The Major Scale: Our Slide Rule

I am sure you will be familiar with the scale pattern shown in Fig 2.1, but have you ever realized just how much important information is contained within it? Played on its own, the major scale is a pretty uninteresting sound. It is not that exciting to play, and, as it stands, not too useful in a soloing format. Most people will add in passing tones to create a more melodic effect and some may also rely on the modal solutions it can give. However, this is the building block from which everything comes, and by applying some simple principles it can become the most powerful reference tool at our disposal for any type of music situation.

fig 2.1

To fully access the vast potential of this scale, you must be able to play it in all positions up and down the neck. You should also strive to visualize the scale without ever having to put your fingers on the fretboard. This does take time to achieve and can become second nature only after much practice. For now, though, just make sure that you memorize the scale pattern and are comfortable with the fingering shown. Again, this is not a speed exercise, and the best way to learn this scale is to use a reasonably slow metronome (60bpm) and practice only in short bursts to prevent your mind losing focus (10 mins or so).

Note Note: It is vital that the scale pattern is learnt with the fingering shown. Any deviation from this pattern will render the whole method in this book meaningless.

As this scale pattern covers all six strings, it can of course be played anywhere on the neck to give you access to all 12 keys. You must, however, be able to recognize where the root of the scale is to give the notes and intervals of the scale any meaning. This should not be a problem since we have covered the ground needed for this in the Know Your Fretboard. section

Another way of getting to know the scale is to play the pattern in 4ths; that is, to play the first 4 notes and then jump back 3, and then play the next 4 notes and then jump back 3, etc. (see Fig 2.2 in the key of Gmajor). This will make sure that you don't just learn the pattern parrot-fashion and make you "see" where the scale lies on the fretboard.

fig 2.2

Only when the fretboard and the major scale pattern are learned should you move onto the next sections of this book. We have now covered the skills that will be needed to apply the principles outlined in the later chapters, and now it is time to apply them. If the skills are not well learned and understood, then the task before you will be much harder . . . you cannot build a table if you don't know how to saw, glue, and plane.

Copyright Dale Churchett © 1995. All Rights Reserved.