Major Guitar Scale

Learn How To Play The Major Scale on the Guitar!

G Major ScaleIn 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.

Major Guitar ScaleThis 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.

This Lesson Has 89 Comments

  • Kieran Reade says:

    Good Afternoon,

    I’m learning what I think are the best things for a beginner so I’m going through the Major scale but I’m confused. In this lesson it shows the Major scale in G Major and I’ve learnt it but in another lesson which is titled ‘Understanding the Major scale’ it shows a completely different Major scale in G Major, so which one is right? I understand that I’m only beginner so I have a feeling they are both right but it has something to do with knowing the guitar notes of by heart (in which case I’m sorry) but I’d like you to explain if you have the time. Stuff like this confuses me quickly. Your lessons are great and thanks!

    Kieran Reade

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Kieran,

      The two lessons you are talking about are just teaching you two different ways of playing the major scale. There is no right or wrong one. Sometimes it is just nice to have some option when playing through scales. Learn and experiment with both. :)

    • Freebyrd57 says:

      Kieran, a lot of people start learning the 5 pentatonic scales (which can be found, anyehere) but, just remember, they’re 5 patterns, stacked on top of eachother!

      You might also want to learn, and practice (’cause its hard for begginters) the bare chords (just remember, you can play just sections of ‘em and get the same effect!)

  • Terence Watson says:

    Finally I learned what the heck major scale and keys are!

    Funny how I learn this years after having not played guitar in a while.

  • bob says:

    i notice in all scales theres 5 positions…..so which one do i use ina song? how do i know whether to use pos 1 or 3 or 5?..thx

    • Christian says:

      It doesn’t matter which form you use. They really just help you to move your basslines all around the neck.

    • Cal says:

      There are 5 patterns of the major scale that repeat across the fretboard. If you are playing a pattern in one position on the fretboard, then there is another pattern “above” (further up the fretboard) and another pattern “below” (further down the fretboard) until you reach the last fret (highest fret on the fretboard) or lowest fret (the “nut” where the strings enter on to the fretboard from the headstock).

      Wherever you are on the fretboard, whatever key you are in, you will be playing one of those patterns. Lets say you are playing pattern 3, well, then below is pattern 2 and above is pattern 4. If you move up or down the fretboard, you move into a new pattern, until you run out of room or have played all 5 patterns and end up right back where you started on the same pattern.

      The idea is really not to use the patterns to “play” a solo. Instead, you want ultimately to be able to visualize all the patterns at the same time, so that you can move anywhere on the fretboard and know you are hitting the right notes. This will allow you to break out of “box” patterns, and be able to move tonally up or down a single string, instead of just selecting higher or lower note on adjacent strings. Why would you do that? Listen the solo by The Edge on “New Years Day”… he is sliding from one note to another on the same string. Imagine how different that solo would sound if instead, he played the notes in a typical “box” pattern, just moving to adjacent strings without sliding one note into the other.

      Once you can visualize the 5 patterns across the fretboard, you’ll find that you have way more confidence and freedom in your soloing. You’ll also be set to learn all of the diatonic modes, as they are based on the same patterns.

  • nayana says:

    thanks a lot.this lesson helped me a lot.cheers!

  • Chethan says:

    Hello,

    I’ve been playing the guitar since six days. I have been playing for 5 hours minimum each day and I really don’t know how to go about your lessons.

    I have finished the beginner quick start series and memorised 2 scales. What else should I do besides practice. What should I practice more in specific? Which lessons should I be focussing on?

    I really want to become a good guitarist. I’m just wondering if this is the right way to nurture my ambition.

    Thank You :)

    • Michael says:

      Hey, I’m a beginner guitarist and I dont know much about the guitar just yet but I DO know that Nate’s Practice Generator is very useful and it will tell you WHAT to practice and WHEN based on your schedule so I recommend you check it out =D
      P.s.
      The practice generator tells you what to learn each day according to the lessons that are posted on the site.
      Michael

    • Billy says:

      you need to learn your major and minor chords first before you go any further and learn how a chord is made then maybe you could move to scales,but i would start with chords first.

    • Scmidaldhaven Guptra III says:

      your not welcome

  • Mattew Marx says:

    this is so great I’ve been playing for 12 years and never learned any scales thanks so much for this site I’m sure I’ll learn a lot

  • Trem says:

    I like the D chord. Can I play the D chord shape up and down the neck as I please, rather than following wwhwwh every time. For example, I’ll strike the D chord then move up 1 fret (half a step) and then maybe 2 frets (whole step) because I like that pattern and it’s sound. So clearly I have deliberately avoided wwhwwwh, because I want to create a riff of mine. Is this “allowed” or does it go against some music theory rule?

    Absolutely many thanks for your website and help

  • Hunter says:

    Hey.Im confused or not getting it or something. Im not even sure how to say this; you have said something about, uh, lets see… writing down the notes g,a,b,c,d,e,f#, and g. Then you said go around the fret board and try to find all the g’s. I have NO idea where the g’s are or the a, b, c, etc. Uh, could ya help me out on that please? Thanks. These are the best guitar lessons online, by the way.

    • exarkun01 says:

      Each string on the guitar is denoted by a note EADBGe. So, each string plays that note when plucked open (or no fret). Each fret on that string moves you through the note progression.

      note progression:
      A-A#/Bb-B-C-C#/Db-D-D#/Eb-E-F-F#/Gb-G-G#/Ab-A
      note: one notes sharp is another notes flat

      So, if you want to find all of the G’s: start with open low E, move through F and F#/Gb to reach G. you will find yourself on the third fret. Next, progress 12 frets to reach the next G.

      once you have reached the bottom of the fret board, move to the A string and count off the note progression until you get to G, then 12 frets to the next G, and move to D, then B, next G, and lastly e.

      If you do this for each note as a warm up before you play, you will begin to memorize all the notes on the guitar. This, linked with Scale practice will get you shredding through solo’s you thought out of reach. It will also help in reading sheet music as you will be able to attribute sheet music notes to string and fret using your head instead of just relying on TAB.

  • jean pierre pin says:

    it seems that it is the 7th form of the major scale.
    Why did you get the F# at 2nd fret instead to extend the scale to the 5th string 7th fret? that seems more in the tune to extend?

  • jean pierre pin says:

    Sorry to the 2nd string of the 7th fret

  • decaf says:

    I’ve noticed that my pinky finger gets a bit fatigued when playing through these (I’m a novice, but I have better technical proficiency on other instruments). Is this because my pinky isn’t strong enough yet (which more practice / strength exercises would likely fix), or might it be the way I’m holding down strings? I’m emulating the arch of your fingers in the video, which seems to be more or less how you’re supposed to use your fingers for pretty much every instrument.

  • Sebastian Paul says:

    can i know what are scales in guitar???
    Because i’m a beginner.

  • Sebastian Paul says:

    can i know what are scales in guitar???
    Because i’m a beginer

  • Ryan Manning says:

    Been playing classic rock for years and only just now took the initiative to learn about scales…you explained it perfectly! Thanks so much

  • guitar says:

    hmmm.where’s the music sheet or tabs? :o

  • Maddie says:

    again, my string is muted when i play. at the begining of the vid it said put index finger on 3rd fret of low e string and play it. nothing! my string was all mute. i don’t understand. help? please?

  • Lear to Play Guitar says:

    You’ve got great insights about Best Guitar Course Online, keep up the good work!

    • Maria says:

      Just out of ctosriiuy, did you have to pay to get daryltay.net?And I wish I could’ve been there, playing with you guys. Opportunity of a lifetime to finally kick Daryl Tay’s ass.

  • Jipped says:

    I am starting to understand. Starting… Beginning to make sense.

  • EJ says:

    This was hugely helpful. Just got to get the pinky so it wants to do the work :-) Thanks, Nate! You’re really a great teacher.

  • Jose says:

    are you soppoused to use the same pattern for every key?

  • Stehpan says:

    You say that the formula is two whole steps, then a half step, then three whole steps and a half step, but this G major scale is three whole steps, and then a half step, three whole steps and a half step. It goes WWWHWWWH. Right after says “two wholes and a half, three wholes and a half”, you go on to play three holes and a half, three wholes and a half. What’s up with that?

  • Johriel says:

    Hello. Can I make a guitar solo with the Major scale only? And also is it always in the G major scale when using a scale or I a can also use another scale such as A major scale depends on the key of the song? Sorry, It’s a little bit confusing in using scales in making guitar solos. THANKS! :D

  • Al says:

    I tend to hit open strings while changing chords. Can you please give me some techniques and excercise to avoid this , please.

    Regards,
    Al

  • lily says:

    thank u 4 ur help :D

  • Charlie says:

    I have worked on this for about an hour and feel pretty comfortable with what you have shown.

    Sincerely,
    Charlie

  • george says:

    how do i print just the lesson

  • lee says:

    hey why are scales so important in guitaring

    • mrneglia says:

      So to be clear, we modulate by turinng the I chord into a dominant chord with a flat 7, which now acts as the dominant chord to its original sub-dominant chord and resolves into that as though it were tonic? AHH it hurts my brain! Okay! Good lesson! Now i just have to increase my brain capacity to fit it inside my head.

  • frank says:

    Im having a little difficulty spreading my fingers to cover all four frets needed to play the scale. As a result, i end up siding my hand up and down the fretboard to manage this. Ive notices that Nate’s hand stays in the same position. Will this come with practice or is my technique wrong?

  • ur mom says:

    spamer

    • Alexander says:

      It’s a really nice linnaerg tool, i got one not long ago, but the best advice i can give you is not to expect to be sight reading songs. I mean songs you already know will be easier, obviously, but you will have to practice, however this expedites the practicing process, you get everything down in time, you get the real guitar feel, and so on. Just search craigslist and ebay, i personally know a lot of people who gave up pretty quickly. They expected it to be easy

  • ur mom says:

    spamed

  • ur mom says:

    hehe heh (sigh)

    • Alessandra says:

      This is one chord I really blttae with and it is so great to have it explained in this way. So it gives me hope in conquering this one. Also, the bar chords I struggle with, and this in itself is helpful to me. Years ago the bar chords were pretty good for me, but after putting it away for a few years the fingers have gotten pretty rusty. But I will get there.Thank you for all your help.James[]

  • ur mom says:

    lms lick my sack

  • Jameil says:

    i’m having a big problem with strings ringing out when i’m playing. could you help out with muting tips. Thank you.
    Great videos btw

  • Ashley says:

    hi every1. so ive learned the scale all around the fret board and i can play it very fluently now. So what should i do with it. how can i be creative with it. #confused. Do reply thnx. P.S ive been playing for 3 years so iknow my way around the fret board.

  • paul says:

    I love how your fingers spread out when u started to go up and down the scale!!! Cannot wait to get that kind of spread…

  • Destaid says:

    I’m a little bit confused, i know the keys now, but im confused on which finger should press on each keys, like for the G note, you used your middle finger but im comfortable with my index. Is there really a standard to this or should i do on what i am comfortable with?

  • Destaid says:

    oh w8, i have an another question.. i noticed that when i play the G note, i should go to A note.. it is like in the piano, ABCDEFG.. and i noticed that after G note, the string next to low E string is the 5th string which is A.. so can i also play the G note first, then play the A open string? is A on the 5th fret of the low E string different from the A open string? actually i have seen many notes now after learning this but i have no idea if it is the same…

    • AJ says:

      the Open A (5th string) is the same as the 5th fret on the 6th string. You can play the open A string, IMO.

  • Bill says:

    Nate- Going well so far with the lessons. You do a really great job and its much appreciated. However, I am a little lost when it comes to the playing the major scale. I understand the pattern, but I need a lesson that precedes it in which the GABCDEG strings are explained. Is that available? Also, while I understand the scale sequence and am able to follow your video when playing the G scale up and down the fretboard, I’m totally lost when you get into the alternate playing. Help?

  • AJ says:

    I don’t understand, why should the index finger own the 3rd fret on the G string (6th). Will it not make more sense to have the ring finger have the ownership of the 3rd fret in general? I use my pointer on the first fret, index for second fret, ring for 3rd fret and pinkie for 4th (stretched pinkie for 5th in some cases).

    That way Gmajor scale –>Full Full Half Full Full Full Half
    G: 3rd Fret 6th String (Ring finger)
    A: Open 5th String
    B: 2nd Fret on 5th String (index finger)
    C: 3rd Fret on 5th String (ring finger)
    D: Open 4th String
    E: 2nd Fret on 4th String (index finger)
    F#: 4th Fret on 4th String (pinkie)
    G : Open 3rd String

    Similarly you would do the other major scales like C etc.

    • Barney says:

      (what I think==>)
      AJ, your example is G major scale in first position using open strings. Nate’s example is G major scale also, but since his pattern uses no open strings it’s moveable. Nate’s pattern can be used for other major scales if you start on a different fret. For example if you start with 6th string, 5th fret, 2nd finger, the pattern from the new position will play A major scale.
      Friends.
      Barney. . .

  • Catherine says:

    Is there a video on here that explains the notes on the guitar? I became confused immediately because I had no clue where an “A” or “E” was on the guitar.

  • Troy says:

    Why does the G-Major scale end on the A on the first string and not the G? I have seen other examples where the A is omitted.

  • Philip Sparks says:

    I have been playing guitar off and on for the past 25 years without any formal training, mostly by ear and experimenting with the instrument. Which has yielded a ton of technique but no structure or direction. I am finally making time to sit down and learn to wield the axe way more effectively. I just wanted to thank you for the lessons which are easy to follow and understand.

  • nanz says:

    hey
    how do we know which chords are used in a song??

  • JD says:

    When you were playing the G-scale, why didn’t you use any of the open strings?

  • April Dawn says:

    Cool!!!!!

  • Ricky Kilgore says:

    I noticed on the video above that on the High E String you did not play the 4 position. Was there a reason why you didn’t play it? Thanks guys.

  • joey says:

    I’m a little confused, why do we jump from g5 to b3, wouldn’t that be a step and a half instead of just one step? or does it have to do with the string differences? sorry I am new to guitar.

  • Banazir Ahmed says:

    while learning other instrument, i found that in all major scale gap between 3-4 and 7-8 note is 1 semi tone and rest all are of 2 semitone.

  • Banazir Ahmed says:

    while learning other instrument, i found that in all major scale gap between 3-4 and 7-8 note is 1 semi tone and rest all are of 2 semitone. Minor (harmonic) and Minor(melodic) have their own formula too.

  • Noah says:

    Can you make a video showing the sharp chord scale

  • Tummy says:

    This video is really helpful and i appreciate how you break it down and also have notes below so i can follow through. :)

  • Brian says:

    Hi Nate I’ve learnt in a short time thanks to you for making. it so easy to follow thank you brian

  • Doug Smith says:

    Do you have songs that we could practise the different scales with? Starters that would be easy. Thanks

  • Derek Michael Gilbert says:

    I feel like a kid in the candy store,there’s really so much that I could learn from this site,every day I amaze myself with the overwhelming amount of things that I can learn it’s truly fantastic,I can’t thank you enough.Derek Michael Gilbert

  • Guitarisciousa says:

    great lesson .. and it will be awesome if u make some exmple for any song in G mjr scale ..

  • Lynda Robon says:

    Hello Nate,
    I am a COMPLETE beginner in playing guitar and I have never even tried before. I am a little confused on what to watch first.

  • ped says:

    HI… POINTER ON 2ND FRET TO PINKY ON 5TH FRET… LOOKS IMPOSSIBLE.. DONT HAVE SPIDER FINGERS…

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey ped, Sometimes people leave the pointer finger down on the 2nd fret while trying to play the other notes. You don’t have to leave that pointer finger down when you are not using it to play a note. Lift if off the string as soon as you play the next note and that will free your hand up so you don’t have to stretch as much. :)

  • bob francois says:

    I don’t get it its very confusing to me I know you have to two whole steps then halph than three whole steps than half but changing the strings and all its really confusing for me me I been playing for three weeks know the chords and notes on the frets its just the scales i don’t get

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hi Bob, you should sign up for the major scale master class below. It really does a great job of breaking down how the major scale is made, how it works, and how to use it. :)

  • Mike says:

    I’m a absolute beginner and this site has me progressing so quick. Great sight ,great teacher!

  • Amy says:

    This lesson is great but I have a question…

    The first section of the video makes sense to me, using the lower E string only, and as much as I can learn how to play the G Major scale in the later part of the video (using all 6 strings) I feel like I’m not understanding why it is as it is.

    As you explained starting with a G note on the E string and moving up WWHWWWH it moves up the scale G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G, can you give me some sort of a similar break down for the other way you’ve shown of how to play the G Major scale?

    If you have a moment, or anyone, to just help me out that would be great!

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Amy,

      The second way I teach the scale is simply a way to play it without having to jump all the way from one end of the guitar to the other. The scale shape consolidates the notes so that you don’t have to shift all the way up the guitar fretboard. The scale shape also plays through the scale twice, in other words there are two octaves of the same scale within the scale shape. :) Hope this helps.

  • Dan Stankard says:

    Hi Nate.
    I need the practice generator and can’t find it on this site anywhere?

  • ashutosh says:

    Hi sir
    In video lesson second octave end on 1st string 3rd fret but in diagram it moves up to 5th fret on 1st string and this case continues in onward lesson like in the diagrams of G minor scale and Gm pentatonic scale.
    Why did so?
    Sir,Please explain.

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Ashutosh, I just ended on the root note of the scale in the video. You can do that or you can continue up to the 5th fret since that note is also in this scale shape. Ending on the root note locks the listener into the root note of that scale.

 
 

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