8064402686_1812d374fc_zThere are not many kids who like learning scales. Why would they? Think about having to learn all the unique fingerings, whole steps, half steps, etc. on a piano. But on guitar, you only have to teach scale “shapes” (at least to start) freeing you up to teach all of the amazing things that come with scales!

Scales can be a great way to teach improvisation, theory, ear training, and composition. On guitar, you just have to teach the kids a pattern and they’re up and running. Take a look at these 6 Must-Have Scales; they are just patterns that you can run (for the most part) up and down the fretboard.

If you don’t teach your students the major scale, you’re probably a secret agent posing as a music teacher. The nice thing about teaching the scale on guitar is that students can learn the “shape” of the scale. Pictured above is a Major scale; it could be anywhere on the neck of the guitar with the first dot as the root note. The “shape” or pattern of this scale can be used almost anywhere on the neck of the guitar. If you start on the first fret of the 6th or 5th string (F and Bb respectively), you can use the same shape to play the major scale all the way up the fretboard!

You’re definitely teaching the minor scale to your students, especially if you’re a secret agent. The same “shape” concept applies for Minor. Learn this scale shape and you can play a minor scale starting on any note on the fretboard (provided you start on the 6th or 5th string). The first note you play is the tonic or root of the scale. If you start with an open string, your next two notes are the 2nd and 3rd frets – get it?

Pentatonic Minor
If the guitar is cake, the pentatonic scale is the icing. Guitarists love their pentatonic scales, so these are great to teach. The Pentatonic scales get their name from having five (penta) notes (tonic). The “shape” of the scale strongly resembles the Minor scale shape, but it sounds much bare and gritty. Same rules apply: start on the 6th or 5th string and you can take it all the way up the fret board.

Pentatonic Major
Another pentatonic scale, but vastly different in character. You can feel the warm, earthy nature of this scale thanks to the major 3rd. Same “shape” concept applies again as long as you start on the 1st fret of the 6th or 5th string (F or Bb respectively).

Blues Scale
If you want to get your kids addicted to guitar, teach them the blues scale. It looks a lot like the Pentatonic Minor shape, but it has a tritone (flat 5th) that adds a little chromatic flash. This note will add lots of musical tension to solos and improvisations, but use it wisely. Same “shape” concept applies across the entire fretboard!

Harmonic Minor
This scale combines the best parts of major and minor. It makes music sound mysterious and adds lot of texture to improvisation. The same “shape” concept applies across the entire fretboard as long as you start on the 6th or the 5th string.

These scales are patterns are easy and your kids will eat them up. After they’ve memorized the patterns, teach them the underlying notes….a little bit different, but just more patterns.