The Guitarist’s Guide To The Major Scale

Guitar scales are the building blocks of everything you’ll ever play on the guitar. They are a sequence of notes that provide a road map for everything, including chord construction, chord progressions, songwriting, and soloing. Understanding scales is about as essential to a guitarist’s survival as water is to a fish.

In this practice routine, you’ll be exposed to the major scale and play it in different keys.

Your Assignment

  • Download The Major Scale PDF
  • Watch the video (above)
  • Learn what measures are
  • Learn what quarter notes are
  • Practice The Major Scale PDF

Key Concepts

There’s no reason to stress yourself if the concept of guitar scales is still vague to you.  It’s kind of like learning to read. First, you must learn the alphabet, then you’ll start putting letters of the alphabet together to form words and sentences. With music, you have 12 notes instead of 26 letters in the alphabet. Scales help you group these notes in ways that are pleasing to the ear. For example; to play chords and melodies.

The first scale we’ll work with is the major scale. It has 7 notes and can easily be transposed to play in any key signature. It gives you a greater than 50% chance of hitting a correct note, because of the 12 different notes on the guitar, 7 of them will be in your major scale.

Rhythm Notation

It will come in handy to understand how to read a little bit of music notation to complete today’s assignment. Here you’ll learn what quarter notes are, how to count them, and how they will keep you in time.


When writing music down on paper for other musicians to play the music is divided into what is called measures. The measures are divided with vertical lines called bars. The lines that musical notes are placed on are called staffs.

Can you see the vertical lines in the music staff below?


Same thing here in this tablature staff:


All of our lessons, for the time being, will be in 4/4 time. That means each measure will get 4 beats (the count of four).

The Quarter Note

A quarter note is a note that represents the duration of one beat. In other words, each quarter note on the staff gets one beat.

It looks like this: quarter note

You remember that I told you that a song in standard (4/4) time gets 4 beats per measure, right? That would mean that the song would get 4 quarter notes per measure because a quarter note gets one beat. That’s why it’s called a quarter note. There are 4 quarters in a whole. For example, a dollar bill can be divided up into 4 quarters. (.25 + .25 + .25 + .25 = $1.00)

Picking A Comfortable Tempo

The tempo of a song tells us at what speed to play a song. If you’re a total beginner, I suggest you try starting exercise from The Major Scale PDF at around 60 or 70 beats per minute.