I am in my middle age, started to learn guitar only 6 months ago. I do not have any career ambition in music instead it's more like a hobby. So far I have managed to learn quite a lot when it comes to guitar -chords, strumming patterns, scales, Intervals, Circle of Fifths, fret-board knowledge, octaves, unisons, Barre chords, CAGED system, basics of Key, finger-muscle building practice exercises etc. As you know 6 months is not enough for anyone to be an expert in this area. But I feel confident that I know a lot of music theory now but my playing skills are still at the beginner's level

Coming to the crux of this post, I have been doing research on the necessity to learn the scales. In fact I am reasonably comfortable with practicing scales now (all the 7 positions up and down the neck). Everyone seems to say master the scales as much as possible but as I try to practice them I see no obvious benefits in learning them. Mind you, as I said I have no plans of writing/creating my own music, instead my interest is only on learning a few songs which I can hopefully play at events in the future.

So my hypothetical question is this - If I were to learn let's say for example Nothing Else Matters by Metallica, how exactly is the knowledge of scales going to help me here? Before I started to learn the scales, I learnt to play a few other songs such as Romeo and Juliet by The Killers, Comfortably Numb and a few others. It's not at the expert level, nevertheless I would like to think it's not too bad for someone who touched the guitar barely 6 months ago. So far I was learning to play melody by memorising all the notes so I would like to know if scales help at all here?

This question I am asking in this post is only to help me get the idea of how exactly scales help me in this situation. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

Ps. By the way, a big thanks to all those gentle souls on YouTube, and forums such as this, for helping people like me learn music - a few years ago I would never even have imagined such a way to learn something was possible! May you be abundantly blessed!

  • Scales are by far the most important construct in music as both the melody and harmony is derived from them. Nothing Else Matters is played in E minor. As you listen to the song, play notes from this scale and you'll see that it fits with the melody and harmony. you'll also find that all the chords that this song uses are diatonic chords of E minor. note that the v chord is usually played as V chord, so B major instead of B minor. (harmonic minor) piano-keyboard-guide.com/key-of-e-minor.html – user34288 Mar 4 '19 at 2:22
  • Thank you. I think I am getting the overall idea now. – Steve Mar 4 '19 at 8:33

Welcome! By and large, mainstream music contains songs that use notes from one key. Diatonic notes. By knowing the scales, one can cut out the other notes which probably wouldn't feature in a particular song. Those are called the chromatic notes.

By knowing major, three minors, maj. and min. pentatonics, maj. and min. blues scales, one can isolate the working notes for particular tunes.The scales themselves aren't a lot of use, as not many pieces just go up and down scales. But humans like to organise, so a set of notes which constitute say, F# major, we play up and down in order as the F# major scale. When it's done enough, that set of notes becomes implanted in fingers and brain, so when we play a piece in F# major, we know which notes are very likely to be used in it.

  • Thank you. That helped me get a sense of perspective. So basically what you are saying is that scales help us confine our fingers to a subset of relevant notes from the natural notes for a particular tune (scale) so it helps us to be in the right area of the fret-board and this happens subconsciously over time? – Steve Mar 4 '19 at 8:31
  • @Steve when you listen to a song it usually is just played using 7 notes (a scale) that includes both the melody (the singing) and harmony (the chords), so it doesn't use all 12 chromatic notes of an octave. that's why scales are so relevant. – user34288 Mar 4 '19 at 12:51

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