Popular Guitar Solo Scales Every Guitarist Should Know

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Popular Guitar Solo Scales Every Guitarist Should Know


Playing the famous solos from your favorite guitarists and improvising in their style is one of the most exciting things you can do with your guitar.

The main aspect when playing guitar solos is the scales. So learning how to read guitar scales is a must.

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There are a few “must know” guitar scales for beginners that can help you become a great guitar player, fast.

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Scales to know by genre;

There are a number of scales used in music and they generally differ according to the genre in which they are most often used.

Naturally, just as there are differences between genres, there are also some similarities, so you will find that the same scale can be used in a variety of styles. In this article, you will find the most common guitar scales explained. We also focus on how to play guitar scales so that you can master your favorite guitar solos.

So let’s take a look at the most common scales that can be found in different styles, but also those that are specific to each genre.


Rock is probably the genre where the guitar solo is most valued. The solo is everything in rock music.

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There are several scales that create the recognizable rock sound, so here are the three most popular.

An ideal example of a solo with this scale is “I Want It All” by Queen.

The song is in the key of B with a powerful intro and a dynamic solo using the B blues pentatonic scale.


The harmonic minor scale is very popular with many rock guitarists, including Slash with his famous solo in “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N ‘Roses.

The solo is divided into two parts with two different chord progressions in the key of E minor.


An example of this scale is the solo from the song “All Right Now” by Free.

The chord progression is A, G, and D, so the solo is played using the A major pentatonic scale.



The basic scales in blues music are the inspiration and basis of all the other scales used for solos in each genre.

And here are the three most used scales in blues.

As an example of this scale, I would single out “Rock Me Baby” by BB King in the key of C, using the C blues pentatonic scale.

This song is a typical blues song, it is a must-know song that has a simple chord progression and it’s easy to master.


This scale is found in “Key To The Highway” by Eric Clapton.

All the chords used in the song are A, D, and E, which means that the head scale is the A major blues pentatonic scale.


A song that has a solo with minor scale notes is “Road To Hell” by Chris Rea.

The chord progression itself is in the key of A minor and it indicates the A minor scale.



Metal is Rock and Roll’s and Hard Rock’s younger brother.

This music is recognizable for its power and dynamics, a specific sound, and its mood.

This minor scale is the basis of the solo of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.

The song begins with an intro using notes from the E minor scale.

The song has two solos where the first one is played over the main riff in the key of E, and the second one is in the key of F sharp.


The song that highlights the phrygian scale is “Powerslave” by Iron Maiden.

The sound of this scale dominates throughout the song from which the intro, the riff, and the solo are made.

This song is in the key of A minor which means that the main scale for solo is the A phrygian.


A good example of a solo that has a chromatic scale is the solo from the song “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth.

It begins with chromatic notes over the riff in the key of E.



This genre is not based on soloing but there are a few exceptions that are worth mentioning for all those who enjoy playing solo.

Here the main purpose of good solos is the way they follow the story itself.

This scale is part of the solo from “Californication” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

The song is in the key of A minor but the part on which the solo is played has a different chord progression which is in the key from A major, so the solo is played with the A major scale.


The legendary “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana is one of the best examples of a solo using the F minor scale which is based on the vocal melody.

The song is in the key of F.


Yes, here’s the blues pentatonic scale again.

A good solo with this scale is from the song “Alive” by Pearl Jam.

The song is in the key of E and the solo is played in the E blues scale.



Country music is close to blues music so they share some elements, mostly chord progressions and scales.

  • Country Pentatonic Scale

“Chattahoochee” by Alan Jackson is a classic example of a solo song played with this scale.

The song is in the key of C, the scale is C major pentatonic with added E flat.


  • Blues Pentatonic Scale

The already well-known blues scale is part of the solo of “Play Something Country” by Brooks & Dunn.

The song is in the key of G with a solo using the E minor pentatonic scale.


  • Major Scale

“Remember when” by Alan Jackson is a perfect example of A major scale used for soloing over the whole song.

The song is in the key of A, of course.



Pop music, aka “popular music” is known for the standard structure of songs, namely the layout of the verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, and the solo.

  • Minor Scale

“Shine” by Mr.Big is a song that although it is in the key of E flat, the solo is played over a different minor chord progression in C, so the solo uses the C minor scale.


  • Major Scale

Prince’s legendary solo in “Purple Rain” is played over a major chord progression in the key of B flat and the main scale is B flat major.


  • Blues Pentatonic Scale

A good example of this scale is the solo from “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol.

There is a great melodic solo in the key of B where Steve Stevens plays the B blues pentatonic scale.



In this genre it’s all about scales, the options are innumerable and the source depends on the chord progression.

There are three must-know scales for playing jazz that are enough to get you started as you enter the jazz world.

  • Ionian Scale

Although there are a bunch of songs and artists whose solos use this scale, my suggestion is “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin.

This jazz song is in the key of B flat, so the main scale is the B flat Ionian.

  • Dorian Scale

“Footprints” by Wayne Shorter is an example of a jazz standard with a solo in the C Dorian scale so the song is in the key of C minor.

  • Phrygian scale

Unlike the previous two, this scale is more specific and this is noticeable in the jazz standard “Caravan” by Duke Ellington.

The song is divided into two parts, and for the first part, one of the options is the C Phrygian scale.

How to read guitar scales tabs

One of the tools for learning scales is guitar scales tabs.

Reading the tabs is very easy because it is very visual and all you have to do is count the frets.

There are 6 lines that represent the 6 strings of the guitar.

On each of the lines (strings), there are numbers that indicate the frets.

How to practice and learn scales

The best way to practice scales is to learn different solos and phrases so that you learn notes in context, and not just isolated notes.

Learning the scales is done by revealing the actual finger setting and the root notes around which the other notes from the scale are played.

How do professional guitarists play scales on a guitar solo?

Professional guitarists know most of the scales, so using them is easy.

All they do is choose the right notes from the scale to build melodies and phrases.

This seems simple enough, but choosing the right notes depends on the experience and time spent practicing.

How to solo pentatonic scales in various keys

Once you have learned the pentatonic scale from several positions so that your fingers can move freely through the fretboard, all you have to do is select the start note.

This is easy to do because the guitar works according to patterns, so the arrangement of notes and fingers from each position is repeated in the same way.

How to use scale patterns and sequences to create leads and solos

Surely you have noticed that your favorite guitarists have created several recognizable patterns and sequences, thus building a unique and recognizable expression.

You have the same task.

When exercising constantly, you create your own phrases and when you have the chance to play a solo, you use them in various positions (depending on the key) by repeating, modifying, and combining.

By | 2023-04-03T07:53:44-08:00 May 13th, 2020|Learn Guitar|Comments Off on Popular Guitar Solo Scales Every Guitarist Should Know

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