Learning the Major Scale with Brent-Anthony Johnson
Hi, this is Brent Anthony Johson for jamplay.com. In this lesson, we’re talking about various different ways to play a major scale, we’re going to use C major and the reason we’re learning different scales, scale-fingering is so that you can have and add the fingertips when you’re using it in a linear fashion, when you’re using it in live music and music is going by very quickly. It’s a very difficult thing to have to think about your fingerings and how you’re going to get something done.
It’s also really good to learn about the intervals of the major scale and why those notes work together the way they do and some different aspects of looking at it to especially with the four-string-based guitar.
The first fingering I’d like to use I call “Fingering Number One”. It’s a very simple fingering, it’s probably the one the C major scale that we all -- most of us know, I’m sure of this.
So you start with your middle finger to play C, on the third fret of your A string. Then your pinky will access the fifth fret of your A string which’d be D. The index finger will access the second fret of the D string which would be the note E. The middle finger accesses the third fret of the D string which would be the note F. The pinky will access the fifth fret of the D string which would be the note G.
The index finger now goes to the second fret of the G string and access the note A. Then the ring finger, the first time we’re going to use in the scale will access the fourth fret of the G string, accessing B. And finally, the pinky would play the octave note C which is on the fifth fret of the G string. So that’s your first fingering. Again, and I look at this, it’s [sic] a numbers of digits: one, two, three and four.
The fingering for this particular scale is two, four, one, two, four, one, three, four. Also another tip when you’re playing scales, please also descend the scale. Don’t just ascend the scale, play it up, not only just play it up, but play it down as well. So here we go in reverse. Once again. And descending.
Now notice when I’m fretting, my fretting fingers directly behind the fret on the instrument because that’s where you get the best tone as you’re fretting the instrument. So when you’re playing, and practicing that Pichler scale, that’s one of the things you’re going to look at and keep an eye on as you’re playing. In this scale-fingering, you’ll want to play in thirds and things of that nature. What I mean by playing in thirds is simply skipping every other note of the scale to give yourself a pattern. It makes the practice time more melodic, it makes it more musical.
Accessing this particular exercise playing the scale in thirds, you would first play with your middle finger, your index finger, pinky, the middle finger, your index finger, your pinky, your middle finger, your index finger, your pinky, finally your ring finger comes into play, on the note B, index finger, and pinky.
So what we’ve done is we play every other note in the scale ascending it. In a sense, if the notes in the scale are numbered, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, the pattern we’ve used to play the scale in thirds is: the first note of the scale, the third note of the scale, the second note of the scale, the fourth note of the scale, the third note of the scale, the fifth note of the scale, the fourth note of the scale, the sixth note of the scale, the fifth note of the scale, the seventh note of the scale, the sixth note of the scale, and then the octave. Okay?
So now we have a fingering diagram that we can use as middle, index, pinky, middle, index, pinky, middle, index, pinky, ring, index, pinky. In reverse, that would be pinky, index, ring, pinky, index, middle, pinky, index, middle, pinky, index, middle. You could round about by saying pinky, index, middle as well by playing the note just below the root of the scale, which was -- is the note B, which is also part of the scale at your seventh noteplay. You have a way of playing that in kind of rounding out the exercise and making it more symmetrical. It’s very easy to practice music theory in scale approaches when it’s some melodic.
So here’s it played at a speed [plucks]. That was in thirds. Now here’s the major played at that same speed [plucks]. Once again, the exercise [plucks]. And there you have it.
The second fingering for the C major that I’d like to approach today is using the guitaristic skill where you’re spreading out in using what I call extended fingering. Instead of beginning on your middle finger, as you would in fingering number one, you would access the root of the scale which is C once again, with the index finger. So what you’re going to do here is begin with playing the note C with your index finger, then you’re going to stretch and play the note D with your middle finger.
Now notice when I do that, my index finger that’s playing the root kind of points back towards the head stack a little bit. There’s a very big stretch here. That’s a good stretch. One of the reasons that I employ this is because these two fingers have individual tendons. These two fingers share a tendon. It’s a big tendon but they share a tendon.
What you’re going to have to do is get these exercised and use these two fingers together because they’re actually the weaker two fingers on your fretting hand, but we can overcome this by utilizing these two digits a little bit more so than we usually do. So I’m going to use index, middle, pinky to play the third note of the scale, which in fingering number one was here [plucks].
So I’m displacing [plucks] this note [plucks], the third of the scale. So I have this [plucks]. Once again, I’m not using the ring finger yet at all, but you’ll feel it being used because these two fingers share a tendon, once again.
The next three notes in the series of course are the fourth, fifth and sixth notes which are F, G and A. So you got this finger: index, middle, pinky; index, middle, pinky.
We’re going to go up a fret to B on the fourth fret of your G string [plucks]. Access that with your index finger, and then [plucks] play the octave with your middle finger. We’ve kind of closed our hand a little bit. It was open and kind of getting stretched. At the end we can close it which is kind of a nice relief for that.
The scale played once again is index, middle, pinky. Index, middle, pinky. Index, middle, even if we do move up a fret to play the B on the fourth fret of G string. So there you have it [plucks].
And just as in scale fingering number one, you can access and play in thirds as an exercise. It’s really good fun and it’s very melodic and once again get the sound of the scale in your head. So I’m going to access notes C, E, D, F [laughs], E, G, F, A, G, B, A, C. [whispers] That’s how that’s going to go. Okay? I think that’s how that’s going to go.
[laughs] So let’s try that again. [plucks] And actually, I may want to add this note [plucks] because it’s symmetrical. Just as I’ll add the B on the end, I’ll add the D on the top. Because I have three notes per string, I’m maintaining that concept by using three notes on every string I’m playing and logically falls to having that D. Once again, I’ll play it. [plucks]
So then, when you’re descending, you would start on D, though it’s not the root. Now you can start on C if you’d like and that’s fine as well. So starting on C would look like this [plucks].
I’ll play the B [plucks]. Notice I’m using my index finger. And I move it back and I won’t necessarily slide it because I want it to actually sound like a beat. So instead of sounding like this, I’ll play. So that’s a great thing to do as well. It’s very melodic. [guitar playing] There you have it. That’s fingering number two.
Fingering number three is a little weird and the reason I use it is because often when I’m playing major during a solo, I’ll play aspects of the major during the solo and what I like to have for this particular fingering is I’d like to have four strings to play across as opposed to simply three. On scale number -- fingering number one [guitar playing] we need three strings for that. The same thing with scale finger number two [guitar playing]. With scale finger number three, we actually need four strings to play across because we’re not really using our space as well as we could necessarily. It’s a concept. It’s a different way to approach the scale and I used to use this a lot when I was playing music with a lot of major scales in it that I didn’t want people to see what fingering I was using, it was kind of a trick -- a trick of the eye as much as it is anything else.
So it’s fingered like this, pinky, played on C which is actually on the, what do we got here, the eighth flat of your E string so we got this note and we’ve got this note. So that’s the same C, right? You guys understand that? Okay. That’s cool. So we’ve got C, we’ve got D, we got E, we got F, we got G, we got A. Then we’re actually going to move back a half step to the same B that we’ve been playing all along and then play active so in descending that scale, we’re going to use this fingering, C middle finger, B index finger, we’re actually going to play the A with our ring finger. We’re going to play G with our index finger, F with our pinky, got E with our ring finger, we’ve got D with our index finger and back to C with our pinky.
So this is a fun scale fingering to use for melodic exercises as well. Once again playing in thirds [guitar playing] Not as easy as the other two but fun. It’s a good string kind of hopping exercise and not necessarily skipping because we’re ascending straight through and we’re descending straight back but if we work out those things when we cover arpeggios and things in another lesson, this fingering might come into play very nicely. So once again [guitar playing] that would be scale fingering number three for the C major scale.
Fourth way to play the C major I’d like to call dropping because it utilizes the lowest note you have available on your, in various different keys. It utilize either the notes E or the notes F because of all the scales in Western music, all the major scales in Western music, there’s either an E or an F. So the way I use this particular is when I’m playing and I want to have sort of -- I want to move the music forward in a way that plays the correct notes, let’s say the right pitches but I don’t necessarily want to have a straight ascending or straight descending line okay.
So the way this is fingered is as far as you’ve got a C little finger, got a D with your pinky, now you’re going to play the lowest note available on your instrument which is an E. You’re going to drop all the way down to a low E. This certainly opens a lot because now you’ve -- using the lowest note on your instrument which is a nice approach and by the way, when your audience hears D string notes, now here’s that last note, by and large when someone hears that last note plays. It played, it’s going to move the other two notes below it because if you tell someone that you’re playing a scale, they automatically sort of think ascending and descending information, nothing wrong with that really but a lot of fun.
So you got C, you got D, and you got F which is an open string, the lowest on your instrument buy and large. Now you can play F, first fret of the E string through your index finger. G, which is played with your middle finger, A played with your pinky, B played with your index finger and you’re right back to this particular -- you know you can play an octave, you’re back to the original route that you set with this particular type.
So you’re ascending but really not necessarily the way it really comes into place, you’re just returning to your original route, this original note C. So [guitar playing] and you can actually go on and play a C [guitar playing]. Now on utilizing both aspects of scale fingering number one and scale fingering number two but it’s a really healthy to learn because you’re actually getting a lot more bang for your buck. You get a lot more notes than you would use in a typical seven note ascending or plus an octave. So at eighth note ascending, eighth note ascending scale. Once again [guitar playing] and you can carry that on to play a scale in a regular scale in C. So [guitar playing].
So there you have it, there’s a number four. Quickly before I go, I’ll ascend them and then descend them in thirds. [guitar playing] So there’s a way to ascend and descend the scale in thirds but adding some melodic content to it but once again, it makes the C, a normal C a lot more fun to practice. We’ll talk about other ways to do this, the ways to approach this using the circle of fifths and other keys in Western music. [guitar playing].
So there you go. Have fun with it. See you next time. Take care.