The Free Guitar Toolbox »

Major Guitar Scale Shapes

Guitar Scales

View Category

This 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.

Major Scale Shapes

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.