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Here’s some MUST KNOW guitar theory. You’ll discover the most famous music scale, power chords, how to read scale charts and more!

The Major Scale & Scale Charts

Here’s a jam packed lesson for you! One of our teachers here at Campfire Guitar Star, Mike B, refers to this as “Lesson-ception” in reference to the movie “Inception”. In the movie, the characters experience “dreams inside of dreams” where new ideas can be formed. In “lesson-ception”, there are “lessons inside of of lessons”, where new guitar concepts and a deeper understanding of the guitar are formed! So let’s get started!

You probably know the major scale already! It’s something very recognizable. You’ll hear the “Sound of Music” tones as you play through the scale – “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do”. It has a positive, happy sound as opposed to the darker and moodier sound of a minor scale.  

Another thing about the major scale is it is known as “Ionian”. The name is from a series of 7 very important musical scales called “Modes”. The major scale (aka “Ionian”) is the first of the 7 modes. The next 6 modes, in order are: Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. After going through this chapter and when you fully understand how to read scale charts, I encourage you to learn all 7 modes!

All the modes are fantastic finger exercises and the foundation for understanding how music works. They are also the building blocks of many famous solos, riffs and licks…. So if you like that kind of thing, then you’re in for a treat! And some hard work :)

Reading a Scale Chart with the G major scale.

*Remember when we were learning to read tab?  The numbers were in reference to the frets you play… things change a bit now with scale charts.

Scale charts have numbers that represent your fingering – not which fret to use. Do not fear! Scale charts will show you which frets to place your fingers on. Scale charts (and chord charts) show you a diagram as if you were looking right down on top of the fret board. Take a look at the pictures – Can you see how the note on the fretboard diagram is translated to the guitar?

Note: Sometimes scale diagrams are vertical like in the example we have here, but they can also be represented horizontally – similar to tab. Just remember that how we read scale and chord charts is very different from how we read tab.

*Because we can start scales on any fret, it’s often unnecessary to have a diagram of the entire fretboard.  You will know what scale you are playing from your root note!

Two ways to discover the correct fret, or starting point, on a scale chart:

  1. The “Nut”, or block at the end of the fretboard, will give you a visual representation of where you are. (In case you don’t know what the nut is – find the diagram of the parts of the guitar found inside this book.)
  1. A number indicating the fret beside the chart will tell you exactly where to start your first note.

Starting with your second finger on the third fret, go through the G major scale one note at a time.  When you get to the end, do the same thing in reverse.  

The Big Secret To Playing ANY Scale

Complete all the notes on one string before moving to the next string. Start with your lowest note on the low E string, play the next note in the sequence to complete all the notes of the scale on the E string before you move on to the A string.

So in this example, you would play the 3rd fret of the E string (with your 2nd finger) and then play the 5th fret of the E string (with your pinky finger/4th finger). Then you would move to the 2nd fret of the A string with your first finger and do all 3 notes on the A string before moving to the D string and so on.

Often scales have at least 2 notes per string. In the case of the G Major Scale that I’m showing you here, there are 2-3 notes per string. So just remember that you need to complete ALL the notes on each string before you move onto the next string.

Lastly, just like your warm up scale, you want to prioritize these 3 things, in this order:

A great way to practice your scales is with a metronome! You can just search “online metronome” in your favorite search engine or there are many free apps like “Pro Metronome” in the Apple App Store. This tool will help you especially with #2 consistency (so you can improve your rhythm) and #3 Speed (you can keep track of how fast you can play it).

The scales we will learn next are actually EASIER than the major scale so stay tuned.