Basic Theory Made Easy. Part 1: The Major Scale

For theory beginners, this will give you tools to build music.

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For all intents and purposes, western music's notes, scales, and harmonies are all based on the major scale. What exactly IS the major scale? It is a particular series of pitches (notes) that occur in music. Remember "do, re, mi, fa, so, la ,ti, do?" The SOUND of that series of notes is the major scale. Simple. What makes the major scale so special? There are a couple reasons. The first is, of course, the way it sounds. It is incredibly easy to identify. We know this because of the "do, re, mi..." thing. But you don't even need to hear those syllables to be able to identify that particular series of pitches. We know now that a scale is a series of pitches. But a MAJOR scale is a series of pitches that is constructed a PARTICULAR WAY. It can be built off of any note. Does the SOUND of the series change? NO. A major scale is ALWAYS major regardless of what note it is built off of. Here is the second reason the major scale is special: Its particular series of notes is constructed using a particular series of intervals. What is an interval? An interval is simply the step measurement between TWO NOTES. ONE NOTE is NEVER an interval! You MUST have two notes to be able to judge the distance (or interval) between them. Translated to guitar: ONE FRET DIFFERENCE = 1/2 step. TWO FRETS DIFFERENCE = 1 whole step (and so forth). So let's say you are on the E string and you are playing a note on the 3rd fret. This, of course, is a G. The G itself is NOT an interval. But let's say that after you played the G, you played the note on the 4th fret. That note would be a G#, and it would be 1/2 step from G. Those two notes are said to be 1/2 step apart. THAT is the interval. Now that you know what an interval is, let's "build" a major scale. **** (Just to be safe, start low on your neck for this) Firstly, pick a note - any note that isn't open and play it. Secondly, go up two frets and play that note. Again, go up two more frets and play that note. Now, when you go up, only go up ONE fret and play the note. After that, go up 2 frets and play the note. Now, play two more notes, each going up by 2 frets. Finally, on your last note, only go up by a half step (or 1 fret) **** You should have played a major scale. And if played correctly, you should have ended 12 frets above where you started. Now, to refer back to what I said before, the major scale has a particular series of intervals. If you noted the intervals and played them correctly, you should have gotten: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. This is your blueprint for how to build every major scale. There you have it. Without reading a single note or piece of TAB, you built YOUR OWN major scale. Practice this and remember it. And in my next article, I will start to show you WHY it is the way it is. Thanks for reading.

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    illyria
    bloody hell! i came here thinking to finally be able to find a tab for the major scales. still no tab. most major scale lessons i see on the web don't have the tabs. and i want to learn the major scales(already know the basic minor scales)
    ERICtheBERIC
    dude thanks and keep em coming. ive been playing guitar for like 3 years now and dont know a thing about theory. this is probably gonna help me a lot
    IAmTheWendigo
    limegut wrote: @Illyria if you really need a tab.... any string: 0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 its not theory though if you don't take intervals into account. Intervals are the most important part of ALL music. I would suggest learning theory, not shapes and shit. You need to CONSTRUCT your scales and chords instead of doing it the lazy way. LEARN! Besides, there is a near infinite amount of ways to play the major scale on a guitar, which is something you really need to understand.
    Just have to check if i got this correct. Will the next 5 notes in that line of yours be 14 16 18 20 21? Thanks in advance.
    lilstillrocks
    Correcton; B doesn't have a sharp, rather than a C, and C doesn't have a flat, rather than D. Was a few step off haha
    lilstillrocks
    It's a half step, you're not skipping the sharp/flat, it simply isn't there. All the others are a full step because it goes, for example, A, A#, B. E and C do not have sharps, and that means D and F do not have flats. If I'm not mistaken, Jon? That is how I have been taught anyway.
    Deeker
    illyria wrote: look pall: it's not that i don't wan't to put fort effort. i actually want to and put fort effort. but every lesson on the major scale is like chinese to me. i never understand it. and the scales i see on UG are only half most of the times and weird to me. that's why i want to find a complete major scale tab to learn it perfect(i'm a perfectionist when it omes to music) when people give weird major scale instructions i'm afriad to **** upp and not do it perfect. this is the reason i wanted to find a perfect major scale tab! so *****(words that make peoples ears bleed)
    Dude, If you really have that much trouble with scales just look up http://www.modemaster.com/, then all will be revealed to you and your need for a complete major scale. great lesson ima check out number 2 now
    Hab Fan
    illyria wrote: look pall: it's not that i don't wan't to put fort effort. i actually want to and put fort effort. but every lesson on the major scale is like chinese to me. i never understand it. and the scales i see on UG are only half most of the times and weird to me. that's why i want to find a complete major scale tab to learn it perfect(i'm a perfectionist when it omes to music) when people give weird major scale instructions i'm afriad to **** upp and not do it perfect. this is the reason i wanted to find a perfect major scale tab! so *****(words that make peoples ears bleed)
    Dude, if you're a perfectionist then use the whole step (2 frets) \half step (1 fret) formula as this defines the major scale in any position. If you base it on a tab then you are looking at the major scale in one position which won't help you at all.
    illyria
    Jonthecomposer wrote: westley23j wrote: ... THIS is why there are so many bad bands out there. nobody wants to put forth EFFORT. they all expect to be spoon fed. great job, Johthecomposer. way to break it down simply. ...The notes will be the same no matter where they are on the fretboard. Just find those notes in a vertical scale pattern that you are used to seeing, and there you have it. Thanks. Also, I agree totally with your point.
    look pall: it's not that i don't wan't to put fort effort. i actually want to and put fort effort. but every lesson on the major scale is like chinese to me. i never understand it. and the scales i see on UG are only half most of the times and weird to me. that's why i want to find a complete major scale tab to learn it perfect(i'm a perfectionist when it omes to music) when people give weird major scale instructions i'm afriad to **** upp and not do it perfect. this is the reason i wanted to find a perfect major scale tab! so *****(words that make peoples ears bleed)
    Jonthecomposer
    @TheDissident: I appreciate that. Thank you! I will warn you though. The second article is going to be a lot more involved. But just break it down piece by piece and it shouldn't be a problem. It's still awaiting approval.
    TheDissident
    Basic (not in the assholish I'm too good for this sort of thing) and informative. I've worked on theory for a while, but with how good I'm thinking these are gonna be I might have to go back to basics and follow along! Thanks
    Jonthecomposer
    @JohnnyApplecore: Cool. Thanks. @ERICtheBERIC: Not a problem. Got one in queue already. @villageidiot14: Just give me an email with a question. If it ends up giving me something to write about, I'll include it in an article.
    JohnnyApplecore
    Learning scales on one string is useful, it makes playing in different positions and playing modes a lot less of a hassle.
    Jonthecomposer
    illyria wrote: bloody hell! i came here thinking to finally be able to find a tab for the major scales. still no tab. most major scale lessons i see on the web don't have the tabs. and i want to learn the major scales(already know the basic minor scales)
    You don't need TAB for this lesson. It is meant to have you figure it out so you don't need someone else telling you how to play it. It's pretty easy actually.
    Jonthecomposer
    Riot Act wrote: Hey, you're gonna need another whole-step interval right before the end there. Almost though.
    You missed it. I put two notes on one explanation line. It reads: "Now, play two more notes, each going up by 2 frets."
    User_Name336
    VERY good lesson in my opinion. I learned the major scale going up strings instead of going up frets. It never occurred to me I could do it that way too! I feel like such a fool right now! Great lesson for all the beginners and very well written as well. Easy to follow along and explained perfectly. After this series, will you be going into more theory?
    Riot Act
    Hey, you're gonna need another whole-step interval right before the end there. Almost though.
    limegut
    @Illyria if you really need a tab.... any string: 0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 its not theory though if you don't take intervals into account. Intervals are the most important part of ALL music. I would suggest learning theory, not shapes and shit. You need to CONSTRUCT your scales and chords instead of doing it the lazy way. LEARN! Besides, there is a near infinite amount of ways to play the major scale on a guitar, which is something you really need to understand.
    Jonthecomposer
    AK1502 wrote: nice... i hope there's more
    Thanks. It's on the way. The second article is a LOT more involved. But if you read it in small chunks and only go to each part as you understand it, it should be very helpful.
    Jonthecomposer
    westley23j wrote: ... THIS is why there are so many bad bands out there. nobody wants to put forth EFFORT. they all expect to be spoon fed. great job, Johthecomposer. way to break it down simply. ...The notes will be the same no matter where they are on the fretboard. Just find those notes in a vertical scale pattern that you are used to seeing, and there you have it.
    Thanks. Also, I agree totally with your point.
    Jonthecomposer
    butterfingers30 wrote: Since I am new to scales and music theory, I thought this was very helpful.
    Thank you. Glad to help.
    westley23j
    illyria wrote: bloody hell! i came here thinking to finally be able to find a tab for the major scales. still no tab. most major scale lessons i see on the web don't have the tabs. and i want to learn the major scales(already know the basic minor scales)
    hate to be negative nancy, but THIS is why there are so many bad bands out there. nobody wants to put forth EFFORT. they all expect to be spoon fed. great job, Johthecomposer. way to break it down simply. illyria, the notes will be the same no matter where they are on the fretboard. fust find those notes in a vertical scale pattern that you are used to seeing, and there you have it.
    Jonthecomposer
    Yes, I have you play the major scale on ONE STRING. But that is only to give you a linear representation of what you are playing.... as though it were an actual measuring scale.
    IAmTheWendigo
    IAmTheWendigo wrote: limegut wrote: @Illyria if you really need a tab.... any string: 0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12 its not theory though if you don't take intervals into account. Intervals are the most important part of ALL music. I would suggest learning theory, not shapes and shit. You need to CONSTRUCT your scales and chords instead of doing it the lazy way. LEARN! Besides, there is a near infinite amount of ways to play the major scale on a guitar, which is something you really need to understand. Just have to check if i got this correct. Will the next 5 notes in that line of yours be 14 16 18 20 21? Thanks in advance.
    Ahh nvm, just reread it and i realised it has only 12 frets