Major guitar scales (and modes)

Learning Major Guitar Scales

One of the most frequently used scales for playing the guitar are major scales. They are especially used in Western musical traditions, and they have heavily influenced the popular music in the second half of the XX century.

What is a major scale?

Major scales belong to the group of the so-called diatonic scales. Diatonic scales are in the group of heptatonic scales, which actually means that they have seven tones in them: five of those seven are whole tones, and two are half-tones or semitones. The semitones are two or three steps apart from each other – this depends on the position of the specific tone on a scale.The influence of major scales on music is amazing; a large number of guitar chords can be created from these scales, which is the reason for their wide applicability and frequent use. We simply couldn’t imagine today’s music without major scales.

Scales and Modes

Many people who aren’t well versed in guitar playing often make the mistake of confusing guitar scales with guitar modes. It’s important to note here that these things are not the same, although interconnected. A scale, as we mentioned, is a sequence of a certain number of notes in an exact position (for example, majors are seven-note sequences with two semitones per scale). Modes are actually derivations of one scale. There are several types of modes, and all of them can be derived from one major scale, but they are not scales per se. think of modes as hues of the same color: the primary color is the same, but we can get many hues, depending on our preference.

Why should you know guitar modes?

After learning about guitar modes, the logical question arises: why should I know them? Do I really need to know modes to play better, or to play well? Well, the short answer is no. You don’t need to know guitar modes in order to be able to play, but – you will definitely play much more proficient once you integrate mode-playing into your system. Guitar modes are interesting because they have the same tones as their basic scale, but the tones themselves are arranged differently. Every mode starts from a different note – they are all there, all seven of them, but not in the same order.

Why is this useful?

The core of any music lies in harmony. Harmony is the glue which holds all the parts of a musical structure together. By playing major guitar scales in different modes, you will be able to address the harmonical structure of a song much better, and your playing will fit the mood of a musical piece perfectly. You see, harmony cannot exist without chords – they are its building blocks. Now, once you know which chords to use, you should detect their tonal centers. Tonal centers are the notes which go hand-in-hand with the harmony of a song. Many times, the tonal center of the scale isn’t necessarily the tonal center of the chord – that’s the beauty of music.

By acquiring guitar modes, you will have no trouble soloing on top of any chord change that comes about. Now, let’s delve deeper into the structure of guitar modes. How to detect guitar modes for a major scale For this, we will use the C major scale and go through all the modes, to give you a clear look. This scale has a sequence of C D E F G A B C. this tone formation can also be called an Ionian mode.

• Dorian: D E F G A B C D
• Phrygian: E F G A B C D E
• Lydian: F G A B C D E F
• Mixolydian: G A B C D E F G
• Aeolian: A B C D E F G A
• Locrian: B C D E F G A B

How to memorize the major scale modes?

Once you master the finger positions for a major scale, you will easily acquire the modes. You don’t have to memorize all the modes at once, and use them by heart; for starters, it’s enough to know the chord progressions you’re in, and to detect the tonal center. Then, you can match the tones in the tonal center of the chord and the starting note of a mode. You will immediately feel the perfect match between the chords played and the notes on top of them.The best way to become a great guitar player and play scales and modes perfectly is by – practicing. The more you practice, the better you will be, and the results will come sooner.