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Excerpted from Acoustic Rock Basics: Play Leads with Major and Minor Scales
Let’s look at the anatomy of the major scale. Example 1 shows the seven notes that make up the major scale—in this case, a G-major scale. If you’ve explored my Acoustic Rock Basics lesson “Soloing with Pentatonic Scales,” you’ll notice that the major scale encompasses the major pentatonic and adds two more notes: the fourth and seventh of the key. Like pentatonic scales, the patterns that make up major and minor scales can be found and repeated all over the fretboard.
The starting note of the scale, in this case, G, is called the root and once you cycle through all seven notes of the scale, it repeats—the eighth note of the scale is another root note. Scales are made up of half steps (the distance of one fret) and whole steps (two frets) and are built by combining half steps and whole steps in a specific order. As you can see in Example 1, in a major scale these steps fall in the following order: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. You can use this configuration to build a major scale starting on any note. Let’s try C, down at the third fret. If you move up using the whole- and half-step major-scale formula, you get Example 2, a C-major scale.