Practicing scales is a key aspect of mastering any instrument you decide to learn.
Sadly, it is generally not very enticing or fun to spend long periods of time mastering them, as there are other things that might distract us to the point we start playing something else. Discipline is important, and internalizing scales is too.
By putting in the hours now, you will notice improvements in several areas later on, such as composition, improvisation, your ear, and more.
The article you’re about to read will cover everything you need to know about the G Major scale. If you have a good grasp of the C Major scale, this one is very similar, since it only has one different note.
The G Major Scale: Notes and its Relative Minor Scale
After C Major, lots of people study the G Major scale, due to the fact that there is only a slight difference between those two scales.
While C Major has no accidentals, G Major has an F# on its seventh degree.
You can also see that G Major is only one place away from C Major on the Circle of Fifths, which means they are close to one another.
If you were playing it on a piano, you’d go from G to G (all white keys) except for the last note, which would be F#.
This gives us the following scale:
- G, A, B, C, D, E, F#.
However, this isn’t the only scale that uses this set of notes. In music theory, there is a concept which is named “relative scales”.
This means that every major scale has its relative minor scale, and every minor scale has its relative major too.
This tells us that they use the exact same notes, but the tonic (note of the scale) is different.
For instance, G Major has E minor as its relative minor scale. With that information, we know that E minor has the following notes:
- E, F#, G, A, B, C, D.
If your starting point is a major scale, you’ll find its relative minor either one major sixth above it (9 semitones) or a minor third below it (3 semitones).
G Major Fretboard Diagram
The diagram that you’ll find below will show you the location of every note that belongs to the G Major scale on a guitar’s fretboard, from the nut to the 12th fret (it just repeats itself afterward).
Use it as a reference to find any notes that you might not have memorized completely until now, and pay close attention to that F#.
You probably have realized by now that memorizing the fretboard is a very important skill for any guitarist, and practicing scales is a very efficient way to accomplish this.
With the help of the diagram above, you could practice exercises such as:
- Dividing the fretboard into enclosed areas, and practice finding the scale notes inside them;
- Memorize the location of important notes (root, third, fifth, seventh, ninth…) using their octaves;
- Associate chord shapes with scale patterns throughout the neck;
- Play the scale single strings;
- Start playing the scale in a different note other than G.
G Major in Tabs and Standard Notation
In this section, you’ll find some examples of how you can play the G Major scale throughout the neck, in standard notation and in tab.
Keep in mind that these are not the only ways of playing it, there are several patterns and fingerings, and they all deserve to have some time put into them.
The first tab shows you a G Major scale fingering that takes advantage of the open strings of the guitar. You cover 2 octaves of the scale throughout the 6 strings.
Play it over a metronome at a relatively slow tempo at first, and try to memorize each note that you’re playing at a steady pace.
Also, remember to practice these examples both ascending and descending.
This example starts on the same note as the previous one, but it doesn’t use the open strings.
You should play the first note with your middle finger, which will open up your index finger for the first note you play on the 5th string.
This is the G major scale, ascending and descending, played on the middle region of the neck.
This example only covers one full octave of G Major.
This tab covers a G Major pattern around the 7th and 10th frets of the guitar’s neck.
The example above covers a full octave and goes up to the high D. Practice it descending too.
The fifth and last example features a G Major fingering right before the 12th fret.
This tab covers one octave and goes up to the fifth of G, which is that high D on the 1st string.
G Major “Scale Enclosures”
There are many tricks and methods that allow you to split the guitar’s neck into sections that are more easily interpreted and memorized. After that, you can work on connecting them.
This is a great step towards being able to navigate the fretboard fluently, instead of being comfortable in only a few specific regions.
The set of diagrams you’ll see below is one of the most popular ways of dividing the fretboard and mapping out the notes that belong to the scale you’re studying. These are also related to chord shapes – all of this relates to the CAGED system.
Obviously, you should always be well aware of the root notes (in this case, G) location, but later on you should try to start some of your phrasing in other notes, such as the third or the seventh (B and F#).
The first enclosure goes from the open strings up to the fourth fret.
You can cover two octaves of the G Major scale in this box, and it helps if you play the F# and G notes on the 6th string with your middle and ring fingers, respectively.
Notice that the notes are all the same as C Major, except for the F!
This enclosure covers frets ranging from the 2nd to the 5th.
On the 6th string, you start with the major 7th (F#), just before the G.
Play that G with your middle finger, the A with your pinky, and that will leave you with your index finger ready to play the next notes, on the 5th string.
You also cover 2 octaves of the G Major scale in this box.
The third enclosure encompasses frets between the 4th and the 8th.
Play the A, B and C notes on the 6th string with your index, ring and pinky fingers, respectively.
Use your index and ring fingers for the 5th string, and then index, middle and pinky for the 4th and 3rd strings.
The last two strings use the same finger pattern as the 6th string.
This enclosure ranges from frets 7 to 10.
It is the same pattern as the enclosure you find first when you’re mapping out the notes in C Major, but this one is moved up the neck to match the notes that exist in G Major.
The fifth and final enclosure goes from the 9th fret to the 13th. After the 12th fret, the enclosures repeat themselves all over again (the 12th fret corresponds to the open strings of the first enclosure).
Play the notes on the 6th string with your middle and pinky fingers, which leaves your index finger free to play the notes that come up on the 9th fret on the 5th, 4th and 3rd strings.
You should try to get more comfortable in each of these enclosures individually, and afterwards, try to connect them to one another. This will allow you to move around the neck much better!
Chords in the Key of G Major
Knowing the chords that fit into the key of G Major is one of the things you can easily do after learning its major scale.
By harmonizing each note of the scale, you’ll obtain its harmonic field – the set of chords that are built upon each degree, from I to VII.
These diagrams show you how to play the chords that belong to the harmonic field of G, but take into account that there are many other voicings available, these are only a few examples.
You should try to play these chords one after the other, and compare their sounds and feelings to the notes of the G Major scale.
Try to build some chord progressions of your own with these chords, you might find one that inspires you to create a melody over it using the notes in the G Major scale!
Afterwards, learning a few more voicings of these chords can really make a big difference on your playing, since you will have other options that you can cycle through while playing through any song.
Songs that use the G Major Scale
There is a vast collection of songs that use the G Major scale for their main melodies.
In spite of this, that doesn’t mean that the G Major scale is your only choice for improvisation and other parts of the song.
It is great to know of as many possible resources we’ve got at any time, in order to have an interesting narrative with our instrument.
Here are a few examples of songs that use the G Major scale:
- Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
- Bob Dylan – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
- AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
- ZZ Top – Tush
- Otis Redding – Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
- Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird
- Peter Frampton – Baby I Love Your Way
- The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women
- Pink Floyd – Pigs on the Wing
- Guns n’ Roses – Paradise City (tuned in Eb)
Keep in mind that G Major is also the relative major scale of E minor, meaning that these two scales use the same notes, only around a different key center (G and E, respectively).
Since G Major is a pretty common key signature, getting this scale under your fingertips should definitely be on your objective list, even if you decide to take it slowly.
Also, seeing as it only has one different note from C Major, if you have learned that one already, this scale shouldn’t be a very big challenge for you!