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The Keyed Major Scales

OK, we now have a grip on the pieces and we need to start putting the puzzle together. Let's look at one last aspect of scale construction, then we will be ready to start building some chords!

As we have noted, the major scale sound results when we play a succession of notes with the following step arrangement: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. We looked at the major scale in the key of C: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Now let's complicate things a bit as we look at the G major scale. If we start at G and move up a whole step this will yield an A note. Another whole step yields a B. Our next move is a half step. Remember that we have no sharps/flats betweeen B and C, so if we move up a half step from B this yields a C note. The next move is a whole step to D. The next move is a whole step to E. The next move is a whole step to ... hmmm. There are no sharps or flats between E an F, so if we start at an E note and move a whole step, this yields and F#. Can we have an F# in a major scale? What takes precedence, keeping the unaltered notes or staying with the correct step arrangement? The step arrangement takes precedence. We need to move a whole step up from E to F#. Our next move is then a half step, which brings us back to G. So the major scale in the key of G includes one accidental: the F#. G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G. If you have the sound of the major scale memorized you can verify this for yourself. Start on the G note on the sixth string, 3rd fret and follow the notes out on the fretboard notation chart. Or, you can start the major scale pattern on the G note on sixth string, 3rd fret, and this will carry you through two octaves of G major. Notice again that the step arrangement takes precedence. Use sharps as necessary to stay within the step arrangement.

Now let's look at a major scale that contains a flat. We will start in F and proceed through the steps. Take a whole step from F to G. Whole step from G to A. Half step to … see what happens? We need a Bb here to keep the proper step arrangement. So we take a half step from A to Bb. Whole step from Bb to C (remember there are no sharps or flats between B and C, so a whole step from Bb yields a C note). Whole step from C to D. Whole step from D to E. Half step from E to F. That’s the major scale in the key of F. F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F. Try it yourself. You can start an F major scale on the F note at sixth string, 1st fret. This may be a bit tricky, because it will involve the use of the open strings on some of the notes. Just follow the fretboard notation chart. You can also play an F major scale starting on the sixth string, 13th fret. The major scale pattern will also work with the F major scale, automatically accounting for the Bb. Just be sure to start on an F note.

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