In previous lessons, we've learned about the musical alphabet, their location on the fretboard, and how to recognize them in standard notation. Now, we will learn about how these notes combine to create melodies.
The majority of music in the world is tonal, meaning that it is created from scales. These scales are made up of various notes, which are formed by a specific combination of half-steps and whole-steps surrounding a single note. This may seem hard to comprehend at first, but it is really a simple idea:
There are various notes in the musical alphabet.
By applying a specific formula of half-steps and whole-steps around that note, a scale related to that note is formed.
It may seem confusing at first, but you will soon see that it is quite easy.
The most commonly used type of scale in popular music is the Major Scale. The major scale, like any other scale, is made by applying a pattern of steps to a specific note. This pattern never changes!
Now, let's look at the formula for the major scale:
A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A
*When applying this formula, it is important to remember that the interval between B-C and E-F is considered a half-step, therefore a whole step away from the note "B" is "C#"
Below are all the examples of the Major Scale Formula. To simplify the learning process, only sharps are used in these examples. Also, notes such as E# and called F here. In reality, E# is usually used.
*The major scale is dominant in "bright", "happy", or "upbeat" songs. It is important to remember these emotional associations when composing your music. Generally, you would not try to compose a sad song that is based around a major key.
Now that we know how to form the major scales, we need to know how to apply them to our guitar. Fortunately, a simple pattern can be applied to form the major scale. To use this pattern, one must simply start on the root note on the sixth (Low "E") string. For example, if one were playing the G major scale, one would start the pattern on the third fret of the Low "E" string.
Here is the pattern:
*Memorize this pattern well. It is essential for any guitarist to have complete mastery of the major scale.
Now we know what the major scale is, how it is formed, and how it is applied to the guitar. The next stage is practice! Below, in the Supplemental Resources section, I've included links to exercises and lessons that will help you master the major scale.
Major Scale Exercises - This page contains some exercises, in tab format, that will help you easily move through the major scale.
Major Scale Soloing - This page is a lesson on soloing with the major scale. This is a must-read.
Guitar Total Scales Techniques and Applications - This book not only teaches the major scale, but also every other scale, as well as their application on the guitar fretboard, how to recognize them, and how to use them to create solos.
There is also a DVD version.