JRS Survival Guitar Lesson 2: Using the Major Scale

Now that you’ve learned to play the Major scale, it’s time to use it in music.

Click on Using the Major Scale to hear a midi file example.

One of the main reasons to learn this scale was to allow you to improvise (solo) along with a song. If you’ve memorized the form I showed you in lesson 1, you’ve learned what’s called a moveable shape. This means you can start the scale at any fret on the guitar. Try it out!

The next question is, how do you use the scale to improvise with a song. This is where your ear comes in to play. It’s time to listen.

Pick a song you like that has a simple structure to it. For this lesson, pick one that has Major chords in it (ie. sounds happy and upbeat). Any top 40 song will probably work. Now, listen to the chords being played. Do they seem to repeat? A lot of songs use a simple repeating chord progression. Keep listening until you can pick out the repeating chord progression. This can be tough, but stick it out!

OK. Let’s assume you’ve picked a song, and found that it seems to revolve around three chords. You find that the notes seem to be A, D, E. You’ve picked it out on guitar, and it corresponds to playing the low E string at the 5th fret (makes the A note), then playing the A string at the 5th fret (makes the D note), then playing the A string at the 7th fret (makes the E note). In guitar tabulature, it would look something like this.


Now it’s time to try that Major scale. Get that song going, and grab your guitar. We’re going to improvise with the Major scale. All you have to do is start your Major scale on the same note that your chord progression starts with. Try it!

You may not know it, but you’re now playing in key with the song. Any note in the Major scale should sound good when played over the song. If it sounds totally awful, you’ve probably started your Major scale on the wrong fret. Experiment by moving the Major scale shape around until it fits. Trust your ears!

With practice, you will be able to make the Major scale fit into any song. It turns out that the Major scale will even fit into a song with Minor chords, but that takes some more technical explanations. For now, stay happy. Stay Major!






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