How to Play the Major Scale on Guitar (lesson 1)
How to Play the Major Scale on Guitar!
Hey Guitar Player, sup?!
In this article, we're gonna figure out scales once and for good, so if that’s your first time getting onto this topic, GREAT! No one will have an opportunity to confuse you.
If it’s not, we’re here to put everything in order, to the point, and in-depth!
☝️ Don’t be afraid of learning, it can be a tiring process, and the first step is always the hardest but knowledge (especially in music) is power!
When it comes to playing an instrument, it’s never about talent, it’s always about commitment.
🎼 Understanding the theory and functionality of music is essential, this way you’ll be able to teach yourself in the future and if you desire, develop a professional career as a player.
My Beginner Stroy 📖
In my first years as a guitar player, I was taught by a well-known (amazing) guitar player (and person).
His method never included music theory, and when looking back, I know that fact made the beginning of my guitar-journey a lot more confusing.
I just remember having so many questions... and looking at other people play or breaking down songs by ear just looked like magic to me…
What it really was, is a methodical learning process and self-confidence.
As a young man, I was just not mature enough to acknowledge that and I got frustrated and thought I was just not good enough.
Okay enough manifesting… Let’s learn some music.
Our subject for today is SCALES! YAY!
But wait, why do I need to learn scales?
The answer to that question is, to me, simple.
Musical theory, in general, will make you understand the way music functions, it is the language of music and by learning the language, you can start talking.
In simple words, it’s like acquiring different tools for your workshop, it’s like installing various softwares on your computer, it will simply make you a more versatile and smarter musician.
Why do we start specifically with scales?
We, humans, are musical creatures. We always hear scales whether we know it or not.
Any simple combination of sounds in different frequencies will trigger some kind of pattern-thinking in our heads that will tie what we hear in a certain musical frame, therefore, learning scales is also the most logical way of understanding the mechanism and functionality of music.
So… what is a scale?
The basic way to put it, without diving into the science behind it, is that a scale is simply a sequence of musical notes.
Each scale holds a set of chords, rules, and functions inside of it, and these rules can be used, stretched, and manipulated in many creative and interesting ways.
Songs can be built using one or various keys. Some songs can be simpler and will use one scale, in more complex genres like Jazz, there can be various key changes in one song.
Things will get clearer soon, don’t worry!
The Major scale is the name of the pattern. We can start this pattern from any root note.
For example, a major scale with C as its root note will be named C major scale.
C Major Scale
..and a major scale with G as its root note will be named G Major scale.
The sequence of tones and semi-tones constructing the major scale goes like this: 1-1-½-1-1-1-½
This pattern will always represent a Major scale!
C Major scale
That means that if we’ll take this pattern and retrace it from any given note, we will get this root’s Major scale.
If we’ll start this sequence from C we will get a C Major scale, if we will start it from G, we will get a G Major.
G Major Scale
That’s pretty simple to understand, now let’s understand how to play it on the guitar.
When we, guitarists, learn scales, we do it by using a position for every scale, but first, we need to study the guitar’s 6th bass string.
(and 5th, it will be useful in the next lessons)
Now, after studying the notes of the 6th string, we have a starting point for each position.
We have 7 positions in total, one for each step of the scale -
C D E F G A B
Note: even though we will start from 7 different notes, the scale we are playing will always be C Major.
in this exercise, we will play all the diatonic notes of the C Major scale, each time starting from another diatonic note.
The note ‘C’ marked in red in every position is the root note of C Major scale.
C Major Position 1 (starting from C):
C Major Position 2 (starting from D):
C Major Position 3 (starting from E):
C Major Position 4 (starting from F):
C Major Position 5 (starting from G):
C Major Position 6 (starting from A):
C Major Position 7 (starting from B):
If you want to master these positions, you'd better transpose and practice these on EVERY scale! ☝🏽
After learning the positions, let’s see how to practice them.
One of the most important things when practicing scales is doing it with a metronome!
We use the metronome for two reasons:
1. When practicing scales with a metronome, you are practicing not only scales but your timing as well.
Practicing with even a drumbeat is not recommended because the drum hits are more scattered than the metronome’s click and you won’t notice when you’re dragging!
2. It’s easier to record any progress. The first day practicing - 60BPM, second day - 70BPM, etc.
In order to assimilate these positions in your hands and mind, you need to practice short sessions EVERY DAY!!!
Major Scale Exercise - Step by Step:
Start with the going over the positions without a metronome.
Set a low tempo (50BPM) and play every pattern using whole notes (beat value chart below).
Slowly crank up the tempo, do it only when the pattern is played perfectly and after a while move to playing quarter notes.
We recommend going up to 100-120 BPM (quarter notes), at these tempos, your intuition starts working and that's what we want to trigger!
- Spread this process onto 2-5 weeks and make sure to practice 10-30 minutes EVERY DAY, that's the secret. Jamming 4 hours with distortion for 5 hours won't help you progress, but it sure is fun! 😝
beat value chart