The first scale you might want to learn is the major scale. It is also known as the Ionian mode. The scale is used to solo over major family chords, major 6, major 7, major 9 and major 6/9 chords. The songs in the major scale is “Feel Happy” and the scale is usually used in the pop, rock, folk and country songs.
In my previous blog I talked about all the note in the entire 6 strings and fret board. It is crucial for us to know and visualize the locations of the notes because scales are made of notes. Correspondingly, we will place our fingerings based on the locations of the notes too.
How many notes in a major scale?
There are seven note in the major scales. For example, if it is a C major scale, the notes are C D E F G A B. (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti)
How many major scales?
Since there are 12 note in the guitar fret board, so we will have 12 major scales. The root notes for each major scale are C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, A, A#/Bb, and B. The notes that are written with sharps and flats are called “Enharmonic”. You may use either one note or both in naming the notes and the guitar chords.
The Scale Formula
The major scale should be one of the first scales you learn on the guitar. For the purpose of the discussion here, lets take the C Major Scale as our starting point. First, we need to understand the major scale formula. What makes it a scale? Answer: It is a repeating sequence of intervals. Intervals are the gaps between every note in a scale. We can also visualize these notes and positions from the guitar fret board.
The root note for the C major scale is C, hence the name implies. So, let us start with the note C as it is the root note of the C major scale.
- The interval between the root note C and the note D is equivalent to 2 fret interval or W (whole step)
- The interval between the notes D and E is also equivalent to 2 fret interval or W (whole step)
- The interval between the notes E and F is equivalent to 1 fret interval or the H (half step)
- The interval between the notes F and G is equivalent to 2 fret interval or the W (whole step)
- The intervals between the notes G and A is equivalent to 2 fret interval or the W (whole step)
- The intervals between the notes A and B is equivalent to 2 fret intervals of the W (whole step)
- The intervals between the notes B and C is equivalent to 1 fret interval or the H (half step)
So to summarize it, the formula for the construction of the C Major scale is:
W W H W W W H
The other 11 major scales also follows the same formula. The notes higher in pitch after C is C#/Db. So the root note for the C#/Db major scale is C#/Db. I have summarized all the major scales’ note in the table below. Hopefully, it will make sense to you now, without us really into deep discussion about the music theory!
W W H W W W H
Do you notice that all the major and minor scales share the same notes, only that the root notes are different. For example, the C Major Scales and the A minor Scales have the same notes with no sharps and flats!
In practicing the major scales, we are actually also learning the minor scales too. Its only that in soloing, we will emphasize the root note for that scale. In A minor scale, the note A becomes the root note instead of C.
The Major Chord Construction (1, 3, 5)
From the respective scales, we can now tell what the triads are in each major chord. Triads are melodic shapes, which is where we pluck each note in a row like an arpeggio.
The C major scale = C D E F G A B = can also be numbered 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. No 1 being the root note of this scale. The C open chord consist of the notes C E G or the number (1, 3, 5). This is called the triads.
Taking another example, the D major scales = D E F# G A B C#. No 1 being the root note of this scale which is D. So, the triads or notes for the D open chord are D F# A (1,3,5).
Again, i’m not into deep discussion of the music theory on how we get the 1 3 5 triads. This will be dealt later in another discussion of the music theory.
The Major Chord Progressions (I, IV, V)
From the respective scales too, we can determine its chord progressions. Taking the example of the C Major Scales = C D E F G A B = C(I) F(IV) G(V) . This is a common three chords progressions for the C major songs. There are many popular songs using the three chord progressions. It is not limited to I – IV – V only. We can also write chord progression like this I – vi – IV – V (C – Am – F – G) or ii – V – I (Dm – G – C) The capital number being major chords and the small letter number become t the minor chords.
We can now play along with our favorite songs that follow the same chord progressions.! Knowing how the major chord progressions are made of allow us to compose our own songs too. Isn’t it great! There are many popular songs that use the
I – IV – V chord progressions that top the chart for very long. Now that you know their secrets, you can also now become the song writer!
Practicing the major scales.
Now that you have already know what is major scales and how chords and chords progressions are derived from it. All you need now is to practice the major scales vertically or horizontally across the fret board. There are 7 vertical positions of the major scales. For illustration purposes, lets take the C Major scale image as an example here.
> FINGERING NUMBER <
Don’t worry about not playing it perfectly at the beginning or if it sounds too raw (sound like scale). Practice with a metronome or a backing track that are abundantly available on YouTube. Just type in C Major Scale guitar backing track in your browser, and there you are plenty for you to choose from and have fun with your solo!