The Major Scale

The Major Scale on a Guitar

Guitarists view the guitar neck as being broken up into blocks of four frets, and, depending on what key you want to play in, your hand is positioned over that block of four frets. Two octaves of every pitch within that scale are located within each four-fret block. This is not complicated…keep reading.

Major scales on the guitar follow the pattern shown below. Play the notes in the number order they appear below (remember, the 8 of the first octave serves as the 1 of the second octave). To play major scales on the guitar, you just move that pattern along the neck of the guitar to build whatever major scale you’d like.

Image of guitar fretboard showing the major scale

This major scale pattern works up and down the guitar neck. In the diagram above, #1 is on the 6th string (closest to your chin) and is on the 2nd fret so it’s an F# (remember, the 6th string is an ‘E’ so the sequence is open E, 1st fret F, and 2nd fret F#).

The key that you play in is determined by the first and last notes of the scale, so if you were asked to play an A major scale on the guitar, you would simply start the scale on the 5th fret.

To play each scale on the guitar, begin with the correct fret on the 6th string (again, the top string as you hold the guitar or the low E string), which is as follows:

Open string: E

1st fret: F

2nd fret: F# or Gb

3rd fret: G

4th fret: G# or Ab

5th fret: A

6th fret: A# or Bb

7th fret: B

8th fret: C

9th fret: C# or Db

10th fret: D

11th fret: D# or Eb

12th fret: E

(notice that there is no half step between B and C).

Mike Corso

When not playing guitar, I do some other things. See