale.

*Remember when we were learning to read tab?  The numbers were in reference to the frets you play… things change a bit now with scale charts.

Scale charts have numbers that represent your fingering – not which fret to use. Do not fear! Scale charts will show you which frets to place your fingers on. Scale charts (and chord charts) show you a diagram as if you were looking right down on top of the fret board. Take a look at the pictures – Can you see how the note on the fretboard diagram is translated to the guitar?

how to read scale charts 3rd fret of the guitar is a g note

Note: Sometimes scale diagrams are vertical like in the example we have here, but they can also be represented horizontally – similar to tab. Just remember that how we read scale and chord charts is very different from how we read tab.

*Because we can start scales on any fret, it’s often unnecessary to have a diagram of the entire fretboard.  You will know what scale you are playing from your root note!

Two ways to discover the correct fret, or starting point, on a scale chart:g major scale guitar

  1. The “Nut”, or block at the end of the fretboard, will give you a visual representation of where you are. (In case you don’t know what the nut is – find the diagram of the parts of the guitar found inside this book.)
  2. A number indicating the fret beside the chart will tell you exactly where to start your first note.

Starting with your second finger on the third fret, go through the G major scale one note at a time.  When you get to the end, do the same thing in reverse.

The Big Secret To Playing ANY Scale

Complete all the notes on one string before moving to the next string. Start with your lowest note on the low E string, play the next note in the sequence to complete all the notes of the scale on the E string before you move on to the A string.

So in this example, you would play the 3rd fret of the E string (with your 2nd finger) and then play the 5th fret of the E string (with your pinky finger/4th finger). Then you would move to the 2nd fret of the A string with your first finger and do all 3 notes on the A string before moving to the D string and so on.

Often scales have at least 2 notes per string. In the case of the G Major Scale that I’m showing you here, there are 2-3 notes per string. So just remember that you need to complete ALL the notes on each string before you move onto the next string.

Lastly, just like your warm up scale, you want to prioritize these 3 things, in this order:how to improve guitar sound scales how to improve guitar timing scales how to improve speed on guitar scales


A great way to practice your scales is with a metronome! You can just search “online metronome” in your favorite search engine or there are many free apps like “Pro Metronome” in the Apple App Store. This tool will help you especially with #2 consistency (so you can improve your rhythm) and #3 Speed (you can keep track of how fast you can play it).

The scales we will learn next are actually EASIER than the major scale so stay tuned.

How To Play Power Chords On Electric Guitar For Beginners

Here’s How To Play Power Chords On Electric Guitar For Beginners.

The Power Chord & “Intervals”

must know music theory for beginner guitar playersBack to the fun stuff!  The first chord we’re going to learn is the power chord.  It’s only 2 notes, it’s extremely versatile, and it sounds…well… powerful!

With the G major scale fresh in mind, let me introduce to you the G5, or the “G power chord”. Remember the “Lesson-ception” concept? Here’s another lesson we can draw from that major scale.

A G5 chord consists of 2 notes – Your G (root note) combined with the 5th note of the major scale. It’s really that simple. This is a great way to understand what an “interval” is. Using your major scale, you can start to understand what major 3rds, perfect 4ths, perfect 5ths are and more. They’re just notes from the major scale that are associated or related to your first note. An interval!

To play a power chord – let’s reference the scale chart here. Play your G note with your first finger.  Then, 2 frets up and one string over, you’ll find the 5th note of the scale or “the 5th” with your third finger. how power chords are formedWhen you play these 2 notes at the same time, you get a “power chord”. This is the most common way to play a power chord, but there are a few different fingerings for power chords. So let’s talk about the next most common power chord shape.

*If you’re wondering about the orange marker and your 4th (or pinky) finger isn’t on it yet, try it out!

 More Lesson-Ception – “The Octave” In Power Chords, Drawn Out From Your Major Scale

This orange mark is the “octave”, or eighth note of the scale (take a look at that word – it’s got “oct” meaning 8).  It’s the same note as the first note of the major scale, just sounding higher up! This interval is called a “perfect octave”.

When you add it to your power chord, notice how it sounds just tiny bit thicker, or just subtly more ‘powerful’.  This string you’re fretting with your pinky finger is also a G, so we’re actually not adding a new note. Just stacking an additional note to fill it out a bit more.

Here Are 4 Different Finger Placements Of Power Chords That You Can Use For Powerful Results!

Have some fun with these shapes and see if you can switch 2 or 3 power chords together and make something sound musical. Try moving this exact same power chord shape over one string to the A-string. You can play this power chord shape on any fret of the guitar, starting on the E-string or the A-string!

4 different types of power chords

Another Way To Look At It:

Here are these different power chords tabbed out

*Note: these might make more sense after the “Advanced tab” section (chapter 14)

G Power chord V1_V2   G Power chord V3_V4

Powerful Tips For Powerful Chords:

  • Reference the last chapter on scale charts to read these chords.
  • These are visual representations of what power chords look like. It’s like your looking right down on top of the fret board. We will discuss more about chord charts in later chapters.
  • The numbers are referencing which fingers you can use.
  • Power chord #2 references the use of a “barre” with your 3rd finger – this is playing 2 notes at the same time with 1 finger (You can press on 2 strings using your 3rd finger).
  • I personally use all of these shapes and I would recommend getting used to all of them and figuring out which ones work the best for the application at hand.
  • Remember to play only the notes in the chord and not random open strings.
  • Plow your pick through all the notes simultaneously – make these chords sound full and powerful!
  • With all of this exciting new knowledge, it can be easy to forget some things. If you haven’t already, go back and review the first couple of chapters on proper technique before moving on.

How To Play Pentatonic Scales On Guitar Beginner

Here’s a Pentatonic Scales Guitar Lesson For Beginners. Pentatonics are great for blues and rock guitar playing. Enjoy the lesson!

Blues Guitar Scales For Beginners | Blues Pentatonic Scales Guitar Lesson

Here’s how to play the E & A blues scale on guitar. Also, we’ll talk about the difference between pentatonic scales and blues scales.

Pentatonic Scales

how to play pentatonic scales guitar emi pentaonicNow that you’re starting to get familiar with terms like “fifths” and “octaves”, we’re about to open the door to “Pentatonic Scales”. They are like normal scales with less notes!

Typically, scales have 7 notes.  Pentatonic scales have 5 notes.  That’s what makes Pentatonic scales special!

Penta = 5           Tonic = Tone

Pentatonic scales (especially minor pentatonics) are the framework for some of the most famous Rock, and Blues songs.  That riff you thought sounded so powerful, that solo you can’t get out of your head, good chance it’s based on a pentatonic scale!

Here on the left we have an E Minor Pentatonic Scale. If you need a refresher on how to play scale charts, check out the lesson on the major scale.

minor pentaonic scale guitar key of aNow take a look at the A minor pentatonic scale here on the right.  The Emi and Ami pentatonic scales, although they feel a lot different, are exactly the same scale, just played in a different key using and therefore, using different fingers.

In the Emi scale, all of your open strings can be played, in the Ami scale, your first finger is playing all the notes on the 5th fret taking the place of the nut.

Practicing These New Scales

Aside from practicing these over and over like crazy (which I recommend) with proper technique, a metronome and developing the 3 pillars of scales: Clean notes, consistency and speed – we can also use the internet as a great tool.

Searching for “backing tracks” on the internet or jamming along in the same key as your favorite songs, is one of the best ways to start putting your pentatonic scales to use.

You can try searching “Emi backing track” or “Ami backing track” or “Emi blues rhythm track” etc on YouTube and put your new knowledge to work! You’ll probably notice that the notes you’re playing on the guitar sound “right” against the backing track! Welcome to the land of improv!

Blues Scales

Blues Scales - Emi and Ami Pentatonic scales with added b5By now, we’re getting to know the sounds of different scales.  With the “Blues scale”, shown in the chart here, the sound is in the name.  Adding 1 more note to each octave of the pentatonic scale will make it perfect for a moodier, bluesy sound. Because the scale goes through 2 octaves, it may feel and seem like we’re adding 2 new notes to the pentatonic scale, but trust me – it’s just 1 extra note!

Thanks for checking out the video and article of Rock Guitar Music Theory For Beginner Guitarists – Module 3 – Must Know Scales  5 min gtr chapters – 10-13

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Thanks and keep on rippin it! – Will Ripley & Mike B