Theory Primer

C Major Scale




The above Scale is the C major scale starting on string 5 on the note C. The Major Scale is constructed by a sequence of half steps and whole steps. Understanding the basic principles of the major scale is imperative to understanding triads, chord progressions, and how to construct chords. By learning the fundamentals you will be able to understand and quickly learn how to construct arpeggios, Drop 2, and Drop 3 chord voicings. A strong understanding of the major scale will help you understand how the scale is altered to create minor scales and modes. These are just a few concepts that come with knowing the major scale.

Let's get right into this, I mentioned early that the major scale was made up of a sequence of half steps and whole steps. So what is a half step and whole step; simply put its the distance from one tone to the next. If we look at our diagram the note in between (C) the root and (D) the major 2cd would be a half step movement resulting in an enharmonic note, meaning a note or tone of the same pitch that has two different names. In this case, moving up the neck higher in pitch from (C) up a half step resolves to (C# or Db ). Finding the note (D) on string 5 if we move down in tone and resolve on (C) we moved by a whole step.

So here is the sequence for a Major Scale :

(WHOLE STEP =WS, HALF STEP = HS)

WS / WS / HS / WS / WS / WS / HS

Once you arrive at C the octave above your starting note the pattern starts over. Also what's cool about this position, is that its movable, if you start the sequence on (D) you now are playing through the D major scale.

How do I memorize this, well everyone has their own approach. I teach my students to understand that the guitar is physical, visual, audible, and theoretical. First thing get your hands on the guitar using the following finger patterns to play the scale.

Physical pattern:

Starting from string 5 and working up in pitch to string 1, you will encounter a couple of stretches, don't worry they will develop as you continue to learn.

String 1 Fingers 1-3

String 2 Fingers 1-3-4

String 3 Fingers 1-3-4

String 4 Fingers 1-2-4

String 5 Fingers 2-4

Visual memory: learn the shape of the scale notice the shift going to the B string

Audible: Sing the scale Do, Re. Mi etc

Theoretical: Say out loud the movements WS/WS / HS etc. Say the interval Root .major 2cd major 3rd, Perfect 4th.

To continue to build off this information read my lesson on intervals.



Major Scale Intervals



The above diagram represents the major scale, the same shape as in the previous lesson only difference is now we are looking at the interval value and not the note names. Let's first identify the symbols to distinguish the differences with each interval.

P- Perfect, perfect 4 perfect 5, etc

R- Root or starting note this diagram r