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The Most Important Scale You Need For Learning Guitar Part 3 - The Major and Minor Scale


Over the last couple of articles in this series we have looked at a whole bunch of different ways that you can begin to master the major and minor pentatonic scales on the guitar. Certainly there's much more that could be said on learning these but the ultimate aim of these scales is to help you to reach an understanding of the most important scales for understanding music; the major and minor scales.


Here are those articles again.

Part 1 - Intervals

Part 2 - Major Pentatonic Scales


Years ago when I was learning classical piano my teacher was very keen on me learning the major and minor scales. I would (occasionally) practice them religiously and whilst they helped me to pass piano graded exams I was never too sure what they were actually used for. When I started learning guitar I got a scale book and spent a summer learning how to play any major and minor scale all over the neck. Fast forward 6 months and I had forgotten most of this, mostly because I didn't use them at all in my playing.


Then as I began to learn more music of my favourite players something clicked which completely changed my view on how I viewed scales on the guitar. Let's go back to the major and minor pentatonic scales for the moment and in particular their intervals.



Here are the intervals for each scale with the corresponding notes as if they were part of the C major or A minor pentatonic scale. Remember that these scales are relative major and minor scales, in that they have exactly the same shape in the exactly the same place on the neck.


Major Pentatonic: R 2 3 5 6 R

C D E G A C


Minor Pentatonic: R 3 4 5 7 R

A C D E G A


The major pentatonic is missing the 4th and 7th intervals and the minor pentatonic is missing the 2nd and 6th intervals. However in both instances these intervals are the same notes; B and F.


So as in the case of the major and minor pentatonic scales the major and minor scales are the same scales but with a different root note. In addition you can take any major or minor pentatonic scale shape and turn it into a major or minor scale just by adding the correct intervals in. Try this with other pentatonic scale patterns.


From this point on scales can be much easier to learn once you approach them in the right way. Obviously it still takes a lot of hard work and persistence but with the knowledge of pentatonics and the understanding of intervals you can not only master major and minor scales but also put them to use alongside your volcabulary of pentatonic licks that you already know.

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