Guitar Major Scale

Click Here for a Great DVD Course that Teaches the Major Scale for GuitarThe Major scale is most fundamental component of modern Western music – from classical to pop to country to metal, its relevance spans the spectrum. The notes of the major scale define which notes exist in a given Key and therefore define which notes are the fundamental building blocks for constructing harmony both in terms of chords and melody. For example, the notes of the G-Major scale are:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#

Consequently, much music written in the Key of G will be constructed using these notes. For guitar, this applies to both rhythm and lead guitar.

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Often it is instructive to think of the guitar Major scale in terms of the “step pattern,” that is the distance between each of the consecutive notes. Going from root to root, the pattern is:

W  W  H  W  W  W  H

Where W stands for Wholetone (two frets apart) and H means Halftone (1 fret apart).

Even for music that is not based on the Major scale directly, we define the music in terms of changes to the Major scale. For example, we still associate it with a given musical Key which defines a working framework for understanding the music based on the notes of the major scale of that Key. We may be sharping or flatting certain notes within the Key, but the notes of the Key are location from where we start.

This point was especially driven home for me during a flash of insight that occurred while listening to a recording of Randy Rhoads giving a guitar clinic. At one point during the clinic, the late guitarist started taking questions and members of the audience began to ask him about licks or chord progressions that he had recorded. For every answer, the first thing that Randy said was the Key that the piece of music is in. To me, this clearly communicated that he perceived the Key to be the most important aspect of the music he was describing. He could have just started naming chords, or positions or patterns. He didn’t. He stated the Key. From that point forward, I started to take the notion of Key and the notes of the guitar Major scale more seriously. If you have not reached this point yourself, I would encourage you to do the same.

To be truly effective at playing the guitar, you need to learn the notes of the major scale at all positions on the neck, in every key. This may sound daunting, but usually it amounts to memorizing a handful of patterns – between 5 and 7 depending on which ones you use – and then having the discipline to practice the patterns in different Keys. Unlike a piano, which has non-uniform white and black keys (i.e. ivory and ebony – not musical Keys), all notes are treated equally on the guitar. Clearly, the frets get smaller as you ascend up the neck – this is a matter of physics and acoustics. However, all notes are affected equivalently without regard to Key. Therefore, once you learn the patterns for one key, you can easily shift the same patterns all around the neck in order to play in different Keys.

Of course, I’ve just touched on the subject of the guitar Major scale. For a DVD course that does a great job teaching the Major scale and all other aspects of playing the guitar, get Steve Krenz’s Learn and Master Guitar.

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