This scale might be a challenge, but it's essential to any player.
By Ben Nemeroff
The G major scale is a great scale for beginners to explore on the guitar for two important reasons. First, the G major scale is present in some of the most popular songs, so understanding this scale will help you dive deeper into your musical journey, whether you want to learn to play those songs or write music of your own.
Secondly, major scales are the perfect place to begin your music theory education. These scales tend to have fewer tricky notes. Even without extensive musical knowledge, they sound “right” to the untrained ear.
In this lesson, we’ll cover the G major scale. You’ll learn about the notes it contains, as well as finger placements you’ll need to know to play this scale in five positions on your guitar. Finally, we’ll also take a look at the chords that correspond to this important scale.
There are seven notes in the G major scale:
If you’ve studied the E minor scale, you might notice that it’s made up of the same notes as the G major scale but with a different starting point. Because of this similarity, E minor is known as the relative minor of G major.
Now, let’s take a look at the different positions and finger placements you’ll need to learn in order to play the G major scale on the guitar.
One simple way to learn the G major scale is by using guitar scale diagrams. These diagrams represent the fretboard of your guitar. The circled numbers represent which finger you should use to fret each note. Each finger is numbered accordingly:
1= Index finger 2= Middle finger 3= Ring finger 4= Pinkie finger
Follow these diagrams exactly to learn proper finger placement. White dots in the diagrams represent open strings.
To play the G major scale in open position properly, use your index finger to play notes on the first fret, your middle finger for notes on the second, your ring finger for notes on the third, and your pinkie for notes on the fourth.
To play the G major scale in second position, move each finger up one fret from open position. You’ll use your index finger to play notes on the second fret, your middle finger for notes on the third fret, and so on.
To play the G major scale in fifth position, start with your index finger on the fourth fret, your middle finger on the fifth fret, your ring finger on the sixth fret, and your pinkie on the seventh.
This scale does require you to shift your hand position to reach the notes on the B and high e strings. When you’re playing these strings, use your index finger on the fifth fret, your middle on the sixth, your ring finger on the seventh, and your pinkie on the eighth.
When you play the G major scale in ninth position, use your index finger on the ninth fret, your middle finger on the 10th, your ring finger on the 11th, and your pinkie on the 12th and the 13th. To reach the notes on the 13th fret, you may need to move your hand up slightly, then move it back to the starting position.
Finally, to play the G major scale in 12th position, you’ll need to shift your hand a little bit so you can use your index finger to play notes on both the 11th and 12th frets. You’ll use your other fingers for one fret each, with your middle finger on the 13th fret, your ring finger on the 14th, and your pinkie on the 15th.
Although shifting your hand position in this way might be uncomfortable at first, it’s a great way to practice these movements and build dexterity for when you’re ready to learn more complicated pieces of music in the future.
Many chords work well with the G major scale, which explains why this scale is so common in rock and pop music. There are seven chords that correspond most closely to the G major scale. Let’s take a look at each chord individually, and learn a little bit about the music theory behind how chords are formed.
You can understand chords by looking at the intervals between the notes as they appear in a scale. You can find a third, for example, by counting up three notes from the root note of a scale. Like all major chords, G major uses the root of its scale, G, the major third, B, and the perfect fifth, D. Learn how to play the G major chord here.
Next, you’ll want to play the A minor chord. This chord consists of the root note, A, the minor third, C, and the perfect fifth E. Learn how to play the A minor chord here.
The B minor chord is usually played as a barre chord, so you might want to brush up on your barre chord technique. It’s formed using the root B, the minor third D, and the perfect fifth F#. Learn how to play the B minor chord here.
The C major chord uses the root note C, the major third E, and the perfect fifth G. Learn how to play the C major chord here.
The D major chord contains the notes D, F#, and A. Learn how to play the D major chord here.
The E minor chord is made up of the root note E, the minor third G, and the perfect fifth B. Learn how to play the E minor chord here.
The F# diminished (F# dim) chord is a bit different from the other chords we’ve played so far because it doesn’t actually contain its root note, F#. Instead, this chord consists of two notes: the minor third and the diminished fifth: A and C. Here are a few ways to play the F# dim chord:
Once you’re able to play all seven chords of the G major scale, practice strumming them and switching between them. Go slowly at first, and strum each chord four times before switching to the next one. This will help you memorize each chord and master the skills you need to change chords quickly.
One of the best ways to memorize your scales is to play them over and over. Start slowly, and make sure that you’re cleanly fretting each note and using the correct finger placement. As you build more strength in your fingers, you can begin to play the scales a little faster. Using a metronome as you practice your scales can help you to keep time while you play.
You might also like to play each G major scale position in a row, starting in open position and working up to 12th. As you play, listen to the differences in pitch as you play the same notes on different spots on the fretboard.
Scale practice also makes for a perfect time to practice technique with your picking hand. Use your scale practice to work on your alternate picking technique. Or, if you’re already comfortable with alternate picking, try playing your scales to a syncopated rhythm. Make practicing your scales a regular part of your guitar practice routine, and your time will be well-spent training your fingers and your ears.
If you'd like to learn how to play even more scales, browse Fender Play's chord library, learn about chord types, and find tips on how to master them.
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