we go on to look at some major scale exercises for guitar, you
need to familiarise yourself with the different major
scale shapes and positions. See the introductory major scale
lesson for that.
forget to grab your free scale pattern cheat sheet
Essential scale patterns that every guitarist must know... Click
here to start now
There's also a more comprehensive series showing you some useful major
scale exercises here, but this lesson will focus a bit more
on note selection.
scale exercises & phrasing your licks
Think of guitar solos being structured in a similar way to speech. Your
words are collected into sentences or phrases. These phrases
are punctuated to
put what you're saying into context. When you draw a sequence of tones
from the major
scale, think about phrasing
them in a similar way. How?
Let's start with the basic "boxed" major scale pattern:
The key thing is to resist getting into the habit of simply
wandering up and down the
major scale in a linear sequence. You need to
identify the key tones
scale and build phrases
Here are some practical examples...
The major scale's key intervals are the root (1),
(3) and 5th (5),
as these three tones make up the basic major triad. Just
playing these tones from the major scale will form a major
We can use these key tones as the scaffolding for building a larger
Notice how I separate the piece into two phrases, with the first phrase
(call) leading into the second (response), the last 3 notes make up the
major triad -
root, 3rd, 5th. It's good to include these key tones occasionally to
bring out the scale's major flavour and put the other color notes (2nd,
6th, 7th) into context.
I've structured it in such a way that, in the response phrase, those 3
initial notes "lead in" to the phrase. It kind of
carries you into the next phrase, rather than jumping in randomly.
Something to think about when creating your own!
Let's try another...
So this time I landed on the
note at the end of the first phrase, which
separated the two phrases. The 3rd
is also a "safe" tone to hold
onto in between movements, over the major chord. If you end a phrase as
the chord changes away from major, you should experiment with different
suitable landing notes for that particular chord change. Trust your ears!
A note about
The 4th tone in the major scale should be mostly seen as a passing
other words, if you're playing over that root major chord, the 4th
a held note (unlike the other "safer" tones - 1, 3, 5). This is because
the major 3rd being played in the chord will clash with the 4th you
The most common use of the 4th
over a major chord is to quickly resolve
it to the major 3rd,
to put it into context, like in this example:
So all we're doing is glancing
over that 4th,
as part of the phrase,
but we're not dwelling on it, as it won't sound too harmonious
over a major chord it most cases.
This is why you'll often hear the 4th being used in hammer-on/pull-off
sequences with the 3rd. More on these techniques another time.
You can also use the 4th as a passing tone safely between the 3rd
(1st). Just see it as a bridge between more
stable major scale tones.
Use the backing
track below to experiment with the techniques we've covered. If you're
using the boxed
pattern from earlier, the low E
string root note will be positioned at the 8th fret, which is
course the note... C.
Experiment with different landing
notes from the C major scale. Try phrasing your licks
(like we looked at above) and lead
up to those target landing notes.
Scale runs are typically played
faster than regular phrases and are
inject occasionally into your solos as they have a different quality
the simple phrases we've been looking at.
It's difficult to explain exactly what a "run" is... so let's look at a
start with a very basic run, heading down the scale. For this example,
we're going to use the wider, ascending major scale pattern...
If, for example, I wanted to highlight that 3rd tone of the major scale
in a sequence, I could create a run that ends on the 3rd. The
starting note is not so important, as the quick succession of notes
will blur it all into context.
We're in the key of B
major for this...
The rhythm of that run can be counted as 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 etc.
so the key tones are highlighted on the strongest beat - 1.
We start on
followed by 3 notes,
and ending on a lower 3rd.
This is a typical run, where you have a "sequence within a sequence".
Those highlighted tones can be seen as "marker points" that put the
entire sequence into context.
course, you don't have to use those
major scale tones, that was just an
example. You should try different combinations and rhythms, using your
knowledge of weaving the major scale's key tones into phrases.
now try a more complex run working up the major scale. Before we do, I
just want to create a larger scale pattern by using the large scale
pattern we created in the major scales positions lesson.
Remember the colour codes from earlier? 1st (root),
5th. Going on where the root notes
lie, we can see that the above major scale is in the key of... C,
making it the C major
we now have a rather large pattern to work with, and we could, if we
wanted, build a sequence from that A string
root note right up to around the B
string root note (although obviously we don't have to
start or finish the sequence on
the root note of the scale)...
lot of the time, you will simply be playing the major scale over its
major chord equivalent (e.g. the D major scale over D major). However,
the true expression of the major scale comes with chord changes. What you'll
find is you can start your run before
the change back to that major chord (as long as the other chord is
compatible). As mentioned earlier, this is like a "lead in" phrase
before the climax of the major chord fused with its major scale.
Experiment over the G
backing track below. This means our major scale root note will be on G.