Become great at Improvisation Pt 2 – Major + Minor scales

28 Nov

Hi there,

Thanks for reading my blogs so far – I’m doing a series of blogs to help aspiring guitarists to become great lead players.

This blog will focus on the Major and Minor scales. In the previous blog I showed the major and minor pentatonics. These are great for creating riffs and melodies and as they only have 5 notes within 5 shapes, they are fairly straight forward to learn. To develop your improv skills further you’ll want to learn the major and minor scales.

  • The pentatonic scales are simply 5 notes out of the 7 notes contained within their ‘parent’ scales. So the pentatonic scales are simply a condensed version of the below.
  • These extra 2 notes though can give you lots of cool stuff to work with. Especially when we get to pitch bends later you’ll be able to add nice semi-tone bends which aren’t available using the pentatonic scales.
  • There are 2 ways of learning these shapes – my preference is the 3-note per string patterns below, I feel they are more symmetrical and cover more of the neck with each shape.

Here are the shapes: (you can click on the picture for a larger image)


  • As with the minor and major pentatonics, the shapes used for the major scales are the same as for the minor but with different ‘root’ notes. These are the white notes. These are the ‘key’ notes so if you were playing in F major all the white notes would be F’s. This works for the minor scales as well.
  • Again with these shapes the root notes become very important for creating melodies and riffs
  • When you are practicing the shapes, go up and down the shapes and end on one of the root notes at the end to reinforce the sound of the shape.
  • The shapes link together like a jigsaw the same way the pentatonics shape do, your 2nd note of any shape becomes the first of the next e.g:
  • F major scale 1st shape would start Fret 1 (F), 2nd shape Fret 3 (G), 3rd shape Fret 5 (A), 4th shape Fret 6 (Bb), 5th shape Fret 8 (C),  6th shape Fret 10 (D), 7th shape Fret 12 (E)
  • F minor scale 1st shape would start Fret 1 (F), 2nd shape Fret 3 (G), 3rd shape Fret 4 (Ab), 4th shape Fret 6 (Bb), 5th shape Fret 8 (C), 6th shape Fret 9 (Db), 7th shape Fret 11 (Eb)
  • Remember there are 12 keys in music so 12×7 = 84 different places on the neck to play these shapes (best to think of it as 168 with major and minor as the root notes change)

Hope you’ve found this blog useful – any questions feel good about asking them in the comments section

You can find Js Music School on twitter @jsmusicschool @harvey_jsmusic for regular free guitar/ music related tweets


Many thanks


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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Improvisation


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