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Constructing Major Scales for Guitar

OK, now that we have some basic terminology under control, we can start moving toward building some chords. We will start with building a chord out of the C scale. Remember, when we are referring to the key of C, we start with the C note as the lowest or bass note of the scale. So a C scale looks like this:

C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#-A-A#-B-C

These are the notes in the C scale. What we want to look at now is the Major Scale. The major scale refers to a certain overall quality of sound that results when we play a succession of notes based on the following arrangement of steps:

Major Scale Steps: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

Now refer back to your fretboard notation diagram and the chart below. If you start on the second string, first fret, this is a C note. Now move up a whole step, or two frets, in accordance with our major scale step arrangement. You should be on the second string, third fret, which is a D note. This is the second interval of the C major scale. Now, in accordance with our major scale step arrangement, we need to move another whole step, or two frets, up to the E note on the fifth fret. This is the third interval of the C major scale. Now, in accordance with our major scale step arrangement, we need to move a half step to the sixth fret. This is an F note, the fourth interval of the C major scale. (Remember, no accidentals between E-F. A half step up from E yields an F note.) Now move up another whole step from F to G, a whole step from G to A, and a whole step from A to B. Finally, move up a half step from B. This will be a C note on the thirteenth fret. You have now played through the C major scale. Congratulations, you are on the way!

C major scale with intervals and steps

You might have thought that it would be cumbersome to play a C major scale by moving up all the way from one end of the fretboard to the other. You are right! Thankfully there is an easier and faster way to get this done. We know that the C major scale is played by playing the following notes: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. As long as we play these notes, in this order, we are making the sound of the C major scale. So look at the sixth string, 8th fret. This is a C note. Now take a whole step up to D for the second interval of the C major scale. To get the third interval we need a whole step to E. We can move on up the sixth string to the E on the 12th fret. However, we can also get an E by fretting on the fifth string, 7th fret. Now we need a half step to F. Look at the fifth string, 8th fret. Voila! Now go up a whole step to the G on the 10th fret. At this point we need to move a whole step to A. We can get an A note on the fifth string, 12th fret. Better yet, we can grab an A on the fourth string, 7th fret. Then we need to move a whole step to B, then a half step to C. Thatís the major scale in C: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. Click here to hear it.


C major scale

Do you see that it is much easier and faster to play it by moving across the fretboard rather than sliding along the length of the fretboard? If you have been practicing your major scale pattern you will have also noticed something else: the C major scale we just walked through is the same as the first half of the major scale pattern we learned earlier. Playing the pattern automatically yields the sound of the C major scale, as long as you start on the C note on the sixth string, 8th fret.

Now, notice that the major scale pattern we learned previously continues with notes beyond the C major scale we just examined. If you examine the chart at left, you will quickly notice that they are a continuation of the C major scale notes. We said earlier that an A note will be 440 hertz, and that every other note is just a letter designator for a certain frequency. Our last exercise blew that theory, because you can see three different C notes in the C major scale if you play through the whole pattern. How can the multiple notes all be C? We now need to discuss the concept of octaves.

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