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Guitar Blog Q and A:
Reading Scale Diagrams | Determining Key Signature | Key Center

Q: Hey Andrew...firstly i just want to thank you for having this website, as a relatively new guitarist, and not having taken any formal lessons, i have to say this site and your videos have been the most helpful and informative place for me to learn from. So, I truly thank you for sharing your experience. I'm at a point where I'm wanting to learn scales. I've downloaded your scale handout, but I'm having trouble reading them to play.

I realize the black dots are what you pick in order from low E string to high E string, playing each set of notes on one string before moving to the next string. But, what are the black dots with a larger circle around them? Is this the root note? If so, is the root always in the same place even when moving the scale say from a 5th fret position to a 8th fret position?

Also, when listening to a song and finding a song key for solo's. How do you actually find this key? Is there an easy way to know when I go to make guitar licks?

A: As per the scale handout. The circled dots are indeed the root notes. If you need a, "G Major" scale - make sure those circled dots are on "G" notes. Once one of the dot's are lined-up, so are all of the others.

And, yes if you slide them along the neck the template of those octave notes will always stay the same. On the 5th fret you would have an, "A Major" scale, but sliding the dots to 8th fret would give you a, "C Major" scale. The same thing applies to the pentatonics as well as the Minor scales.

About finding the songs key-center, that can be a tough one. Almost 90% of the time the key-center is the same as the first chord you hear in the song. If the first chord was, "D Minor," then it is very likely the key is "D Minor." However, in about 10-20% of the other cases you need to dig deeper, and have a good knowledge of Harmonic Analysis. In other words you'd really need to know how to analyze musical arrangement. And that would take a considerable amount of study and practical knowledge. More than I could fit here unfortunately.

Thanks - Hope this helps!
~ Andrew Wasson


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