Major Guitar Scale Shapes

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Learn How To Play The Major Scale Shapes On The Guitar!

Major Scale ShapesThis lesson is all about three of the most common major scale shapes on the guitar. The first shape starts with your middle finger, the second with your index finger, and the third with your pinky. We will learn all of these shapes starting on the 5th fret of our low E string. This is an A note, so we will be working with the A major scale. Remember to pay attention to the fingerings that we have supplied for you and be sure to use alternate picking all of the time.

Learn more guitar scales here!

Learn these shapes slowly. After you have memorized the shapes, I recommend that you use a metronome or a drum machine while practicing these scales. Start out slowly, maybe around 70 beats per minute, and work your way up slowly. Make sure that every note is clean and clear. Once you have perfected these scales at a certain tempo, increase the speed about 10 beats per minute at a time.

Here is the tab and a scale diagram for the first shape starting with your middle finger. The 5 to the left of the scale diagram indicates the 5th fret. The others numbers on the scale diagram indicate which finger you should use for that specific note. Your low E string is the one on the far left side of the diagram. (Learn how to read chord diagrams and guitar tabs here!)

Download the tab for the first major scale shape here.

Here is the tab and a scale diagram for the second shape that starts with your index finger. This particular shape is a bit easier to remember because you can think about it in string pairs. That means that if you look at the diagram, you will see that the 6th string has the same pattern as the 5th string, the 4th string has the same pattern as the 3rd string, and the 2nd string has the same pattern as the 1st string. Think about this scale shape as being only three string patterns instead of six individual string patterns. That might make memorizing this shape a bit easier for you.

Download the tab for the second major scale shape here.

Here is the tab and a scale diagram for the third shape starting with your pinky.

Download the tab for the third major scale shape here.

You should realize that these scales are movable. That means that you are not limited to just starting these scales on the 5th fret. You can move them anywhere. Whatever note you start on becomes the root of the scale. So, if I started these shapes on the 7th fret of the low E string instead of the 5th fret, they would all become B major scales. Move these major scale shapes around as much as you can and experiment in different keys.

It is important that you play the scale up and down. If you only practice these scales going up, you will really limit your musical ability and self expression. If you have access to a recorder or sequencer, you should record or program an A chord and practice your A major scale over an A major chord. Get these basic shapes under your fingers and start using them in your playing. There is no right or wrong right now, just improvise and have fun.

This Lesson Has 25 Comments

  • Pekay says:

    Thank you -easy to follow lesson.

    • Miku says:

      Hi Lisa it was nice to hear from you via email.About me:I ritreed ritreed 6 years ago after 47 year career in Radio/Tv broadcasting I’ve been everything from a Disc Jockey to a weather man, even did a morning tv show as a clown for a while most of my friends still think I’m a clown. I’m really not a beginner on guitar..having taught myself to play from a Mel Bay book when I was 12 years old..I think is was called Fun With the Guitar it was, and still is after all these years. I stumbled on to your site some time ago as I was visiting the Acoustic Guitar Community, checked it out and discovered it to be one of the best instructional web sites I had ever seen. Even this ole’ dog has learned a few new tricks from you. I began my radio career at age 14, so between that and the guitar, music has been a major part of my life. along the way I picked up mandolin and banjo and I continue to sing, write, and perform where ever I can. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished here..teaching someone else to play is a great feeling giving the gift of music is a wonderful way to leave a legacy. Have a Blessed day.Jim

  • bhim says:

    thank you for your wonderful work.this site is very useful to bignners like me.only from these instructions and some help from my friend i learned to play some basic major scales. it took me around 3 weeks but now i can play major scale fluently. now i am practicing to increase my speed

  • jason says:

    why are there more than one shape?

    • jacob says:

      because theres more to play when youre jamming or writing if you only had on shape it would get reppetitive really quick

  • manish says:

    why are there more than one shape?

  • jean pierre pin says:

    this is a A major scale and it can be started anywhere on the fingerboards where there is A note. So there are many shapes.
    And again for the others notes like B C D E F and G.
    Don’t discourage take it easy and learn slowly.

  • marian says:

    I am trying to figure out the scale for the song “No Rain”. by Rare Lemon. I think this is the name of the group. Apparently it is the A magor diatonic scale. What are the shapes for this scale?

    • Drew says:

      You have to be kidding right? Rare Lemon? I hope you are joking or that might just be the funniest thing I have ever seen. And just in case it is “No Rain” by Blind Melon

  • Alycesha says:

    What is a diatonic

  • manish says:

    on other sites major guitar scale shapes are different.why?

    • Wynah says:

      Hi LisaVery happy to read about yourself. Reading the aotcuncs of other people my story is entirly different. In the first sense you my feel like i am usless and not fit for this instument or music. i dont bother. i accept my defeat and the fate. intrest in guitar started at the age of 15. with my school fee i diverted some mony and i bought an old guitar with out the knowledge of my parents.(i am sorry for that). but with out somebody’s guidence it was impossible to learn guitar. Turning, strumming, freting the notes, playing the cords.. all were a hidden thing for me. i knocked many doors. but everyone need money. my family was poor that time. it was in 1970. No internet. no telephone, no television. I hope now you understnad how the surroundings blocked me in raising this talant. but i kept it as a dream. When ever i listen the songs i capture soon the sound of guitar and enjoy the music. in 1975 i came in kuwait. started working withlow wages. 1976 i bought a guitar. but the situation is same as in 1970. No money to spent, 1983 got married. 1990 father of 2 chirldren mean time i thought better to teach the children the music than i spend for myself .. because i love them .. i was happy when i see my younger daughter play organ and piano. now she is playing keyboard for a christian fellowship and praising lord. in her engineering college she was one of the stars. Formed her own music troops and staged many occations. i am happy now.In 2008 in the age of 53 i approched a guitar instructor.. and revealed my self.. now my responsibilities have got over.. i am able to pay fee for the guitar class.. the first opinion from him was .. it is not so easy for you at this age. but try.. fast movement of your fingers may be difficult for you. but try.. ! now for 2 years i go for classes. weekly one hour class. monthly 4 classess. Now i am playing almost all cords. playing pices of musics . i am so eager to see when people play Different way of strumming guitar. So i went to youtube and checked. that s the way i met you . Thanks a lot for responding the mail. with regards Sunu

  • usman says:

    MR nate what a lesson!!!!
    very easy to follow thanks

  • Christian says:

    I really want to know how all this theory relates to each other and how it’s applied in real music. I can’t find any such thing on this site

    • Avaneesh says:

      Dude, as far as I know, in India the sound when you play the scale, is the starting lesson for all kids in music there. So I guess it’s pretty important.

  • fernando says:

    why does the first shape ends on the 7th fret of the low E but at the other picture of scales it ends on the 5th fret?

  • Tom says:

    I kinda have a grasp on these 3 shapes but I have seen other lessons where they teach the 5 shapes of the major scale and others that teach 7 shapes. What is the deal with that?

  • prantik nath says:

    gud 1

  • Izaak says:

    I thought there were 7 not 3 ..???

  • Reagan says:

    thnks nate ur doing a woderful job learning a lot on dis site

  • Teresa says:

    Why do you continue the scale shapes all the way out even though it goes past the end of the last note of the scale. Shouldn’t a scale start and end on the same note. i.e. A major scale starts and ends on A., but in the diagrams above, you have it starting on A and ending on B. Just wondering.

  • prince says:

    I never knew i could so easily translate what looked like a james bond film to me in no time.your way of teaching is good, Nate.bless you

  • neba salo says:

    why it is important to learn scales please tell

  • Chuck says:

    Nate, thanks for all your great work, I’m so much from your website and videos. I was just wondering what do the black dots mean on the guitar tabs, as opposed to the white dots? Thanks again :)

  • Billy says:

    Isn’t there seven positions for a major scale? why is there only 3 right here?


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