Theoretical Overview

To truly understand each new scale we encounter, we'll apply what we have learned about music theory to the new key, in this case E Major. First of course, keep the chromatic scale and its natural half steps, located between the B-C & E-F notes in the front of your mind.

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A

Any note in the chromatic scale can serve as the root note of a major scale. Since there are 12 members in the chromatic scale there are 12 possible major scales in the system of music theory. We have learned how the major scale derives its sound, and is defined by its scale formula - the distances between the notes.The chromatic scale has an easy formula -all the notes are separated from each other by one half step. The major scale formula is a series of half and whole steps, and is illustrated in the key of E below:

Spelling And Formula

To play a major scale in the key of E major we would, of course, begin and end the scale on the "E" root note. All notes in the scale are separated by the distance of a whole step except for the 3rd and 4th, called Mi-Fa (G#-A) and the 7th and 8th, or Ti-Do (D#-E) which are separated by the distance of a 1/2 Step. In the interactive illustration below you can see and hear the formula for the E major scale come to life, on the keyboard and on the high E string of your guitar, by following the basic formula of half steps and whole steps. Listen for familiar sound of the major scale and if possible say or sing the solfege syllables, “Do - Re - Mi" as you play.

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Open Position

As you have probably figured out by now, the secrets to learning the mechanics and cold hard facts about the guitar neck are all revealed by studying and learning all about the open position (position one). The key of E major, the focus of this lesson, is no exception. Use the diagrams and interactive illustrations below to get the key of E major under your fingers in your ears.

C Major and the G Major are easy to play and are most the widely played and taught scales in the open position, but the key of E major holds a special place because "E" is the lowest pitch the guitar makes and therefore serves as a natural point of organization in any study of the fingerboard. As you learn your way across and through the pattern, make mental notes concerning the location of the 3 occurrences of the "E" root note.

The scale can be played in either position I or II, in position II the first finger is responsible for both frets I and II which is optimal for smooth and speedy play. Both fingerings are useful, both fingerings are correct. Use the audio track below to train your ears and fingers, practice both fingerings, the audio is the same for both. Play and review this exercise until you have it down cold, treating the play along track as a favorite song.

Below is the visual training exercises for the open position E major scale, as you work with the animations, experiment with each of the suggested fingerings (position I and position II), as each fingering approach to this single pattern will prove to be of great use. To facilitate focus and ear training, each of the notes is sounded 3 times and linked with strong visual input, this training method will help to ‘burn’ the scale patterns into your head.

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Now return to the previous exercise, (E Major Fingering Pattern In The Open Position) and play the scale scale quickly and cleanly.

Melodic Work: Common Kowledge Songs

As I have previously said, studying scales without studying the music these scales make is a mistake. So any scale we learn here must become part of some sort of musical study. The practice of learning and studying common knowledge melodies is a central theme in many systems of music education (Orff, Kodaly, Berklee). If you were fortunate to study music as a school child you'll remember the repetition of many of the age old children’s songs that you can easily recite and perform to this day. In your studies of guitar playing you can employ this powerful educational technique by studying traditional and common knowledge guitar melodies.

Many of the world’s great guitarists have developed their technical expertise through a careful reworking of traditional, classical, folk, and other well-known melodies. The two melodic studies below use the open position E major scale you've been studying.

Often when adopting a scale pattern approach to playing you'll run into a range problems, meaning that the majority of the tune will fit comfortably within one fingering pattern but some of the notes will be out of the range of the scale pattern. In the case open position scales like the Open E Major Scale we're using here, this problem can usually be solved by sliding up and down one string to get a few high notes then sliding back down the string to return the comfortable and well known scale pattern and those nice open strings. This concept is illustrated below in both Yankee Doodle and The Chicken Reel. Listen to and play the tunes, memorizing the sound, feeling and fingering as quickly as possible.


Tranposition Studies

Below, I have transposed the open position (position I) E major scale up one octave, the lowest pitched note in that fingering pattern is the E located on the 12th fret of the the 6th string. The resulting fingering pattern, (beginning on fret 12) covers a range of 5 frets. In order for your four fingers to deal with a 5 fret pattern, one of the fingers must be responsible for two frets. Play and work your way through the diagram paying attention to the large white fingering numbers and listening for the familiar sound of the major scale, Do - Re - Mi - Fa - Sol - La - Ti - Do.

The root six scale pattern you're working with here is usually played with a first finger stretch which again means that your first finger is responsible for all notes on the two lowest frets. Although many fine players favor this form for a root six major scale, the first finger stretch is awkward for many people, especially if position playing and scale fingerings are new to you. For this reason, a different, more user friendly pattern usually associated with root six major scale playing is shown below.

The E Type Pattern: The Most Widely Used Root Six Major Scale Pattern

This diagram shows the root six major scale fingering pattern which is among the first learned and most highly favored pattern used by most guitarists. The root note appears on the 12th fret of the sixth string and the fingering indications call for the use of one finger per fret. Since the pattern covers a range of 4 frets there is no need for finger stretching, this scale pattern is truly played in position XI. That means that the job of playing the "E" root note -and all notes on the 12th fret, is given to finger two, the middle finger. Accordingly, all notes on the 11th fret are played by the first finger, the index finger.

Since the first finger is assigned to the 11th fret, this scale is said to be played in the 11th position. This pattern covers a 2 octave range, the recorded example is as musical as possible, emphasizing the sound of the E root notes and designed to build technique and melodic ability.

E Type Of Major Scale Fingering Pattern

So far we have learned the C Type and the G Type of major scale fingering pattern. The pattern we are currently studying, as illustrated above, is called the E Type of fingering pattern. The scale shape sits nicely in a range of 4 frets, is comfortable to play, and is very closely related to the root 6 E Type of major chord.

Transposition Exercise

Use the interactive trainer below to complet our study of the roo 6 moveable major scale form known as the E Type, the most used, played and known version of a root 6 major scale form and one of the most used scale forms in general.

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Print And Save

This lesson introduces the key of E major and one of the organizing principles which is central to the understanding of the guitar: movable root 6 scale patterns. Practice these exercises until you can play the major scale fingering patterns and ideas you've learned here by memory in an effortless and musical manner. Open the print and save study notes.

End Of Lesson Five