Major Scales On Guitar

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Knowing the different major scales positions on your guitar is very useful and can really skyrocket your guitar skills.

Are you mainly a solo guitarist? Or do you plan on becoming one? Then it’s a necessary step for you, like knowing the minor and pentatonic scales, and other ones.

In any case, understanding how guitar scales work in general will help you a lot. Ready to follow the guide? Let’s move on to the first part.

1. What’s a major scale?

Good question. The major scale is composed of seven notes. The 8th note is actually the octave. A C major scale (the simplest one to write) is:


Let me briefly explain a few terms to understand the situation here:

  •     Tonic (C): The first degree. It’s what gives the “tone” to a scale. If it was a G scale, then G would be the tonic. It must be played to feel the tone of the scale.
  •     Mediant (E):  The third degree. Its importance is slightly lower than the dominant.
  •     Dominant (G):  The fifth. It’s essential to play it.
  •     Leading Tone (B): The seventh. It’s not as important as the three previous degrees. But if you don’t play the mediant, it’s good to have the leading tone.
  •     Octave (C): The tonic and 8th degree.

How are the other notes called? Please refer to the article. It’s a bit more theoretical but you’ll see how scales work afterwards.

Another crucial point to understand is that any interval between two notes is divided into semitones. Here’s how it works, for the C Major scale:

C Major Scale
W = Whole Step = 2 semitones H = Half Step = 1 semitone

Note that it will always be 2WH3WH for every major scales.

The frets on your guitar are here to separate semitones. For example, from case 1 to 2, there’s only 1 semitone. And from case 0 to 12? One octave.

It’s essential to get how major scales function before moving on to the next part. I know it can be confusing sometimes but once you understand the whole process, it makes perfect sense.

2. Guitar Major Scales Positions

So what are the different positions on the fretboard for a C Major scale? Let’s first look at your fingerboard from case 1 to 12:

C Major Scale Diagram on Fretboard
Yellow = Tonic Red = Other degrees

There are actually as many positions as notes on the sixth string: 7 (the 12th degree is the octave so it’s the same as the open chord position). When you attempt all of them, you find out that some are easier to execute than others. Like this one:

C Major Scale Position 1
1 = Index / 2 = Major / 3 = Ring Finger

The digits correspond to your fingers. It shows you how to place them on the different cases.

Do you want to see the other positions? They’re available here.

3. Other scales.

As pointed out before, knowing your fretboard is huge. It will develop an array of new possibilities for you.

This website will help you a lot in that matter.

To switch to the other guitar scales articles, click on the following links:


  1. Hi Ben,

    Great article!

    My husband is a guitarist, but he plays based on sounds. It sounds funny, but he didn’t learn theory notes, and he plays fantastically. I think it’s a gift from God:)
    My daughter wants to learn guitar, and she needs to learn the major scales. I’ll show her this useful article. I am sure she will love it! Are you going to make videos for beginners in the future? That will help a lot.

    Thank you for this excellent post!

    1. Hi Daniella, I’m glad you liked the article!

      Your husband plays by ear, it’s a good gift!

      Yes I will post videos for beginners in the near future. There are already some on my website. Check out the Beginner’s section 🙂

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