Learning, practicing and mastering scales is a fundamental part of learning an instrument. You will come across them early on, and ideally you will keep expanding your knowledge about them as you progress as a musician.
While it is not the activity that people enjoy the most, practicing scales is extremely important, as it allows you to understand how music works, and it is the foundation to building good melodies, phrases and entire solos.
If you commit to studying scales properly and consistently, results are bound to materialize, and you will not be sorry for spending all that time once you see yourself traveling through the fretboard freely and easily.
This KillerGuitarRigs Guide is going to focus specifically on the B Major scale on the guitar.
You will learn about its notes, finger patterns throughout the whole fretboard, the chords associated with this scale, and other important aspects that you should be aware of.
- The B Major Scale: Notes and its Relative Minor Scale
- B Major Fretboard Diagram
- CAGED System and 5 B Major “Scale Enclosures”
- Connecting the 5 B Major CAGED System Enclosures
- The B Major Scale in Notation and Guitar Tablature
- Chords in the key of B Major
- Songs That Use the B Major Scale
- Final Thoughts on the B Major Scale
The B Major Scale: Notes and its Relative Minor Scale
Like every other major scale, the B Major scale follows a specific formula that dictates the interval (distance) between each of its notes.
This formula can be represented the following way:
The major scale, regardless of the key center, is always structured like this:
• W; W; H; W; W; W; H.
W corresponds to “whole tone” and H corresponds to “semitone”.
You can also represent a major scale numerically like this “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7”.
The B Major scale has some sharpened notes in comparison to C Major, which is the simplest major scale due to having no accidentals.
If you take a look at the Circle of Fifths, you will notice that to get to B Major, you need to move 5 times clock-wise from C Major.
This means that we will have 5 sharp notes. Following the order of sharps, this means that the B Major scale has the following notes:
- B (Root)
- C# (Major Second)
- D# (Major Third)
- E (Perfect Fourth)
- F# (Perfect Fifth)
- G# (Major Sixth)
- A# (Major Seventh)
Notice how it strictly follows the formula shown above, since you have D#/E and A#/B separated by one semitone, and all the other notes by one whole tone.
In case you are not familiar with the Circle of Fifths or if you’re having trouble visualizing it, here is an example:
This amazing tool also tells us another interesting detail about the key of B Major, which is its relative minor key/scale.
In music, every major scale has a relative minor scale. This means that both scales use the exact same set of notes, but around a different key center (and of course, one is major and the other one is minor).
Every major scale has its relative minor scale one major sixth above it (9 semitones above) or a minor third below it (3 semitones down).
On the other hand, if you’re starting from a minor key, you will find its relative major one minor third above it, or one major sixth below it.
In the case of B Major, we can see that its relative minor scale is G# minor.
This means that the G# minor scale shares the same notes as B Major, giving us the following scale:
- G# (Root)
- A# (Major Second)
- B (Minor Third)
- C# (Perfect Fourth)
- D# (Perfect Fifth)
- E (Minor Sixth)
- F# (Minor Seventh)
Keep this concept in mind as you study scales, because it will help you connect them quicker. If you study the B Major scale a lot, you will automatically feel comfortable playing in the key of G# minor since the notes and patterns are the same!
B Major Fretboard Diagram
Next, we are going to dive deeper into how the B Major scale looks on a guitar’s fretboard.
The diagram found below illustrates the position of every note that belongs to the B Major scale, which you should know if you want to be as comfortable as possible when playing in this key.
There are methods to help you memorize this, don’t feel overwhelmed just yet!
Use this diagram as a reference in case you are ever having doubts about something related to this scale.
There are a lot of exercises you can try out to build some muscle memory and to get used to the sound of the scale and of each note that it contains.
For instance, a great idea would be to grab some kind of drone in B from YouTube or any other platform, and play every note in the B Major scale against it, very slowly, while paying attention to the relation between that note and the tonic.
Here are a few other exercises worth investing some time in:
- Memorize the location of important notes such as the root, third and fifth on every string. (In B Major, those notes are B, D# and F#.
- Play the scale on one string only, instead of using all 6 strings.
- Play the scale starting on a different note rather than the root.
- Try to associate scale shapes to chord shapes (more on this later in this guide)
CAGED System and 5 B Major “Scale Enclosures”
This section will introduce you to something called the “CAGED System”.
It is a brilliant method that thousands of guitarists have used to develop their fretboard knowledge with logic and directions, instead of just trying to memorize notes randomly.
This system consists of dividing the fretboard into 5 unique regions of only a few frets, and mapping out the scale patterns that exist within these regions, often called “enclosures” or “boxes”.
Learning the fretboard like this is much easier than trying to learn it all in one go. You should first try to learn every individual enclosure isolated from the others, and then start working on connecting them.
It is a long process, but it will definitely pay off if you stick with it.
The 5 enclosures that you will learn are based on open chord voicings that you most likely already know. They’re based on the following chords:
- C Major
- A Major
- G Major
- E Major
- D Major
If you read vertically, you’ll notice that the chords spell out the name of the method, which is why it is called CAGED System, and also because of the “cages” that we imagine when dividing the fretboard into 5 separate regions.
The first B Major CAGED enclosure is represented below. This is a section of the whole diagram that was shown previously.
It can be found between the open strings and the 4th fret.
Because of the notes that belong to the scale and the location of each note on this fretboard region, this enclosure is actually a mix of the C Major and A Major shapes. This will become clearer once we get to more specific examples.
You will notice that this pattern does not start with the root note. This is because you’re meant to memorize every note that belongs to the scale within the region, not just the pattern from B to B.
Also, notice how the note B appears twice in a row between the 3rd and 2nd strings. You can play whichever you’d like; it mostly depends on the line you’re playing and where you plan to go from there.
You can cover one full octave of the scale within this pattern.
The second enclosure can be found between the 1st and 5th frets.
It is based on the A Major open chord shape.
You can also cover a single octave of the B Major scale within this shape, but take your time to memorize the location of each note, since you will be using all of them in the future.
The third CAGED enclosure of the B Major scale is located between the 3rd and 7th frets.
It is based on the G Major open chord shape.
This enclosure allows you to cover 2 full octaves of the B Major scale. Use these root notes as a reference to find these fretboard regions while you’re playing.
The fourth CAGED System enclosure of this scale can be found between the 6th and 9th frets.
It is based on the E Major open chord shape.
This one also covers 2 octaves of the scale, and since it only covers 4 frets, you can play through the entire pattern without having to shift your left hand.
Our 5th and last CAGED enclosure in B Major is found between the 8th and 12th frets. The same patterns repeat themselves after this point.
You can only cover one full octave of the scale with this pattern.
Once you’re comfortable with all of these enclosures, start working on connecting them
Connecting the 5 B Major CAGED System Enclosures
Studying and mastering each of the 5 CAGED enclosures is great, but it isn’t enough to be able to move freely throughout the fretboard.
In order to do this, you must be able to connect them seamlessly as you’re playing.
The most convenient way to start doing this is to analyze the areas where two enclosures share some notes in common, and use those as reference points to move from one region to the next.
The diagram below shows you the places where you should be focusing on while connecting enclosures in the key of B Major:
You can connect enclosures through a variety of ways, such as sliding, using arpeggios, shifting your hand, and more. It all depends on the context and what you are playing in that moment.
The B Major Scale in Notation and Guitar Tablature
Now, let’s take a look at some sheet music and guitar tablature to help you learn and practice all of the B Major scale CAGED enclosures.
Every example will include the full enclosure, showing you the ascending and descending pattern. It is important that you practice them both ways, since you won’t be playing in one direction all the time.
Set a metronome to a slow speed (about 60bpm) and play one note on each beat. Don’t worry about speed for now, your priority should be memorizing each of the 5 patterns and building muscle memory.
Once you start being able to play through an enclosure several times without making a mistake, bump up the speed by about 10bpm and continue.
Also, keep in mind that there are a few more ways to play the B Major scale, but being familiarized with these 5 enclosures already gives you a lot of baggage to start, and you can study them literally for years.
Tab Number 1
Playing through this pattern requires a bit of a stretch of your left hand fingers, but if you use the correct fingering, it will get a lot easier with practice.
Start this pattern with fingers 2 and 4, so that you can play the A# on the 5th string more comfortably afterward.
Tab Number 2
This pattern is easier to play than the first one. You should also start playing it with your 2nd and 4th fingers in order to position your hand correctly to continue playing through the enclosure.
Tab Number 3
This pattern is similar to the minor pentatonic fingering that you might already be familiar with.
Start with fingers 1, 3 and 4, shift your hand back one fret when you reach the third string, and shift it back when you move on to the 2nd string.
Tab Number 4
This pattern is slightly easier than the rest since it doesn’t leave its 4 fret enclosure.
You can play frets 6, 7, 8 and 9 with your 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers, respectively, making it a great enclosure to play a little faster.
Tab Number 5
The fifth and final enclosure requires you to shift your hand a couple times to hit every note, so make sure to practice it slow and with the correct fingering so you don’t mess it up when you start increasing the speed.
Remember, the idea is for you to memorize the shapes, the important notes, and to build muscle memory.
Start slow (about 60bpm) and work your way patiently until you feel comfortable to increase the speed – focus on consistency.
Chords in the key of B Major
If we write the B Major scale on a staff and then stack two third on each scale degree (notes), we get what we call the “harmonic field” of a key center.
These are the 7 chords that come out of the scale, and they can be used to compose music in the key of B.
These are the chords that belong to B Major’s harmonic field:
- I – B Major
- II – C# minor
- III – D# minor
- IV – E Major
- V – F# Major
- VI – G# minor
- VII – A# diminished
Here is how this would look like on a staff:
There are lots of different ways to play these chords on a guitar, but the diagrams that you will find below are some easy examples of how you can play them. You might already be familiarized with some.
Play them in sequence from I to VII and listen closely – you’re playing a harmonized B Major scale.
You can try to come up with your own chord progressions using these 7 chords. There are other options too, such as the ones that come from modal interchange, but that is a different topic altogether.
Songs That Use the B Major Scale
You have certainly heard a lot of songs that feature the B Major scale, or have their main melodies based on this scale.
Here are some songs that you can use to practice the scale. You can try to figure out the melody in different regions of the neck, improvise using the scale, and much more.
- AC/DC – Thunderstruck
- Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
- Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
- The Beatles – For No One
- The Eagles – Take it to the Limit
- Stevie Wonder – You are the Sunshine of my Life
- The Black Crowes – Hard to Handle
- Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough
- Fleetwood Mac – I Don’t Want to Know
- Rod Stewart – She Makes Me Happy
Final Thoughts on the B Major Scale
As you can see, learning a scale is not as difficult as it might seem to begin with, but it still involves a lot of invested time if you want to master it and be able to play it fluently across the entire neck.
Commit to a well-structured practice plan, keep yourself motivated, and you’ll become a lot better faster than you might expect!
Remember that B Major follows the same formula as every other major scale (“W; W; H; W; W; W; H”) and that you can confirm its accidentals using the Circle of Fifths.