Session 5: Playing the G Major Scale

Session 4 was all about the way that major scales are built. (If you haven’t read Session 4 it would be good to do so before carrying on.) It showed the pattern of tones and semitones between the notes:


That’s useful if you simply want to play up and down on a single string (which, by the way, is a brilliant exercise to keep doing).

But to play flowing, connected lines we want to find ways of playing across the strings as well, without the hand jumping around too much.

Taking a scale of G major, it’s easy to see how this can be done. Start with the open G, the 3rd string. We already know that we’ll find the next note, A, at the second fret.


The next note is B. We could go up another two frets for this. But rather than stay on the 3rd string we can skip over to the 2nd string, open B. The next two notes, C and D, are also played on the 2nd string, at frets one and three.Ex2_150701_Play_Major_Scales

E is the next note, and it could be played two frets above the D we’re now on. But the 1st string will also give us an E, and we don’t have to change hand position to play it. So we skip to the first string, where we can also find F# and G at the second and third frets.Ex3_150701_Play_Major_Scales

And that’s it! A one-octave scale of G major in open position. All we need now is to decide which fingers to use. The most efficient and obvious way to do this is to apply the “one finger per fret” guideline.

  • 3rd finger plays the 3rd fret
  • 2nd finger plays the 2nd fret
  • 1st finger plays the first fret
  • No finger needed for the open strings (!)


Scale practice tips:

  1. When you practice this scale, don’t always start from the low G and work your way up and down – it’s a good idea to start from the high G and work down and up.
  2. Get into the habit of saying the name of each note at the same time as playing it. That way you quickly start to know your way around the fretboard.
  3. Better still, SING the name of each note as you play it. That really helps to develop your musical skills. You’ll soon recognise the sound of a major scale as easily as you recognise the sound of your own name!

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