WHAT IS A MAJOR SCALE?

For some, this may be a very basic topic. For others, the concept may have been discarded under the category of ‘boring musical theory’. Some people might be quite familiar with the sound of a major scale, they may even know how to play it in one or two positions, but may not actually know what it fundamentally is. Being familiar and comfortable with major scales in practice and theory is a very important tool on every instrument, including guitar. Launching into more exotic scales and modes, such as Dorian flat 2 and Lydian Augmented is not going to make much sense without first grasping the concept of major scales.

On a very basic level, a major scale is simply 7 notes, separated by intervals (tones and semitones).

This is what it looks like

Root Note – Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone.

(the last semitone leads back to the root note, up one octave)

The best way to get a feel for this is to play the full scale on one string. For example, start on the 3rd fret of the 5th (A) string. You will be playing a C natural. Now move up a Tone (two frets) to D natural. Then move up another tone to E natural. Then up a semitone (1 fret) to F natural. Keep going until you reach the root note up the octave from your starting note (in this case it will be the 15th fret).

You can try this starting from any fret on any string (providing you have room to play out the full scale). This should give you a really good idea of what the major scale sounds like, but also, you should be able to visually appreciate the interval structure that is contained within the scale.

So there you have it, major scales. They have a very recognizable sound and their purpose extends across many different styles and contexts. Don’t worry too much about why a major scale sounds so familiar or why it is more important than any other scale. For now, just get comfortable with playing the scale and becoming more and more familiar with it.


 

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