Guitar Smith Online® Blog

How to Read a Scale Graph

November 18th, 2016 by


This week’s post is written especially for those of you who are new to playing guitar, or those who are considering taking up this great instrument and are looking for a little bit of direction. If you haven’t done so already, take a few minutes to check out and start our free 10-week beginner guitar course. In the meantime, in this post, we’ll cover how to read a simple scale graph.

Graph 1:


Graph 1 shows how a fretboard looks on paper/screen. The nut has grooves for the strings to set into so they have even spacing on the neck. The metal bars running across the fretboard are the actual frets, but it is the space in between the bars that are referred to as frets. Keep in mind that any string that is not played with a finger positioned on a note is called an open string.

Learning the strings on the graph can be confusing at first. Imagine your guitar flipped upside down. This would mean that the low E string (the thickest string on your guitar) is on the bottom and the high E is on the top (the smallest string on the guitar).

Graph 2:


There are designated numbers that correspond to each finger of your playing hand. The index finger being your 1st, middle finger 2nd, ring finger 3rd, and pinky finger 4th.

Graph 3:


The final piece of the puzzle is to add the fingers to the fretboard (Graph 3). To play this scale, you would start with the lowest note, in this case the 1st finger, 6th string, 2nd fret; then move on to the 2nd and 4th fingers on the same string. Continue this pattern on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings, and so on, until you reach the highest note of the scale.

As you’ve probably noticed, some of the fingerings have a square instead of a circle. I use this shape to represent the tonic/root of the key that you are playing in. This is a subject for a later time; for now, become familiar with reading scale graphs. The better your understanding of how scales look on paper, the easier it will be to learn guitar.



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