The chromatic scale is one of the easiest scales to understand and also one of the most incorrectly played by guitarists. Let’s look at this, the “mother of all scales”, and explore some useful chromatic scale patterns for the guitar.
The chromatic scale is made up entirely of half-step or semi-tone intervals (the distance of one fret). Therefore, the chromatic scale includes every note within an octave, twelve notes in all.
Like most scales on the guitar, we will typically change strings to get smooth access to all notes within the octave. Here is the same chromatic scale written out across the first three strings. Note in the example I move the finger position up one fret for the descending pattern. I will continue this in all remaining examples.
Other than between strings 2 and 3, the tuning of the guitar requires us to change positions to access every half-step within the chromatic scale. Many popular 1-finger-per-fret guitar exercises say they use the chromatic scale exercise. Take a look at my Spider Guitar Warmup lesson for a typical example. In fact, most of these are only quasi-chromatic patterns, utilizing a section of the chromatic scale but often skipping a note on string changes. A true chromatic scale pattern is shown below, which also makes a great warm-up by the way.
The same pattern of notes could be played in position by temporarily sliding out of position to grab the next half-step and then returning.