Play It Loud

scales over chords, what scales work over what chords

One of the most common stumbling blocks every aspiring guitarist encounters is knowing how to choose a scale to solo with.

However many of you probably have no idea which scales to use with what chords…….

So I wrote this article to give you a couple of examples that’ll not only explain this process, but also explain a crucial error that you’re probably making every time you play a scale.

Keep reading this article to see what that error is……..

Scales to play over chords, scales over chords, what scales work with which chords, which scale should i use over this chord progression

When you’re learning how to do your own guitar solos, you’ve gotta understand that……

There is no right or wrong scale to use with what chords!

Sometimes you can use one scale over an entire chord progression. But most of the time you shouldn’t.

That’s because many chord progressions aren’t written to stay exactly within the key signature of a song.

Nearly all country, rock, blues, and jazz progressions veer out of the confines of key signature and so forth.


But also, there is almost little difference between scales and chords.

You see another problem is that you’ve been trained to see chord shapes and scale patterns, and you probably don’t know how they overlap.

So instead of memorizing tons of rules for which scales work with which, it’s easier to understand how chords and scales are formed.


For instance, you can use these scales to play over the A major chord……

A Major Chord = A – C# – E

D Major/B Minor = D – E – F# – G – A – B – C#

E Major/C# Minor = E – F# – G# – A – B – C#

However you don’t have to even use these scales either.

You can use scales that have just two of those A major notes!

So how do you figure this out on your own?

Well I can easily make this a much longer article, but here’s the essential factors to learning how to do this…….

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The Scale Chord Relationship Is Key To Understanding Which Scales To Play With What Chords

If you’ve read this far, I’ll give you a secret that’ll help you tremendously after I tell you about this next key musical concept.

Memorize the notes of every chord!

That’s it. Do that, learn how to turn a major into minor, and how to turn a major into a 7th chord and so on……..

And you will have so much more creativity to utilize in your soloing.


And that brings us to the chord/scale relationship.

All this means is that every scale is an expansion of the three or so notes in a chord.

For instance, the A major scale is just more notes added onto to the A major chord.

A Major Chord: A – C# – E

A Major Scale: A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G#


Some other things you may not know about chords too.

Adding the B to A major makes it Asus2.

Adding the G# makes it a Amaj7.

However remember what I said in the previous section though……

You don’t have to use A major scales over A major chords!

Chords and scales are fluid, which means that many, many chords overlap.

C#m is closely related to A, as well as F#m and Dmaj7.

You’re virtually unlimited by what scale patterns you can use to make with whichever chords when you see how much they overlap.


2 Examples Of Using Scales Over Chords

Now that you know this concept, how would you use the pentatonic scale? How do you see how to use it?

Literally the exact same way!

However the pentatonic scales have 2 less notes in the scale, hence the penta part.

These scales are just as fluid as all the major and minor scales we just talked about.


Now I want you to take a look at the “Hotel California” Solo and the “Comfortably Numb” Solo.



It’s easier for you to open the tabs in a new link and check it out there as I talk about these solos briefly.

The first thing you should start looking for is CHORD TONES!!!

Forget about scale patterns as many solos, like that of Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai, will veer away wildly from set patterns anyhow.

So depending on how well you know each chord and it’s shapes across the neck, you may go through these examples fast or slow.

Just break down each chord, look at which notes Joe Walsh then David Gilmour choose to play, and then move to the next chord.

You see if you had already chosen B minor pentatonic as the scale to use for Hotel California’s solo, you’d probably miss out on a lot of the richness that’s going on in the solo.

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Here’s both progressions for reference…….

Hotel California: Bm – F#7 – Asus2 – E – G – D – Em7 – F#7 (repeat)

Comfortably Numb: D – A – D – A – C – G – C – G – (Asus4 – A – G/B) – (Csus2 – G5) – D

Now you know the truth about how these legendary solos are made, and how a pro will make their decisions over which scales to play.

But if you knew more about the relationship between scales and chords, chords and key signatures, note choices and rhythm, etc……..

You’d be able to see every little thing that Joe Walsh or David Gilmour or any guitarist is doing.