Major guitar scales are the foundation of most popular music. You can use major guitar scales to improvise solos, learn to play songs, or even write your own songs. Once you’ve got major guitar scales down, you will find them useful in much of your playing.
All major guitar scales use the same scale formula and intervals, which you can apply to any major scale, regardless of its root note. The formula is made up of whole steps and half steps: Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step.
If you put that on your guitar and start on the third fret on G, you’ll get the G Major Scale, and the notes are as follows: G A B C D E F#. From G to A is one whole step, or two half steps (2 semitones) (G – G# – A); from A to B is one whole step, or two half steps (A – A# – B); from B to C is one half step (B – C); from C to D is one whole step (C – C# – D); from D to E is one whole step (D – D# – E); from E to F# is one whole step (E – F – F#); from F# to G is one half step (F# – G).
Major guitar scales are diatonic scales, meaning they progress through the pitches in a two-tone (whole step/half step) pattern and don’t skip any note names. A step is just a measure of distance between two notes.
A whole step on the guitar is equal to two frets while a half step is equal to one fret. You may also see them referred to as semitones. A whole step equals two semitones while a half step equals one semitone.
This pattern holds true for all major guitar scales. You can form a C major scale, D major scale, etc. all by using this same pattern.
Practicing Major Guitar Scales
When practicing major scales, it’s important to find the fingerings that work for you. It might take some experimentation to find what’s right for you. Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep your fingers low and close the fretboard and use your fingertips.
Start slow, and work up to speed over time. Practice makes perfect! It’s very important that you spend the time nailing the major guitar scale patterns down because they are the basis for most music you’ll be playing.
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Major Guitar Scales: About the Educator
by Jeff Scheetz
Jeff is the Director of Education at TrueFire. He has released 8 CDs of original music and 9 video courses for TrueFire. He has toured the US, Europe, and Mexico, sharing the stage with the likes of the Scorpions, .38 Special, ELO, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and many more. He’s performed over 300 guitar clinics worldwide for Yamaha guitars and been featured in Guitar, Guitar Player, Guitar School, and Guitar World magazines, as well as numerous magazines in Japan and Europe. His name has been on the Ernie Ball Super Slinky string package.
He was listed in the “100 Gifted Guitarists you Should Know.” His music can be heard everywhere from Toyota and Chevrolet commercials to the “All My Children” soap opera! If he doesn’t have a guitar in his hands, he probably has a Frisbee – he travels and competes with his two World Champion Frisbee dogs, Towser and Killian.
He writes and teaches about skill-building, getting better, practice methods, and more at SmartPracticeAcademy.com.