Major Guitar Scales Lesson: A Major Scale Positions

How are the scales coming? This week we pass the half way point of our journey to learn all major scale positions across the fretboard in all twelve keys. If you’re jumping into this lesson mid-ways through, you might want to consider starting at the beginning with learning your C major scale positions.

So far, we’ve covered:

This week we’re going to look at the A major scale.

The Anatomy of an Eb Major Scale

If you went through and constructed major scales for all twelve keys based on the half step, whole step pattern, then you’ll know that an A major scale has three sharps–-a C#, F#, and a G#.

A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A

In other words, from A to B, we have a whole step, from B to C#, we have a whole step, from C# to D, we have a half step, from D to E, we have a whole step, from E to F#, we have a whole step, from F# to G#, we have a whole step, and from G# to A, we have a half step.

A major scale

If we know all five scale positions for D major (which has a F# and a C#), all we have to do is raise the “G” notes by a half step to “G#.” This gives us that third flat sharp in an A major scale.

Guitar Scale Positions #1: A Major Scale

The 1st position of an A major scale starts on the E note of the low open E string and roughly spans the 1st to 4th fret.

A Major Guitar Scale First Position

Guitar Scale Positions #2: A Major Scale

The 2nd position starts on the F# note of the 2nd fret of the low E string and roughly spans the 2nd to 5th fret.

A Major Guitar Scale Second Position

Guitar Scale Positions #3: A Major Scale

The 3rd position starts on the G# note of the 4th fret of the low E string and roughly spans the 4th to 7th fret.

A Major Guitar Scale Third Position

Guitar Scale Positions #4: A Major Scale

The 4th position starts on the B note of the 7th fret of the low E string and roughly spans the 7th to 10th fret.

A Major Guitar Scale Fourth Position

Guitar Scale Positions #5: A Major Scale

The 5th position starts on the C# note of the 9th fret of the low E string and roughly spans the 9th to 12th fret.

A Major Guitar Scale Fifth Position

As you can see, all the positions have some overlap with one another.

A major guitar scale

Click to enlarge

Your Assignment

For next week, learn all your A major scale in all five scale positions. Again, if you learned your D major guitar scales a couple weeks ago, this should be pretty simple because all you are doing is changing one note–a G to a G#.

Further Application & Resources

Hopefully by now you’re really starting to plow through these lessons. You should be able to start seeing and being able to identify the different notes and their name across the fretboard. If you’re still having difficulty with only learning the patterns, then be sure you are practicing ascending and descending scale positions in different keys.

For example, you might choose to ascend the 3rd scale position in A major, and then descend in that same position on a G major scale. By descending in G major, you’re quickly forced to be able to identify which notes need to be changed within the scale position to make the scale G major. In the case of this example, you would have to switch your all your G# and C# notes in the A major scale to G and C notes to make it a G major scale. If you incorporate this exercise into your practice, you’ll quickly be forced outside of simply thinking in patterns.

If you’ve been enjoying this guitar scale series, you might want to take a deeper look into Craig Bassett’s guitar scale course. His method systematically takes you through the process of gaining a complete mastery over the guitar fretboard beyond just major guitar scales.

Lastly, in our last guitar scale lesson on Eb major guitar scales, Chris from Classical Guitar Blog so generously offered his print-out of the different scale positions. While the print-out is in C major, it can be helpful to be able to see the positions charted out on a sheet of music.

Questions & Comments

As always, post any questions or comments. If you are stuck, chances are a reader on the blog or myself will be able to help you out. Let’s hear how it’s going for you.

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.

Comments

  1. Excellent lesson! I like to equate the positions with the positions of CAGED theory. So the first position would be the “C Form” the second is the “A Form” and so on. I find that viewing things in this way has helped me t really get a grip on the guitar neck and how everything is laid out, especially scales.

  2. there is also the 5 fingerings of the major scale as thought by Jimmy bruno, which is an alternative to CAGED

  3. This is a great lesson! Now I just have to pick up the speed. Must shred… Must melt faces…

  4. Todd Bullock

    Bret, I’m finding your major scales lessons very helpful! Hope you can continue them. Thanks!!

  5. Thank you very much for this great lessons. I hope you can add more lessons soon!

    Thanks

  6. Rowland

    I like your work but I’ve noticed that on the 4th position of the A major scale there’s missing a G# and a C#.

  7. Joe

    Love your Major scale lessons Brett. I originally learned the 5 minor pentatonic boxes. I can see these are expansions of those boxes.

  8. Awesome lesson on major scales Brett. I like combining the patterns to create 2-3 octave patterns actually go up the neck a little bit…

    Keep up the great work!

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