Skip to content

Guitar Major Scale: Notes and positions on the fretboard

The major scale is probably the first musical scale to know and master when learning to play the guitar. This musical scale is very important because other scales are built from it, like the natural minor scale or the major pentatonic scale.

😉 Therefore, I advise you to give a good reading to this article in which I will explain what the major scale is and how to you use it on the guitar.

major scale guitar
guitar major scale

What is a major scale?

As you may know, a scale is a sequence of notes in their respective ascending or descending order.

In the case of the major scale we have a sequence of 7 notes separated by the following tonal distribution.

W W H W W W H

W: Whole step or tone.

H: Half step, half tone or semitone.

Let’s explore this concept in more detail.

Major scale Intervals

From the previous section we know the major scale steps:

W W H W W W H

Don’t worry if you don’t understand the scheme above because we are going to see it better with an example.

And to do this, let’s take the most famous scale in the world: the C major scale.

C D E F G A B

Which has the following form on a staff:

major scale solfege
How many notes in a scale

Above we can see the major scale notes in the key of C, which we call musical degrees and we obtain by applying the above mentioned interval pattern of a major scale:

how many notes are in a major scale
major scale pattern guitar

This basically means that:

  • Between C and D there is a whole step distance.
  • Between D and E there is a whole step.
  • Between E and F there is a half step.
  • Between F and G there is a whole step.
  • Between G and A there is a whole step.
  • Between A and B there is a whole step.
  • Between B and C there is a half step.

Now that we know how to apply the major scale intervals, we can obtain the notes in a major scale in any key.

And to prove it we are going to build the A major scale.

How do we do that?

We just need to apply the same sequence of tones (whole steps) and semitones (half tones):

major scale degrees

Major scale roman numerals

Once we know how the musical intervals of the major scale are distributed, we can assign them a number to obtain a formula for each of its degrees:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7

As you can see, in this tonal system there are no sharps or flats unlike, for example, the major pentatonic scale, which has the following scale degrees:

1 – ♭3 – 4 – 5 – ♭7

So, let’s go back to our C major scale, and let’s expand it to see how it would look like with the formula:

c major scale formule

Then, if we analyze each of the major scale degrees in this key we have that:

  • C is the first degree.
  • D is the second degree.
  • E is the third degree.
  • F is the fourth degree.
  • G is the fifth degree.
  • A is the sixth degree.
  • B is the seventh degree.

By the way, the C major scale on the piano corresponds to its white keys:

c major scale piano

The 12 Major Scales

Before we look at the major scale on the guitar, let me show you the major scale in all 12 Keys so that you have them in a nutshell.

major scale intervals 12 keys
major scales guitar

For the natural notes this would be:

The major scale guitar

By now you should master the music theory behind the major scale. So let’s move on to what’s cool, how the musical notes are distributed along the fretboard and how to play a major scale on guitar:

major scale guitar
major scale chart

The 7 major scale shapes for guitar

To learn to play the major scale on the guitar, we divide the previous scheme into 7 shapes or positions that are easy to learn and that also serve as a fingering exercise or warm-up:

guitar major scale chart
major scale guitar pattern

If you look for information on another web site, you will probably find different major scale guitar positions. The ones I show you are the modes of the major scale, but that’s another story.

Major scale tab

Now you have the 7 positions of this musical scale but you may wonder how to play the major scale up and down the guitar

Let’s look at the tab below:

|-------------------------------------------10-12-13-12-10------------------------------------------|
|----------------------------------10-12-13----------------13-12-10---------------------------------|
|--------------------------9-10-12----------------------------------12-10-9-------------------------|
|------------------9-10-12--------------------------------------------------12-10-9-----------------|
|----------8-10-12------------------------------------------------------------------12-10-8---------|
|--8-10-12----------------------------------------------------------------------------------12-10-8-|
c major scale pattern guitar
major scale positions

In the chart above we can see the first pattern of the C major scale. To practice it we only have to go to the 8th fret and start descending it.

Practice this exercise as a warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes before playing.

How many major scales are there?

Since we have 12 music notes (7 naturals and 5 accidentals) we consequently have 12 major scales. However, since a music note has 2 accidentals (sharp and flat) we could also say that there are 21 major scales.

  • A♭ major scale, A major scale, A# major scale
  • B♭ major scale, B major scale, B# major scale
  • C♭ major scale, C major scale, C# major scale
  • D♭ major scale, D major scale, D# major scale
  • E♭ major scale, E major scale, E# major scale
  • F♭ major scale, F major scale, F# major scale
  • G♭ major scale, G major scale, G# major scale

All major scales guitar

Here you can see in more detail each major scales chart:

Major scale pdf

If you liked this article here you can download the “guitar major scale pdf” for free

Here we finish with the article, now you know how many notes are in a major scale and how to play them on the guitar