Country music has seen a growth in popularity in recent years, even in the rock community. It’s not the same “cowboys” only approach that used to be the case. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of country music, of course, but today’s country music is getting more accessible.
On a musical level, there’s a lot less distance between country music and pop rock than there used to be, with a common bonding ground called the blues. The scales used in country music are the same scales used in other genres as well. Country guitar scales begin with major scales. The major scale is the foundation and starting point for country music just like it is in so other genres. A lot of country flavor can be rung out of the old standby. Of the major scales available, G, C, A, and F are popular keys. There’s no statistics for this, but if you check out a wide selection of country music song, for some reason you’ll find these keys used frequently.
The blues scale is another scale used frequently in country music. Like other genres of music, the blues is a key source of inspiration for country guitar players. The blues scale is an altered form of the major scale. While there are a couple of variations on the blues scale, the one I’m talking about is a six note scale with a raised (sharped 4th) and a lowered (flatted 5th).
Pentatonic scales are also used as country guitar scales. There are two types of pentatonic scales, the major and minor. The major pentatonic scale has five notes with this set of intervals: 1-1-1 ½ -1-1 ½. Starting on any note and playing these intervals will give you the notes in the pentatonic scale for the key named after your starting (root) note.
The intervals for the minor pentatonic are: 1 ½ -1 -1–1 ½ -1. The interval pattern is just another way of saying formula. Like the major pentatonic, applying this series of intervals to any starting note will give you the minor pentatonic scale in the same key as your starting, or root, note.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules about country guitar scales. You can play what you want. Experimentation is the mother of invention. Still, if you want to play country guitar scales that have been used in both traditional and contemporary country music settings for decades, the scales presented here are the foundational scales of the genre.