In this guitar lesson we will be learning how the major scale is made. This is very important because all of the chords, scales, and arpeggios that you will be learning in the future require a good understanding of how the major scale works. Once you understand how the major scale is made, you will have the opportunity to learn a common shape for the major scale. We will be working in the key of G major for this lesson.
In order to understand the major scale you need to know two things. These two things are the difference between a half step and a whole step, and the sequence of half steps and whole steps that make up a major scale. A half step on the guitar is generally one fret up or down, and a whole step is generally two frets up or down. Put your 1st finger on the G note on 3rd fret of the 6th string. If you go up to the very next fret that is a half step. Start out on the 3rd fret of the 6th string again. Move up two frets. That is a whole step. The formula for a major scale is whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. It may be easier to remember the sequence like this. WWHWWWH.
Go back to the 3rd fret of the 6th string. We will be in the key of G major so the G that you are playing on the 3rd fret of the 6th string will be the root note of the scale. Now follow the formula of half and whole steps for the major scale. First we need a whole step so go up two frets to the A note on the 5th fret on the 6th string. Next we need another whole step. That would put you on the B note on the 7th fret. Because the formula calls for a half step this time, we will move a half step up to the C note on the 8th fret. A whole step from C would be a D on the 10th fret and another whole step from the D would be an E on the 12th fret. We need one more whole step, so play the F# on the 14th fret. Finally, the last half step brings us back to a G note on the 15th fret of the 6th string.
This is great for understanding how the major scale is made but it is not very practical. We have provided you with the notation and tab for a common G major scale shape. Instead of going all of the way up and down the fretboard to play the G major scale, this shape stays in one position.
This scale shape is movable. That just means that you can move your starting note anywhere on the 6th string. Just remember whatever note you start on will be the root note of that major scale. If you move this scale to where you are starting on the A note on the 5th fret of the 6th string you would be playing an A major scale.
Remember to use alternate picking throughout the entire scale. Practice the scale going up and practice it going down as well. Take some recordings of songs that you like, find out what key they are in, and try to play the major scale of that key along with the recording.