Let’s get one thing straight before we start. I’m not going to give what some schooled musicians would call the most accurate explanation of the major scale and its place daddy finger tekst in music. I have written this information for people who are NOT schooled musicians and want to understand music without years of attending a musical institution. If at any point you are confused, don’t be alarmed; read on and get the whole picture and then apply what you read. Music is not rocket science but understanding it will often not happen quickly and will require some repetition to stick. Grab your guitar and read on!
Many students come to me really wanting to learn how to solo, improvise and write songs on their guitar. They have no idea about music theory, scales and how to use them, how to construct chords – most of them have never learned a musical instrument before they picked up the guitar. They may know how to play some songs, strum out a few chords, but they don’t know why the chords are named as they are, why most songs in contemporary music use the same or similar chords to each other, or even what notes are in the chords they are playing. It can seem like there is no rhyme or reason for what works and what doesn’t. If this is you and you want answers, then there is one very good place to start and it’s called “The Major Scale”.
Think of the major scale as the “big daddy” of all scales and chords. Modern music is largely based around the major scale. What is the major scale? Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do! Remember that one? It is a collection of 7 different notes that when played in order sound like “do, re, mi… “. Now, I’ve written SEVEN different notes because the first and last notes of the scale are the same name and tonal quality but they are at different pitches (the first one being lower than the second if the scale is played ascending in pitch). These notes are separated by distances in pitch called semitones (S) and tones (T) where a tone is two semitones. On your guitar a semitone distance is from one fret to a fret next to it on the same string, and a tone is double that (i.e. every second fret). The major scale has the tonal pattern T-T-S-T-T-T-S. Memorise this, as it will be the basis for much of your learning. Just say over and over “tone tone semitone, tone tone tone semitone”.
Pick up your guitar and we’ll demonstrate the structure and sound of the major scale. This next bit may look scary but I urge you to read on and try the scale on your guitar. I’m assuming that the reader knows the musical alphabet (A-B-C-D-E-F-G), that C sharp (C#) is the same note as D flat (Db), D# is the same as Eb (and so on… ), and crudely put, there are no sharps(#) or flats (b) between B and C or E and F, giving us 12 notes a semitone apart from each other: C – C#/Dd – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B. I’m also assuming that the reader knows that the strings on their guitar are numbered 1 through 6 starting from the thinnest string to the thickest. If you didn’t know that then you do now!