Learning the major scales

JestMe

Student Of The Blues
I don't know if this is helpful or not but in my mind I tend to think all whole steps EXCEPT 3 to 4 and 7 to root.
 

PapaRaptor

Dental Floss Tycoon
Staff member
I don't know if this is helpful or not but in my mind I tend to think all whole steps EXCEPT 3 to 4 and 7 to root.
That raises an interesting point. Do you want to know the major scale as a pattern or do you want to identify the notes in the scale?
One answer isn't better than the other. If you know all the notes on the fretboard and know the pattern, it's easy to play the scale and recite the notes.

However, if you know the notes in each scale and don't know all the notes on the fretboard, that's not as easy.

If you know the notes of the scale and know the pattern, you can quickly learn what notes are where on the fretboard.

There is a case to be made for learning it one of several ways, depending on what you already know.
 

Griff

Vice Assistant General Manager
Staff member
I've often wondered about that. I've always used the WWH... formula but always thought that I should have them memorized. Seeing all the combinations I've just never been able to figure out how to do that without expending a LOT of effort.
if you use them all the time, you'll memorize them out of repetition. If you don't, not only will you not memorize them, but if you did, you'd forget them. Doesn't seem worthwhile to me.
 

ChrisGSP

Blues Journeyman
Easiest for me is WWHWWWH, and I visualize it by seeing the black keys on a piano starting from C.
Yeah, same here, I learned it on piano when I was about five, except I know it as TTSTTTS (Tone, Semi-tone instead of Whole step, Half step), but it's the same thing. All the modes stem from that one pattern, just start at a different place.

if you use them all the time, you'll memorize them out of repetition. If you don't, not only will you not memorize them, but if you did, you'd forget them. Doesn't seem worthwhile to me.
I think Griff's saying that it IS worthwhile to memorize that pattern. It's certainly paid off for me, for my whole life; I practically never get lost in the scale and almost always know where I am, and where the next (up or down) note is, and how many frets I am away from any other note in the scale. It even helps me when constructing (figuring out the fingering of) chords.
 

TexBill

Blues in Texas
The various examples of how to learn and remember scales, notes of each scale and etc. is something I feel should be mandatory in all school, public or private, music programs. As I have stated before, when I played horn in jr-high school, eons ago, the band director only taught how to play notes, both pitch and duration. I had never heard of music theory until I began taking private lessons from the third guitar instructor In my growing list of instructors. And at times it felt like being stuck in a revolving door.

The idea of relating notes to keys on piano works well, that is if you have or have ever had a piano. What about those who have not had that experience. We have to remember that each fret, either direction, is one half of a step or tone as @ChrisGSP points out. So then the question is are all scales derived from W-W-H-W-W-W-H? Or does the formula, pattern or whatever you want to call it, change with each scale?

Then there are the modes. Each key (tonic) has 7 modes. And the formula for modes is like this:

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The point I am trying to make is that if we had all been exposed to and impressed with the importance of scales and degrees at a very early age or starting point in the journey of learning, things would be more simple for us older learners of the fine art of playing guitar. Just my $0.02...
 
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