Finding the Major Scales on a Guitar

Finding the major scales on a guitar is not as hard as you might think. Traditionally, guitarists think of the guitar neck as being broken up into blocks of four frets, and, depending on what key you want to play in, your hand is positioned over that block of four frets. Two octaves’ worth of every pitch within that scale is located within each four-fret block.

Major scales on the guitar follow the pattern shown below, playing the notes in the number order they appear below (remember, the 8 of the first octave serves as the 1 of the second octave). To play major scales on the guitar, you just move that pattern along the neck of the guitar to build whatever major scale you’d like.

This major scale pattern works all up and down the guitar neck.
This major scale pattern works all up and down the guitar neck.

Click here to download and print this diagram.

Again, the key is determined by the first and last notes of the scale, so if you were asked to play a C major scale on the guitar, you would simply start scale on the eighth fret. Just the same pattern repeated along the neck, over and over.

To play each scale on the guitar, begin with the correct fret on the first string (the top string as you hold the guitar, the low E string), which is as follows:

  • Open string: E

  • 1st fret: F

  • 2nd fret: F#/Gb

  • 3rd fret: G

  • 4th fret: G#/Ab

  • 5th fret: A

  • 6th fret: A#/Bb

  • 7th fret: B

  • 8th fret: C

  • 9th fret: C#/Db

  • 10th fret: D

  • 11th fret: D#/Eb

  • 12th fret: E

Worth noting is that the actual pitch of the guitar is one octave (12 half steps) lower than the written pitch. This is regularly done in sheet music simply because most sheet music is written for piano. On the piano, the middle octave is the most frequently used and is therefore centered on the grand staff.

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