A Major Shift
Think of the major scale as being like DNA, the building block that makes life; in this case music. In future chapters we will see exactly what this scale is capable of; for now let's use it as a tool to construct melodies and leads.
Major scales are familiar to everyone, even though you may not know the name for it. FIGURE 6-1 shows you how to play a simple C-Major scale in the open position.
Sounds very familiar, right? What differentiates the major scale from the pentatonic is the number of notes present in the scale. Instead of five notes, the major scale has seven. For example a C-Major scale consists of the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C; the first note (C) is the root of the scale. Every major scale always uses seven notes and always repeats the first note. Major scales use every note of the musical alphabet, and always follow the same order. Major scales have a smoother sound than pentatonic scales because they don't skip any notes.
One of the great things you've probably noticed about the guitar is its ability to let you move shapes around the guitar neck with ease. In the earlier chapters, you learned to move pentatonic scales, barre chords, and power chords. Major and minor scales aren't left out of the fun; they can be moved just as easily. However, what you see in FIGURE 6-1 is
This shape can be played in any key—just move the first note and keep the finger pattern the same. Just like chords, scales can be thought of as little pictures. While they aren't as easy to visualize as the pentatonic scale is, the shape isn't too complex. Make sure to memorize the shape, because it's going to come in really handy.
Beyond Simple Major
In Chapter 5, you were able to generate five shapes for the pentatonic scale by mapping out the notes all across the neck. The same technique can be applied to major scales. Let's stay in C Major for now and use the notes of the C-Major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. This is an easy scale to memorize because it doesn't use any sharps or flats.
FIGURE 6-3 maps out all the notes of C Major all over the neck.
The scale diagram looks huge and very intimidating, but don't worry. We can simplify it greatly and extract positions and shapes to make it simple. A full neck diagram shows all the notes you can use, but you don't have to use all of them right from the get-go. A good analogy is the dictionary. The dictionary contains just about every word you could ever use in the English language, but you don't have to use them all. You use whatever vocabulary is comfortable and efficient. As you grow older you learn more and more effective words—as you mature as a guitar player, you will use more of the notes in this neck diagram. At first it may seem daunting, but you can break it down into simple moveable shapes.
The easiest way to learn to play a scale is from the root. The root of a scale is the same as any other root you've encountered so far; it's the lowest note and it names the chord or scale you're using. In the following examples C is used as the root of the major scales. For every root on the guitar, there is a scale shape that you can play from that note. Every string contains one root; that's the beauty of a guitar string. Every note in the musical alphabet is found at least once on every string. FIGURE 6-4 shows the locations of every C on the guitar—there are six, one for each string.
From these Cs you can place major scale shapes. In theory, there should be six positions of the major scale to play. But for a scale to be effective and moveable, you need efficient fingering. Scales that shift all over the neck have their use, but learning simpler shapes first is better. The six Cs aren't good candidates for starting a scale. For our purposes, the scale will take three strings to complete, so starting on the second or first string won't work, because you'll run out of room. You can start these scales from the sixth, fifth, fourth, and third strings, so there are four shapes to learn. Each of these shapes is completely moveable.