We are about to learn THE most important scale in all of music:


Why is this scale so important? Well, because the vast majority of music you hear comes directly from it. And when musicians talk about other scales, they still use the Major scale for comparison.

Like all scales, The Major scale has a formula. In other words, it has a specific pattern that it must adhere to. You can measure the Major scale or any scale’s formula by measuring from note to note to note, etc. In music we measure these using half-steps (1 fret) and whole-steps (2 frets). (Later on we’ll experiment with others).

The Major scale uses 7 different notes to produce a “happy” sound. The eighth note is the same as the first, and in traditional theory you should start and end a scale on the same note.

The formula for ALL Major scales is:

major formula

This means that you play a note on any given fret. We’ll call this number (1), then go up a whole step to land on number (2). Count up another whole step and you end up on number (3). Next count a half-step to reach number (4). Another whole step to find number (5), and another to get to (6). A final whole step will take you to (7). Count up one more half-step to find your octave.

Here is the Major scale formula on your guitar neck:


You can start this formula on any fret or string and play a Major scale. Try a few (make sure to stick with the formula!). Does it sound happy yet? If not try again…it should start sounding like the “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, (Do)” that we all remember from childhood.

We just learned the Major scale up one string. It works fine, but the linear shape requires a lot of movement up and down the neck. But NO WORRIES!!! One of the coolest things about the guitar is the fact that you always have the option to play something with a different fingering. Let’s try a more condensed version of this scale:

one octave maj scale chart