Don Parkhurst jr

I'm a Conservatory trained musician and guitar instructor who specializes in the Hard Rock / Metal genres. ...

Fundamentals/Lesson five (The Major Scale)

In this lesson we will be going over the major scale sequence. This is a specific sequence of whole and half steps which form the major scale. This is the mother of all scales! Everything you will learn in music will be built from this scale. For this reason I think this would be a pretty important thing to learn. So let’s get started!

In this lesson we will be going over the major scale sequence. This is a specific sequence of whole and half steps which form the major scale. This is the mother of all scales! Everything you will learn in music will be built from this scale. For this reason I think this would be a pretty important thing to learn. So let's get started!

Let's now take a look at the notes located at the twelfth fret. This is the fret marked by two dots!

What numbers make up the number twelve? 1 and 2.  How many dots are at the twelfth fret? Two! So use the 2 in the number 12 to remind you that the fret containing two dots is the twelfth fret. By the way the other dots on our neck are the odd numbers. The first dot is the 3rd, second dot is the 5th, third dot is the 7th and the fourth dot is the 9th.

Let's take a look at the diagram now!

These notes at the twelfth fret are the same notes repeated again but an octave higher. What this means is we count through our musical alphabet until we get to the same note again. For example E:

They are the same note but in this example the second E will sound a little brighter. Moving up like this is called going up an octave. If we were to play the E at the twelfth fret followed by the open E we would be going down an octave. As a result the second note would now sound deeper than the first.

Practice the previous exercise until you have a good handle on it. Make this part of your daily practice routine. Just start on the open string, go up to the twelfth fret, turn around and work your way back to the open string again. Also name the notes as you run through them! Do this with each string and in no time you'll have this down!

Let's now take another look at some of the notes on the A string!

In the above example I diagrammed out the notes on the A string starting from the C note and continued up the string until I reached the octave C again. You may have also noticed the W's and H's in the diagram. These stand for whole steps and half steps.

What does all this mean? This is the formula for a major scale. In this example we have a C major scale. We can start from any note and form a major scale by following this formula. The formula for a major scale is whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step and finally a half step.

You can look at this in two different ways. First way is two whole steps and a half step, a whole step in the middle and two whole steps and a half step repeated again.

W W H | W | W W H

The other way to look at it is two whole steps and a half step followed by three whole steps and a half step.

Now try out some for yourself! Pick any note and create a major scale from it. First start out with the natural notes on the E and A strings since you know these already. Then pick any note on the guitar and play the major scale formula from that note. It doesn't matter at this point if you don't know the name of the note you are starting on. Try to figure it out if you can but the main goal here is to get used to the sequence of whole steps and half steps.

Check out the video on the next page!

In the next lesson we will talk more about the GAB notes along with exercises that will help you quickly find any note on the neck. See you there!

Comments

Major scale

It's called a major scale simply because of this order of whole and half steps. These whole and half steps form what is called intervals (major seconds, major thirds etc..). Talking about intervals could cover a whole other series of lessons so for now, to avoid further confusion, look at it as the order of whole and half steps. Only the major scale will have this order of whole and half steps.

For instance you asked what other scales can be played. The natural minor scale is another scale you will want to learn. This order of whole and half steps go WHWWHWW. A little different then the major scale. Because these whole and half steps are different it also forms a differnet sounding scale. In this case a more sad sounding scale. As far as what other scales, there are tones and tones of scales. You have Pentatonic scales, the 7 modes, Harmonic minor scales, Melodic minor scales, diminished scales etc... There are tons of different scales you can learn. You don't need to know all these scales because there are certain ones the most all artist use but once you learn your foundation of commonly used scales you can always experiment with others to create a more exotic type of sound. That is the beauty of music. There will always be something new you can learn, you'll never learn it all.

One more note is that while it's great to be curious and strive to learn more you need to be careful when exploring music thoery. You need to really focus on what is in front of you. If you start skipping ahead because you want to know answers to certain questions it can completely overwhelm you and only get you more confused. Instead focus on mastering the concept in front of you and know that as long as you follow each step as you move along you're answers will come to you. Sometimes it seems as though you're learning unrelated concepts but as you progress all these concepts will begin to melt togeather and everything will begin to make sense! 

I have a facebook group specifically created to help guitar players with questions like these. For some reason my Facebook link isn't working here so here is the link if you want to check it out: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GuitarlessonsinLebanon/

RE: Major Scale

Thanks, Don, for that crystal clear explanation. The natural minor scale sounds beautiful, but yes, a little sad.

Your advice about exploring music theory is very welcome. I'll keep it in mind the next time I find myself wanting to skip ahead. I particularly liked what you said about everything eventually melting together and making sense. Thanks, again.

AR.

P.S. Your facebook group is a great resource!

Major scale

I double posted. Ignore this post!!!

Major Scale

I understand that the WWHWWWH pattern is called the Major Scale. Could you throw a little light on why it's called a Major scale and what are the other scales that can be played?