Skip to main content

How to Understand Major Scales in Fingerstyle Guitar

Learn about major scales from guitarist Adam Smale in this online fingerstyle guitar lesson from Howcast.


One really good way to understand and build a major scale is to play it on one string. So I'm going to stick with the C Major scale again, just to make it simple, and I'm going to start on the second string, first fret, on that C.

Now before I do that I should explain how the Major scale is constructed. Let's talk about tones and semi-tones. A tone is a distance of two frets. If I move from this C to that D, that is a distance of one tone, or a full tone. A semi-tone is a distance of one fret. So if I move from this C to this D flat, that's a semitone. So the scale is built up of tones and semi-tones. And this is what you have to remember, it goes tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone.

Let me explain, so you can actually see this on the guitar. So we can't call this a tone yet because we haven't moved anywhere. Remember, we have to move one or two frets for you to be a tone or a semi-tone. So if I start off with C I'm going to move up my first tone to D, then my second tone to E. Now comes the semi-tone to F, a tone to G, a tone to A, another tone to B, and then, finally, a semi-tone to the end. So let's do that again. Tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone.

That's a really great way to understand how to create major scales, playing them on one string.

Popular Categories