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 :


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 represents (C)

Triangle - Major, M6, M3, etc. You may have found this symbol in early fake- books or lead sheets.

We will continue building off of your understanding of the major scale by learning how to construct a major scale by identifying the intervallic sequence.

Major Scale Interval Sequence

R-M2-M3-P4-P5-M6-M7-R octave above starting (C) note.

There is a bit more theory behind the intervals that we will get to at later lessons,

for now, memorize the sequence using the same technique you applied to learn the scale by notes and stepwise movement. Also, focus on how to locate key intervals from the root note those being the M3 and P5 as those are the foundation of learning how to construct chords in future lessons. A couple of other tips is that beneath an M3 is an M6 and beneath an M2 is a P5.

Navigating the fretboard

Navigating the fretboard freely can be challenging but with a few landmarks and an understanding of basic chord structures, you can achieve this daunting task. The above diagram represents a 24 fret neck and all of the available ( C ) notes.

Try not to take on to much information all at once, reduce down to smaller amounts of information, you can process.

That being said instead of studying the fretboard in its entirety we are going to break it down into sections. Let's look at frets one through five notice how the first (C) note located on the B string is positioned in relation to the next preceding (C) note located on the A string and finally up an octave to the next (C) note located on the G string. Now, look at the thirteenth fret through the seventeenth fret, notice the pattern. Another useful shape is located with (C) on the Low (E) String. This pattern applies to all the notes on the fretboard you can map out all the G notes the A, then D, etc.

Your goal now is to build off the root and locate the Major 3rd and Perfect 5th that we discussed in the previous lesson on each root note. Another point I want to bring out is that I mentioned these tutorials are progressive. Though we have not reviewed scales most of you might be familiar with the major pentatonic scale. Penta means five, thus a five-note scale, after mastering

this lesson you will be only two notes away from playing the major pentatonic scale all over the neck.