By: Dr. Matt Warnock
Up to this point we’ve looked at major scales that cover all 6 strings, both in position and up the neck, so now we’re ready to dive into major scales on one string at a time. That’s right, we’re going to forget for a minute that the guitar has six strings, though don’t go cutting the other 5 off just yet!, and we’ll play major scales in different keys all on one string only.
The first scale in the example is an E major scale, since the lowest note on the 6th string is an E it makes it an easy choice to start working on this technique. Go slow when playing this scale, take the lessons you’ve learned from Day 12’s fingering and use all four fingers in a row when playing this scale. Like a piano, when you run out of fingers just shift to the next note and start again back at your first finger.
You can also practice playing scales on the 6th string in different keys, but there’s a little catch to practicing this way, you always want to start on the lowest possible note in the scale so you don’t run out of room too quickly.
For example, if you were playing the B major scale on the 6th string starting on the 7th fret, and were on say an acoustic or nylon guitar with no cutaway, you’d quickly run out of room to play that scale. BUT! If you started that same scale on the note E, the 4th degree of the scale, then you would be able to play all the notes in B major between the open string and the 12th fret. Make sense?
I’ve written out a G major scale in this fashion, starting on the open E (the 6th degree of the scale) to get you started. Practicing in this way will not only get your fingers moving into new areas, but you’ll have to get your theory chops up a bit in order to know which note you need to start on, as well as which notes are in the scale so you know which frets to play.
If this is all new information for you I’ve included this nifty chart to help you learn the notes for each of the 12 major scales. Feel free to refer back to this page at any time in order to brush up on the subject as needed.
C Major – C D E F G A B C
G Major – G A B C D E F# G
D Major – D E F# G A B C# D
A Major – A B C# D E F# G# A
E Major – E F# G# A B C# D# E
B Major – B C# D# E F# G# A# B
Gb Major – Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb
Db Major – Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
Ab Major – Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
Eb Major – Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
Bb Major – Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
F Major – F G A Bb C D E F
About the Author
Dr. Matthew Warnock is a jazz educator and performer in Manchester, UK. He owns and operates www.mattwarnockguitar, a free online resource for jazz guitarists and is on the faculty of the Leeds College of Music. You can connect with him on Facebook as well as sign up for his free weekly jazz newsletter, where you’ll get free copies of his ebook “10 Essential ii-V-I Licks” and “5 Essential Jazz Scale Techniques” when you sign up.