How to play the major scale on the guitar

beginner guitar: The major scale is the basis of most Western tonal music. There are other scales, but we understand them by how they relate to the major scale. Fortunately, it’s familiar because you’ve heard it since before you were born. Most nursery rhymes use the major scale, and it has been used by all composers and songwriters from Liszt to Lizzo.

The first step in learning to play the major scale on the guitar is to master it with your fingers. We will use a shape with a four-fret stretch over several strings. It may take some getting used to, but it’s mostly about getting your hand in the right position.

You want to know this scale inside out, it will now serve as a framework for technical exercises and improvisation. Your fingers need to know where they are going so that your brain is free to think about music.

Once you know the scale, let’s dive into improvising with it. We wrote an example of the kind of thing you can do, but be brave and start experimenting. There are no negative consequences for making bad sounds in the privacy of your own home! If you play something that sucks, you’ve learned something.

Major scale form

An important

(Image credit: Avenir)

Play these notes from bottom to top and you’ll soon be ready to tackle our sample tabs.

Technical control

TGR351 How to Play the Major Scale on the Guitar

(Image credit: Avenir)

1. STRING CROSSING TECHNIQUE

When crossing strings, you should have your index finger on the 4th fret and your fourth finger on the 7th fret at the same time for the notes to flow smoothly.

TGR351 How to Play the Major Scale on the Guitar

(Image credit: Avenir)

2. POSITION OF THE THUMB

Wide stretches are much easier with your thumb positioned vertically near the center of the neck, roughly opposite your first or second finger.

TGR351 How to Play the Major Scale on the Guitar

(Image credit: Avenir)

3. GOOD POSITION OF THE HANDS

For maximum stretch, your fingers should approach the strings as close to 90 ° as your body mechanics will allow.

TGR351 How to Play the Major Scale on the Guitar

(Image credit: Avenir)

4. WRONG POSITION OF THE HANDS

If your fingers approach the strings at an angle, stretching is almost impossible and you will pump up the notes.

Example 1. Major scale with rhythm

(Image credit: Avenir)

Hope you have already played with the ladder shape shown on the previous page, so try this line now, or even make your own. It’s the same notes, just a different rhythm. This way, you will improve your sense of rhythm and your knowledge of scales at the same time.

Example 2. Rock lick

(Image credit: Avenir)

This lick only uses notes from the A major scale. There are no major stretches so you can use a different finger / hand position to make the turns easier if you need to.

About George M. Lovelace

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