C Major Scale

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Scales often get a bad rap in musical communities, but I promise you - they’re worth your time and effort! When utilized correctly, they can be super helpful in advancing your playing and they should certainly be a part of your practice routine.

In this lesson, we’re going over the C major scale, played in the open position. Once you’ve got this down, you can improvise around it, making up melodies and solos. It’s also a good way to practice picking individual strings and to work on the dexterity of your fingers.

Scale Box


Let’s Get Started

For the C major scale, as with any scale, you’re going to start (and end) on the lowest root note - C. You can find C on the 3rd fret of the 5th string (I made it red for you in the diagram to keep it super clear). For this scale, the finger numbers match up with the fret numbers (ex. Finger 3 plays Fret 3).

Using all down picks and going very, very slowly, you’re going to play the scale ascending (going up) from the root note. Once you get to the top, make your way back down all the way to the low open E string. Since you always end a scale where you started it, come back up from the low E to your C root note.

Follow CAREFULLY along with the TAB, but might be worth reading the rest of this text and or watching the video first!

Practice Makes Permanent!

I know I’ve said this before, but practice makes permanent - not perfect! So, practice as perfectly as possible, no matter how slowly you need to go to do that. That way, you’re committing the right things to memory rather than the wrong things. You’re building code in your brain, so you need to be sure it’s all in there correctly.

Again, this isn’t a speed game. You can always speed it up later, but for now, really focus on getting the notes in the scale absolutely right and picking the correct strings. If it helps, you can even break it up a bit, practising the scale going up only, and when you feel comfortable with it there, you can work on coming back down.

When you’re learning the scale, sometimes it even helps to close your eyes and picture the scale in your mind. This helps to further cement it in your memory.

Also, pay attention to what the scale actually sounds like. When learning music, sometimes we get caught up in techniques and rules and whatever else and we forget that we’re learning to play MUSIC! We’ve got to listen! By listening carefully, you’re actually training your ear to hear what a major scale is supposed to sound like, regardless of what key you’re in. It will also help you spot mistakes!


For now, we’re using only down picks, but pay close attention to your picking hand to be sure you’re picking the correct strings. Some people find it helps to use the pinky finger on their picking hand as an anchor or guide to keep their hand in position. Try it for yourself, though. If it helps you pick more accurately, stick with it. If not, try something else.

Practising with a Metronome

As I mentioned, this isn’t about speed. However, once you’re comfortable with the scale, you can work on your timing. Try playing along with a metronome (again, starting slowly!), and be careful to pick the note exactly on the metronome’s click. You want to keep the tempo even, so find a speed where you’re able to do that while playing the scale accurately. Sometimes going either too fast or too slow can trip you up, so see what works for you.


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