Major Scale - Shape 1

In this exercise, I will show you a shape for a Major Scale in one octave that we will use throughout the fretboard to help you see scales everywhere!

In the first exercise in this guitar lesson I showed you a G Major Scale on one string. The purpose was for you to start seeing scales outside a box, and to realize that even on one string you can play scalar lines that lend themselves to smooth phrasing. Now we are going to look at a box shape for a Major Scale which will help you see scales everywhere on the neck, and allow you to navigate throughout the fretboard.

Major Scale - Shape 1 fretboard diagram You may have seen fretboard diagrams that show every single note of a given scale throughout the fretboard. I don't find such diagrams useful, as they just present a barrage of notes without a useful visual context to actually make use of the diagrams in any meaningful way. So in the fretboard diagram above what I want you to notice is that from almost any G, we can play the same shape for a major scale . Let's call one of these possible shapes Shape 1. So if you start at the 3rd fret on low E string, then play the blue colored notes you will be playing a G Major Scale in its Shape 1 form. Likewise starting with any other G marked in red. Just start at the given G, then play the same colored notes that make up the Shape 1 form. So you could start at 12th fret on G string then play the purple notes. Or start at 10th fret on A string then play the magenta colored notes. This diagram doesn't show all the Shape 1 forms, but you can figure out others, for instance shapes that are past 12th fret, which are just repeats (up an octave) of shapes that you already see below 12th fret.

The other important thing to note about the fretboard diagram is that certain shapes contain the exact same notes by pitch. What I mean, is that the shape starting from 5th fret on D string contains the notes in the same octave as the shape starting from 10th fret on A string. It is very important to understand this layout of the fretboard and to appreciate that playing the same shape in the same octave in different positions provides different tone - starting at 10th fret A string would produce fatter tone than starting at 5th fret D string. Knowing this can help with your phrasing. But I am digressing, as phrasing is a topic that we could discuss endlessly!

In looking at the above fretboard diagram, you might be wondering how to navigate across the fretboard, interconnecting these shapes. We will get to that in other exercises, trust me. For now I just want you to start visualizing shapes and how they are arranged across there fretboard. I will use this same shape visualization approach for other scale guitar lessons, and I think in the end you will start seeing scales and modes the way Neo sees The Matrix at the end of the movie.


Major Scale - Shape 1 Guitar Pro tablature
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Guitar Lesson Exercise Performance Tips

Performance Tips

In the tablature you will notice that you are to play various Shape 1 forms of the G Major Scale. In Ex 1A you are playing the shape that corresponds to the shape in the fretboard diagram with notes marked in blue. Ex 1B is the same, but played as 16th notes. Whether you are playing as 8th or 16th notes, try playing to a metronome and really lock in with the beats which will be a great way to reinforce your overall sense of timing.

The other exercises shown in the tab, Ex 2 - 5 are just other instances of the G Major Shape 1 form, most of which you will notice in the fretboard diagram.

While this exercise uses G Major as an example, you should also appreciate the fact that other keys will have the same shapes. So as an additional exercise you should pick another key, say D Major, and figure out how to play D Major across the fretboard in Shape 1 form.

Criteria for Mastery: You can play a Major Scale in Shape 1 in various positions, as 16th notes at 140 BPM or faster.


In the first exercise of this Major Scale Guitar Lesson I talked about how to think of the Major Scale in terms of the intervals that make up the scale and how you can think of other scales in terms of modifying scale intervals of the Major Scale. For example you can think of the Mixolydian Scale (which I will cover in another scale lesson) as the same as a Major Scale, except with a flatted 7th. I recommend you take a look at that first exercise if you are just jumping in to this exercise.

You can get ahead of yourself now by figuring out what the Shape 1 form of a Mixolydian Scale would look like - just flat the 7th in the Major Scale everywhere you see the 7th.