Scales

Relative Major and Minor

Every major scale has a relative minor scale, and every minor scale has a relative major scale. Relative means that both scales contain the exact same notes.

A major scale’s relative minor can always be found one and a half steps below the major scale. For example, the relative minor of C major is A minor:

C is at the 8th fret. By going one and a half steps below C, we arrive at A.

Conversely, a minor scale’s relative major can always be found one and a half steps above the minor scale. So, the relative major of A minor is C major:

Why does this matter? If they contain the exact same notes, aren’t they the same thing? It matters because even though you’re playing the same notes, the note that you start on makes a big difference in the feeling or the “flavor” of the scale. Play each of these scales, and notice how they sound entirely different even though the same 7 notes are repeated in both patterns. In general terms, major sounds “happy” and minor sounds “sad”. This is a great example of how music generates emotions simply by the way it sounds, and there are specific reasons for this that will be covered in other lessons.

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The Minor Scale

The minor scale is a relative of the major scale, and can also be used to build chords, melodies and harmonies.

The red notes indicate the root note (A), and the numbers indicate the fingering. Learn and practice this pattern using three different techniques, always playing the pattern both up and then back down:

  • Alternate-pick every note
  • Hammer-on while ascending
  • Pull-off while descending

See the lesson on The Major Scale for tips on how to execute the above techniques.

Like the major scale, this pattern is a movable pattern that can be played anywhere on the guitar neck. Whatever note you start on is your root note, which indicates the key that you’re in. We will cover keys more extensively in a separate lesson, but for now, just know that you can play this pattern starting on any note on the 6th string, and that whatever note you start with is the key that you’re in.

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The Major Scale

Scales are simply groups of pitches arranged in ascending order.  There is a lot of music theory behind scales that is good to learn, but for starters let’s just learn how to play them.  There are many different scales, but the major scale is the most common.  The major scale is the foundation upon which virtually all chords, melodies and harmonies are built.

The red notes indicate the root note (in this case, C), and the numbers indicate the fingering. Learn and practice this pattern using three different techniques, always playing the pattern both up and then back down:

  • Alternate-pick every note
  • Hammer-on while ascending
  • Pull-off while descending

To alternate-pick, use a picking pattern that alternates strictly between down and up strokes. Start with a down stroke on the first note, then use an up stroke on the second note, a down stroke on the third note, and so on for the rest of the scale. Continue this alternate picking when coming back down the scale.

To hammer-on, play the first note and then while it’s still ringing, quickly and firmly press another finger to play a higher note. To pull-off, do the reverse – play a note, then quickly remove your finger to play a lower note with another finger that is already in place.

This pattern is a movable pattern that can be played anywhere on the guitar neck. Whatever note you start on is your root note, which indicates the key that you’re in. We will cover keys more extensively in a separate lesson, but for now, just know that you can play this pattern starting on any note on the 6th string, and that whatever note you start with is the key that you’re in.

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