Best Way To Understand The Major Scale


I was asked to explain what is the major scale. The best way I can explain it is using the analogy of a mountain called Music Mountain. It’s a mountain where a traveller who has several homes goes on a journey from his 1st home and then goes up (and sometimes down) to his another home up the hill. The journey consists of steps that spiral up the hill.

The journey up has 12 steps from root home to the next root home

Home (Higher Root)
Home (Lower Root)

The major scale is the path of  8 specific steps the traveller can go on his journey. There are other spots that he can go but the Major scale has specific 8 steps and it is known in the most common path in Music Land.

So where are all these 8 spots or notes on the guitar? One of them is of course along the same strings just going up the fret as in the diagram.

However, that’s not very practical as there are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th strings to use. So therefore on a guitar, we have several of these Major Scale locations. Below is one of them (where the Red notes are the Root or Home notes)

The one we have above is the E-shaped major scale path because the open E chord sits right in there.

Learning to play Good Guitar means to know this ‘Major Scale’ path as the most travelled path really well. Every starter begins with this and every journey to play Good Guitar has to master this.

The rest of the Major Scale locations are

(Location 2)

(Location 3)

(Location 4)

(Location 5)

Exercise to Walk This Path

Go for a walk, journey by playing each of these steps ie. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and finally back to R. Notice how you feel when you are on each of these steps?  Hear the quality and tonality of the sound. If Root is the Home and the feeling of settledness, what is the 2nd, the 3rd and the rest feels?

As a start, get to know these steps well.

The Root, the 3rd, the 5th and the 7th (or commonly called the Pentatonic scale) are the most common locations people tend to rest on the journey. How do these steps feel when you reach there?

Explore the most restful locations of the major scale:
“The Pentatonic Scale”

To me the 3rd feels like a great first place to rest, the 5 feels like a good place to have lunch and the 7th the cool front yard to hang out so close to home. The 3rd feels like exciting, The 5th feels strong, the 7th Jazzy.

What about you? What does each note in the major scale make you feel? How about when you walk around Music Mountain using ALL THE NOTES instead?

I hope you’ll find that the more you travel the “major scale” by going up and down the notes that you will make this the reference point of what is a “NATURAL” and quite an “easy” walk.

Next, we are going to explore, 2 other scales. One will be sadder (called the Minor Scale) and the other more edgy (called the Dominant Scale).

Together with the Major scale, they make up the 3 Kings of Scales.



2 thoughts on “Best Way To Understand The Major Scale

  1. Tar

    Hello HT,

    I have to be honest, I am quite lost but I think I do get what you mean on the major scale. I once wanted to learn guitar when I studied overseas and almost had one due to my influential friend but did not happen because I was quite pack with my university schedule. It’s quite interesting to learn guitar but knowing your limits and understanding life.


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