Major Scales 101 (lesson)

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In this lesson we are going to discuss what is probably the most important scale in Western music. The reason that it is so important, apart from the fact that it gets used in a huge proportion of modern songs, is that it is also the foundation of our musical system. We use it as a basis for describing intervals, building chords and specifying key signatures. In most cases, the Major scale is assumed as the norm from which other scales deviate. The only other scale that approaches the prominence of the Major scale is the Minor scale, which is itself derived from the Major scale - which we will look at in a later lesson.

With that in mind, lets have a look at it!

The Major Scale

The Major scale is a 7 note scale, built using the formula: 2 2 1 2 2 2 1

You should be familiar with scale formulae from the previous lessons. Lets have a look at how we would build a scale of G major. Obviously our root note is G, and building up from the formula we get the following notes:

G + 2 semitones = A
A + 2 semitones = B
B + 1 semitone = C
C + 2 semitones = D
D + 2 semitones = E
E + 2 semitones = F#
F# + 1 semitones = G

So there you have it - a scale of G major has the notes G, A, B, C, D, E, F# G, and as usual you can apply this formula with any other root note to get the exact scale that you want.

On the Fretboard

How do we play this on the guitar? Well, sticking with our G Major scale, we can construct 7 different boxes - why 7? Well, if we start with our root note of G on the E string, we can play a scale by moving up that single string, and each place we land can be the basis of a new box. However, for Major scales, a couple of the boxes will only be separated by 1 semitone, so be convention we miss these out, leaving 5 boxes, separated by either 2 or 3 semitones.

Here they are:

Image:major1011.jpg Image:major1012.jpg Image:major1013.jpg Image:major1014.jpg Image:major1015.jpg

And that in a nutshell is the Major scale!