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Guitar Tutorial - Major Scales

This is a two part guitar tutorial covering major scales.

Major Scales

What you need: A guitar and 30 minutes of your time.

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Acoustic guitarist major scales
Acoustic guitarist major scales
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Table of Contents

Scope

This will teach the fundaments of melody & harmony using a guitar. At the end of this tutorial, you will understand how to go about playing a major scale in any key. You will know how to form chords by extracting notes from a scale. You will understand enough to be able to create your own chord shapes anywhere on the fretboard and in any key. Not bad for an hour’s work!

Experience Level

An absolute beginner could use this tutorial, but it’s really for those who have some experience & playing ability. If you can play a major scale reasonably fluently, you are well qualified.

Method

The fingers learn slowly, and so need hours of repetitive practice. The intention of this & subsequent tutorials is to gain maximum applied understanding from minimal study & practice. Note! The fretboard charts may appear upside down too many. The view is as of your own guitar, not the mirrored view of someone playing in front of you. Stick with it.

Part 1: Scales

Scales are foundation stones of both technique and understanding.

Table #1 shows all the notes within an octave. The top row (chromatic) consists of 13 notes from C to C inclusive. There are actually only 12 notes because the 13th is another C of course.

The blue highlighting shows where the 7 notes of the C major scale occur within the chromatic one. If we play these highlighted notes, we play the scale of C major.

The Pattern Of Intervals

The 7 notes of the scale are usually referred to as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. It’s easier to understand this way. There are two further points worth noting.

1/ All the notes of this scale exclude sharps (#). This only applies to the major scale of C. Think of them as the white keys on a piano.

2/ Of more importance is the pattern of intervals. Each column represents a semitone. There is no semitone ‘gap’ between the 3rd and 4th intervals. The same is true of the 7th and the octave (C).

Table 1 - C Major Pattern Of Intervals
Table 1 - C Major Pattern Of Intervals

This pattern of intervals defines a major scale:-

tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone

In the C major example in Table #1, you can see that the 7 notes of the scale are C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The 3rd = E, the 5th = G etc.

Using the above pattern of intervals as a template, you can play a major scale in any key. Your starting point will determine the key. The starting point is the 1 (or root note). You don’t have to learn what the notes are called, just remember the pattern.

Guitar Fretboard Charts

Below are three fretboard charts. They are for those that may want examples. The top two show the applied scale of C major at different octaves. The frets are numbered & the finger positions are shown. Finger position numbers 1 and 8 are both C, the 2 is the 2nd, the 3 is the 3rd, etc. The bottom chart is for note reference only. It shows all the notes on conventional guitar in concert tuning up to the 12th fret. Play the sequence through beginning at 1 and finishing at 8 (the octave).

Obviously, if you then want to practice a D major scale, just begin 2 frets (1 tone) further up. ie: begin at the 10th fret instead of the 8th.

3 Guitar Fretboard Charts
3 Guitar Fretboard Charts - Major Scales

Related Articles

If you want to find out more about playing or maintaining the guitar? If so, you can find articles and tutorials on our Guitar Articles page.

Part 2: Major Scale - Chords

3 Downward Pointing Arrows

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