Tech Tip:Learning Scales in Multiple Keys

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This Q & A comes from the "Ask the Teacher" section of It’s loaded with great advice for developing guitarists. From the fundamentals of playing to sophisticated solos and modal techniques, there are priceless tips to take your skills to a higher plane. Read our entire library of Rock House articles.




Don Hemmer; Salt Lake City, UT



Q: First off I love your DVDs, they rock my socks, and they are a wonderful source of learning; I have referred your DVDs to many of my friends. I have a couple of questions that I hope you can help me with:



A: Once you know the scales they are the same patterns no matter what key you choose, you just play them on different frets. I suggest that you now focus on the key of A and memorize all five positions in this key, since the two most popular keys are E & A. Here are the frets to play all five scales in A:


  • 1st position - 5th fret
  • 2nd position - 7th fret
  • 3rd position - 10th fret
  • 4th position - 12th fret
  • 5th position - 15th or 3rd fret


Once you have the A and E scales memorized you should be able to get the other keys fairly easy by relation as follows:



  • B would be just two frets up from A
  • G would be just two frets down from A
  • D would be two frets down from E
  • F is just one fret up from E



As far as "speaking" with the scales, this will take some time and practice. Try playing the scales over progressions and start to use them as creative tools instead of thinking of them as scales. This will get you on your way to making that guitar talk!



  1. You play the natural minor scale in the key of E in your DVD. I have memorized that scale and all 5 positions as well as mixing the positions together and connecting them like Legos, but when I go to play in another key I get so confused and lost that I don’t know where I’m at in the scale when I’m improvising.

  3. Do you have any tips that will help me flow through the scales in any key without getting confused? I always choke and get stuck when it comes to different keys playing the natural minor scale. Please help me.


    Do you have any practice suggestions or any suggestions at all on how I can play better leads and feel the solos? I know the natural minor scale in the key of E, but yet I can’t feel the leads and "speak" my solos.