9 - Major Keys

Major Keys

We’ve learned that C major is the only major key that contains no sharps (#) or flats (b) but what does that really mean? We covered the chromatic scale and the major scale structure formula in lesson two, but here is a refresher view:
Chromatic Scale: A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab, back A and infinity.
Major Scale Formula in Steps: Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half (WWHWWWH)
If we apply the step formula to the chromatic scale, starting on C, it just so happens that no sharp or flat notes are included. This isn’t the case with any other scale. But there’s another pattern there as well. As we move on to later lessons, you’ll find that the scales we’ll learn have an increasing number of sharps or flats, and the pattern will begin to become apparent.
Let’s begin by learning the G major scale, or to put it another way, the major scale in the key of G major:

Key Of G Major

Key of G Major
At this point, I’d like to call attention to the F#. Since F# is the same note as Gb, why is it called F#? The answer is alphabetical order. If it were called Gb, it could create some confusion, since we already have a G in the scale. Remember that music has rules, and this one of many that makes perfect sense.

Relative Minor

Remember that the sixth note of any major scale is called the Relative Minor. In the case of G major, the relative minor is E. You may have heard talk of songs being played in minor keys, and this is where they come from. A minor key is really a sort of misnomer, as minor keys are actually Major Keys played in a different order.
To demonstrate, let’s take E minor as an example. Now, there are a few different modifications of minor scales, but for now, we’ll deal with the natural minor scale. The natural minor scale begins with the sixth note of the major scale, and continues along for eight notes: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D, E. We’ll talk more about minor keys in another lesson, as there are a few commonly used rules in the modern use of minor scales.

An Endless Repetition Of Notes

To make this scale extension concept a little easier, think of any scale as an endless repetition of notes, as if it were written in a circle. If you start at any point and move around the circle, you’ll end up going around as many times as you’d like. As a linear example, think of a scale as a never ending line, starting at a given point:
The linear and circle example can also be applied to the chromatic scale, and applying formulas to get other scales, which is the case in the major scale formula in steps: WWHWWWH
We also talked about the basic chord formula for major scales: “M” stands for Major, “m” stands for minor, and “d” stands for diminished. We’ll use G major for our chords:
Major Chords - G MajorSo how do we use this information? Well, let’s start by learning a new chord, F# diminished (F#d). You’ve already learned the other guitar chords in G major, but we’ll do a refresher on those as well.
F#Dim Chord Diagram
So now we have the complete collection of the basic G major chords. Try playing them in order…
Basic G Major Chords - Chord Diagram
Now let’s try playing the major scale, G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G, using guitar tablature. To make things a bit easier, we’ve placed a chart below the tab, telling you which fingers to use, and the note names. You will sometimes see tablature written in this way:
Major Scale - Tablature Diagram

Guitar Exercise

Here’s an exercise, using the chords in G major. A slash above the chord tells us to strum…
Guitar Exercise Using Chords In G Major