You can play a lot of guitar music if you've memorized the five major scale patterns. The best way to practice major scale patterns for guitar is to practice playing them in position (meaning that the left-hand fingers cover four consecutive frets). This kind of practice exercise will help get your fingers used to the many different major scale patterns available. In total, there are 12 major scales and 5 fingering patterns, which gives you a lot of options and a lot to practice.

Major scale pattern #1 starts with the 2nd finger on the 6th string. Look at the way this pattern is applied to an A major scale in 4th position:


Click here to download and print this scale pattern.

Notice the small 2 to the left of the A notehead indicating the proper fingering in the music staff. This indicator tells you to use your left-hand 2nd finger to play that note. Practice this pattern many times until you feel comfortable playing it.

Keep in mind that the 2nd finger is actually one fret higher than the name of the position (which is always defined as the fret number that the 1st finger plays).

After you’re comfortable playing this finger pattern in all keys, practice it in rhythm using the following exercise in the key of G major in 2nd position and in ascending and descending eighth notes. Try to play it in a steady beat (using a metronome or a foot tap) to make the music flow. Break up the scale by adding accents and varying the length of the notes from sustained (called legato) to crisp and clipped (staccato).


Now try major scale pattern #1 in the key of Bb major in 5th position in ascending and descending eighth-note triplets. At times, you'll encounter many different types of rhythms, so playing scales in triplets helps you mix things up a bit, rhythmically speaking.


Next, try the major scale pattern #1 in the key of C major in 7th position in ascending and descending sixteenth notes. Because these are sixteenth notes, the notes now come four to the beat instead of two. So play them a little faster than you would play eighth notes. This way you get used to playing quickly as well as moderately.


As you practice, play each major scale from low to high, slowly, loudly, and deliberately at first to help develop the muscles in your hand and fingers — similar to the way athletes might lift weights. Then play it faster and lighter to more closely approach how the music is actually played in performance. Just be sure to maintain your starting tempo and dynamic level (loudness) throughout the scale.