So, you've learned
the major scale and maybe a few of its patterns, but now you
need to know how it works over
Well that's what this lesson is all about! I'll take you through the
theory behind what connects the major scale to countless songs out
there. I'll also give you some chord tracks to help you make this
connection by ear.
The aim is to get to the stage where you can hear a chord progression
and almost instantly think "major scale". Impossible? Not at
all. This will be an invaluable boost for your improvisation skills and
your ability to write solos to existing songs.
Theory - Major Scale Chords
The first thing we need to do is build a chord scale around
of the major scale. This is often referred to as "scale
It means we take each
degree of the scale (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) and use them as root notes for our
chords as follows:
The upper case numerals represent major chords (I
IV V), lower case
iii vi). vii
is the odd one out because it's a diminished chord. Don't worry about
that for now! We use lower case numerals for diminished
So by making sure you know the intervals of
the major scale,
you'll automatically know the formula of its chord scale...
M m m M M m d
(M = major, m = minor, d = diminished) based on the interval
formula W W H W W W H
If, for example, we were to harmonize the D
major scale, the tonic (I)
chord would be D
major, with the other chords built accordingly based on
the notes of the D major scale (D E F# G A B C#)...
From this, we could build chord progressions in the key of D
various combinations of the chords in the scale. This means that
the D major
scale would be compatible over the entire progression, because all its
chords use notes from the scale (D E F# G A B C#). For example...
That's a very common major key progression, known as 1 4 5, over which
the D major
scale (and therefore D major pentatonic) could be used. We could also
use it if just two of those chords
were being played back and forth - I
IV I IV etc.
And we don't have to start the progression on the tonic chord...
As the E minor and A major chords are taken from that D major chord
we could even play the D major scale over a progression that just uses
the ii and V chords back and forth and it would still be compatible.
By learning the sound of these chord intervals across several keys,
you'll train your ear to pick out these major scale compatible chord
movements. We'll go deeper into this ear training shortly.
Now, if the tonic was instead Bb major,
we could use the Bb major scale around any progression built from its
So, spend time applying this chord scale, based on your
knowledge of the major scale's intervals, in different keys.
chord defines the key of the progression.
The tonic chord also defines the key
of your major
scale solo, as the root note of the tonic chord should be the same as
the root note of the major scale.
The roman numerals are just to show you the chord relationships without
specifying a key. It's the interval
that gives these progressions their sound, no
matter what key they're in. For example, you'd still recognise your
favourite song if it was in a different key, because the chord
movements are the same.
For example, Cmaj / Fmaj / Gmaj is the same as Amaj / Dmaj / Emaj. Both
these are 1 4 5 (I IV V) progressions in two different keys, the first
in C major, the second in A major. Both will sound the same, just in a
different pitch ("higher" or "lower" sounding).
Major scale chord progressions chart
The chart below shows you some common major scale chord progressions in
different keys. The idea is to really get to know the sound of these
chord movements in as many different keys as possible so you don't have
to rely on your solos being in the same key all the time.
these chord sequences on your guitar. Even just playing the bass notes
of each chord along the low E and A strings will help train your ear to
these interval movements.
Remember that these progressions can
be reordered (for example you could play I V ii instead of ii V I -
same chords). You should also try modifying them, adding other chords
from the scale. I just use the basic open chord or barre chord forms
for getting to know these interval relationships.
I IV V
V vi IV
A D E
Bm E A
A E F#m D
A C#m D
B E F#
C#m F# B
B F# Ab E
B Ebm E
C F G
Dm G C
C G Am F
C Em F
D G A
Em A D
D A Bm G
D F#m G
E A B
F#m B E
E B C#m A
E Abm A
F Bb C
Gm C F
F C Dm Bb
F Am Bb
G C D
Am D G
G D Em C
G Bm C
Of course there are sharp and flat keys as well, but the main thing is
you experiment with these major scale chord intervals and how these
relationships sound. Spend time mastering this, and you'll be able to
write chord progressions for major scale soloing. Also, you'll be able
to identify a chord progression suitable for using the major scale over.
this lesson helpful? Please let others know, cheers...