Constructing Major Scales


All music theory really begins with an understanding of the major scale. The major scale is used as a constant in the musical universe with which other elements are compared.

 

Below is an important tidbit of music theory information before we get started.

All natural notes (A B C D E F G) are a whole step (2 frets) apart, except between E-F and B-C, which are a half step (1 fret) apart.

A major scale is nothing more than a series of whole steps and half steps. Writing the natural notes from C to C will create a C major scale.

C Major Scale

C Major Scale

The easiest way to remember this formula for a major scale is this. There are 2 sets of W W ½ separated by a W. The W stands for whole step, and the ½ stands for half step.

W W ½ W W W ½

This same pattern can be applied to any set of 8 consecutive notes. For example if the natural notes between G to G were written, F would have to be raised a half step to F sharp in order to create the formula needed to make a major scale.

G Major Scale

G Major Scale

In the next example the notes from F to F are written. In this case the B would have to be lowered a half step to a B flat in order to conform to the pattern.

F Major Scale

F Major Scale

 

Playing Major Scales on a Single String

Part of learning about music theory is understanding the concept of a topic. But the other part is applying the knowledge and relating it specifically to the guitar.

So here is one thing you can do at this stage in your music theory journey to help apply what you just learned. Pick any note on any string, preferably within the first 3 or 4 frets. Then play a major scale going up on one string following the major scale pattern of whole steps and half steps.

W W ½ W W W ½

The names of the notes are not important for this exercise. The idea is to get used to the pattern. At a later stage in your music theory exploration you can work with note names.


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Page 2, Spelling Major Scales >>>

Page 3, Spelling Major Scales – Answers >>>

Page 4, Learning Major Scale Functions >>>