DANGER! Music Theory

Key of C Major/A minor Notes on Fretboard

by Jimmy McBride

CM Dm Em FM GM Am Bd

C major/A minor notes

Above are all the whole notes (aka, notes in the C major/A minor scale) on the fretboard. Everything is color coated to make spotting the notes and paterns on the fretboard easier.

What is the major scale?

The major scale is a series of seven notes that have a specif amount of space (or interval) between each note. The major scale always starts with the root note. The root note can be any note that you pick; A, D#, Gb, or any other note. For this example we are going to choose "C" as our root note. We are choosing C because when we pick this note we have no sharps or flats in our scale.


An interval is, like I said eaerlier, the space between notes. There are 2 intervals, specifcally, I would like to go over now; the semitone, and the tone.

The semitone (aka a "half step") is the distance between A and A#, or from the 5th fret to the 6th fret on the open E.

The tone (aka the "whole step") is the distance between A and B, or from the 5th fret to the 7th fret on the open E.

There are a total of 12 notes and each is spaced a semitone apart. All 12 notes go as follows:


A few things to note:

Notes like A# and Bb are just two different names for the exact same note. The space between A and B is a tone, but the space between B and C is a semitone. B and C, as well as, E and F are the only two groups of notes that are a semitone apart instead of a tone apart.

Intervals of the Major Scale

So we already know the notes of the C major scale, they are; C, D, E, F, G, A, B. Now that we know the intervals between notes we can figure out the intervals of the scale. C to D is a tone, D to E is a tone, E to F is a semitone, F to G is a tone, G to A is a tone, A to B is a tone, and B back up to the root C is a semitone. So now we have the intervals:

T, T, S, T, T, T, S

We can now use this set of intervals to build a major scale with any note as our root note. For example, lets try using G as our root note. We would get: G t A t B s C t D t E t F# s G

Intervals of the Minor Scale

And Relation to the Major Scale . . .

Every major scale has a corosponding minor scale that contains all the same notes, but has a differnt root note. If you take the 6th note in the major scale and started on that note you would have that major scales natural minor scale (also known as the Aeolian scale, but more on that later). So the notes of the C major scale go; C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The 6th note of the scale is A, so if we start there using the same notes we get the notes of our natural minor; A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Which gives us and interval pattern of:

T, S, T, T, S, T, T

Playing The Major Scale

There are many different ways to go about playing the major scale on the neck, but for these exersises we are going to use the "three notes per string" method. It is an incredibly practical way of looking at scales on the fret board. We'll stick to C major for these examples.







Then we can "stack" our scales and play two octives. There are two ways to do this. We can start on the low E string or the A string. Starting on the low E is more common, but I find starting on the A string is more practical for lead playing.







or . . .







1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Position C Major Scales

1st Position

C Major 1st Position

2nd Position

C Major 2nd Position

3rd Position

C Major 3rd Position

4th Position

C Major 4th Position

Playing the Minor Scale







Then when stacked we can get:







or . . .







1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Position A Minor Scales

1st Position

A Minor 1st Position

2nd Position

A Minor 2nd Position

3rd Position

A Minor 3rd Position

4th Position

A Minor 4th Position