Guitar Scales: How To Learn The Guitar Fretboard C Major Scale Positions

Guitar Scales: How To Learn The Guitar Fretboard C Major Scale Positions
By Mike P Hayes

Each type of scale has it’s own unique visual template; and each template has it’s own unique musical melody that can be moved to different keys (different pitch levels).

If we think of a scale as being a musical measuring tape, the visual design pattern for each type of scale is different e.g., the interval spacing pattern of a harmonic minor scale would be different to that of a melodic minor scale on the musical measuring tape.

For our first example we will use the key of C major.

The melody of the major scale is the familiar: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do

The musical template pattern for the major scales is: tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone

The C major scale contains the following notes: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C

Now let’s take these notes and transfer them to our major scale template (or measuring tape).

C (tone) D (tone) E (semi-tone) F (tone) G (tone) A (tone) B (semi-tone) C

Keeping in mind that the guitar fretboard is divided into semitones i.e., the distance from one fret to the next is a semitone, and two semitones (two frets) equal a tone.

Our next step is to transfer our musical design to the guitar fretboard.

From the note C to the note D is a tone (two frets), from the note D to the note E is a tone (two frets) from the note E to F (one fret) etc.

Here’s how we play a C major linear scale on the second string of the guitar.

C = 1

D = 3

E = 5

F = 6

G = 8

A = 10

B = 12

C = 13

Notice how the notes E-F and B-C do not have a gap in between them.

The linear scale design (interval spacing) remains the same regardless of our starting point, which means that the relative distance between each note in our ascending linear major scale would be exactly the same regardless of which C note we started on.

Obviously some linear scales would be more practical than others but for the purpose of this exercise let’s take a look at our optional starting points for a C major scale.

Since we have six strings we could therefore create six linear designs; the designs for the first and sixth string would be identical since both strings are tuned to the note E.

Starting points

1st (str) C = 8th (fret)

2nd (str) C = 1st (fr)

3rd (str) C = 5th (fr)

4th (str) C = 10th (fr)

5th (str) C = 3rd (fr)

6th (str) C = 8th (fr)

The linear design based on the 5th string would be a possible option for acoustic guitar; the other patterns would require an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with a cutaway.

Here’s how we play a C major linear scale on the fifth string of the guitar.

C = 3

D = 5

E = 7

F = 8

G = 10

A = 12

B = 14

C = 15

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