Fretboard Knowledge 4: Major Scale on Guitar

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

The fretboard should be making a bit more sense to you now. Its essential that you commit the five CAGED chord shapes to memory as we will be building the major scale around them. If you are confused as to what a major scale is theoretically, refer to Basic Music Theory 2: Major Scale.


First lets take the key of G and find all the locations of the note ‘G’ on the fretboard:


Now lets look at where the Gmaj CAGED shapes fall:


G Shape:



E Shape:



D Shape:



C Shape:



A Shape:



The notes for the G major scale are:


G A B C D E F#


Lets add the major scale notes around each shape:


G Shape:



E Shape:




D Shape:



C Shape:



A Shape:



Lets do the same for B Major ( B C# D# E F# G# A# ):


A Shape:



G Shape:



E Shape:



D Shape:



C Shape:



*Note: We can only get the C Shape for B Major once on the fretboard due to where the notes lie between the open, 12th and 24th fret.*



You can see the pattern of shapes corresponds to the spelling of ‘CAGED’, you can also see how it cycles through, always in that order. If you were to play the C Shape, you know the pattern before will be the D Shape and the pattern after will be A Shape. Likewise if you are playing the G Shape, the pattern before will be A Shape and the pattern after would be E Shape.


Organising the fretboard by applying the ‘CAGED’ concept make life a lot easier, this means there are five shapes to learn which are built around the five chords shapes.

To make these patterns applicable across all keys, we just need to establish where the ROOT note is in any of the five patterns.


I’m repeating myself here, but just to ensure the concept is understood, the ROOT note will be the the key you are playing in. For example if you want to play the G Major scale the root will be on ‘G’. Likewise if you would like to play D Major scale you would move the pattern on the fretboard to where the ‘R’ falls on the note D. Here are the five shapes with exercises, work through them one at a time and you should start to be able to visualise the patterns.


To make the learning process easier we will begin with the E Shape, the reason being that the ROOT note appears on the 'Low E’ string, as you have already started to memorise the notes on this string the shapes will start making more sense. From now on E Shape = Pattern 1 (Root on Low E):







I hope you have found this useful, let me know in the comments.


Taken from my book series 'Six String Enigma'


Recommended Reading:

The AB Guide to Music Theory Vol 1

Music Theory For Dummies

Chords And Scales For Guitarists

Ultimate Scale Book Pocket Guide Guitar Tab Book

Guitar Fretboard Fluency: The Creative Guide to Mastering The Guitar

Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene



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