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Understanding the Major Scale – Creative ways to play around with it

The major scale is the most important scale in music. It is usually the scale that we relate music to when we talk about intervals or numbering a chord progression. Maybe you have heard someone say “we are playing a 1 4 5 in G” and you haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. Or maybe you have seen chords like Amajor9, or Bminor11th and wondered what they mean?

Well it is simpler than it sounds and really understanding the major scale is a very important thing to do as a guitarist and as a musician.

1. First things First – G major scale (E Shape)

So lets get playing! The first thing to learn is of course the major scale; I have chosen to get started in G major. This scale can obviously be moved around the neck and played in any key but this is a great place to start.


You will notice that I have included a chord at the start, that is a G major 7 chord. When practicing scales it is important to think about the chords you are playing over, so get used to practicing it this way, listening to the chord before hand. This will help you to start understanding the sound that goes with each scale/mode.

2. The Formula

Now you know how to play a major scale, you can start thinking about how it has been constructed. Remember that it is the most important scale and that is because when we talk about intervals the major scale is what we refer it to.

So the major scale formula is simply, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

So in the key of G major, which has 1 sharp in its key (of which is F#), the notes are-

1          2          3          4          5          6          7

G         A         B          C          D         E          F#

So now you know this is the formula try playing the scale again and look at all the intervals within it. Take a look at it on a piano if that helps:

3. Ways to practice the Major Scale

So the next thing we need to do in order to get this scale under our fingers is to practice! Playing the scale over and over again (like the example above) is great at first, but after a bit you are going to start getting very bored of just playing a scale repetitively. So here are a few ways of making it more fun...

Going up and down the scale in 3rds 

This is a really great way of getting to know the scale, give it a go and remember to play the chord when you start.


Going up and down the scale in 6ths

One of my personal favourites in going up and down the scale in 6ths, it’s a really cool sound and it gets you away from just playing the same old intervals all the time.



Another really awesome thing you can do with the major scale is create a 4-note-arpeggio on each interval of the scale. This shows you all the chords available to you. It’s sounds pretty incredible!


4. Play to music

You can keep devloping these ideas and once you start to feel more comfortable then it is time to play along to a chord progression. Here is a chord progression I have created in G major, play along with the chords and get to know all the changes.


First learn the chords-

Then play along with the chord progression-


5. Improvise!

The final challenge is to Improvise! Improvisation is all about using the tools that you have in a creative way. Play melodically, think of yourself as a singer and try and come up with licks that sound cool and catchy! Here is my attempt:


Feel free to add your own chords to the mix and come up with some more ideas. You can also try this in different keys and see how you get on! Hopefully this has given you some creative ways to play and learn the major scale!

If you are looking for lessons in guitar, Bristol House of Music offer one-to-one lessons in guitar, bass, piano, vocals, ukulele, songwriting and music theory. Book your first free lesson now and start your musical journey with us!


We have released our first book!

This book teaches you every chord you will ever need in all five CAGED shapes, allowing you to master the fretboard and helping you to develop and expand your chord knowledge whilst keeping it fun and easy to grasp. Get the book and take your chord playing to new heights. 'Every Chord Shape You Will Ever Need' is ideal for guitarists trying to get to the next level and who like to play, perform and write music.


Guitar Cover - Manchester Orchestra - The Gold

I've been obsessed with Manchester Orchestra's new song The Gold for weeks! I created a little loop video using my TC Electronics Ditto Looper and my Ibanez hollow body guitar! Check out the video below (hope you like it!):


If you haven't heard this song check it out the video below, it is part of their album 'A Black Mile To The Surface'.


10 signs that you need to have guitar lessons!


Are you wondering whether to start having guitar lessons? Read on and book your first free lesson today!

1. Playing the same stuff all the time.

One of the most common reasons why people come to Bristol House of Music for lessons is when they are stuck in a rut. Playing the same things all the time. This makes playing music start to become tedious and boring. There are only so many times you can play that AC/DC riff or Metallica song over and over again. Or even if you have been playing for a while, having someone who gives you targets and songs to learn is going to make playing music so much more fun!

2. Don’t understand what you’re playing!

Can you play songs, riffs and solos but you’re not actually sure what your playing? Maybe you’ve been playing for a while but don’t understand the key you’re in, or what scale that solo is using. This is limiting you as a musician! At Bristol House of Music you will always understand what you are playing, which means that Foo Fighters solo you know can be so much more! You can use the licks when playing your own music or jamming over a backing track! Expand your knowledge and you will not be restricted at all!

3. Stuck to one style!

Are you playing Metal all the time? There’s nothing wrong with that, but once you start exploring different styles and genres you are going to be a way more versatile player and it will ultimately help your Metal playing (or whatever is your favourite style to play). Remember with every style of music there are about a million sub-genres. 

Just for Rock there is Acid rock, Afro punk, Alternative country, Alternative dance, Alternative hip hop, Alternative metal, Alternative rock, Americana music, Anatolian rock, Art punk, Art rock, Avant-garde metal, Baroque pop, Baggy, Bandana Thrash, Beach music, Beat, Bent edge, Big beat, Bisrock, Blackgaze, Black metal, Blues rock, Boogie rock, Brazilian thrash metal, Breakcore, British folk rock, Britpop, Britpop Revival, Canterbury sound, Cello rock, Celtic punk, Celtic metal, Celtic rock, Chicano rock, Christian alternative rock, Christian hardcore, Christian metal, Christian punk, Christian rock, Cock rock, Coldwave, College rock, Comedy rock, Country rock, Cowpunk, Crossover thrash, Crunkcore, Crust punk, Cyber metal, Dance-punk, Dance-rock, Dark cabaret, Dark rock, Darkwave, D-beat, Death 'n' roll, Deathcore, Death-doom, Deathgrind, Death metal, Deathrock, Digital hardcore, Djent, Doom metal, Dream pop, Drone metal, Dunedin sound, Electroclash, Electropunk, Electronicore, Electronic rock, Emo, Emo pop, Emo revival, Ethereal wave, Experimental rock, Extreme metal, Flamenco rock, Folk metal, Folk punk, Folk rock, Funk metal, Funk rock, Garage punk, Garage rock, Geek rock, Glam metal, Glam punk, Glam rock, Goregrind, Gothabilly, Gothic metal, Gothic rock, Grebo, Grindcore, Grindie, Groove metal, Group Sounds, Grunge, Gypsy punk, Hard rock, Hardcore punk, Heartland rock, Heavy hardcore, Heavy metal, Horror punk, Indie folk, Indie pop, Indie rock, Indietronica, Indorock, Industrial metal, Industrial rock, Instrumental rock, Italian occult psychedelia, Jazz rock, Jangle pop, Jersey Shore sound, Krautrock, Kawaii metal, Latin alternative, Latin metal, Latin rock, Madchester, Manila Sound, Mathcore, Math rock, Medieval folk rock, Medieval metal, Melodic death metal, Melodic hardcore, Melodic metalcore, Metalcore, Mod revival, Nardcore, Neue Deutsche Härte, Neue Deutsche Todeskunst, Neue Deutsche Welle, Neoclassical dark wave, Neoclassical metal, Neon pop, Neo-progressive rock, Neo-psychedelia, New rave, New wave, New wave of new wave, New Weird America, Nintendocore, Noise pop, Noise rock, No wave, Nu gaze, Nu metal, Nu metalcore, Oi!, Ostrock, Outlaw Country, Pagan metal, Pagan rock, Paisley Underground, Pinoy rock, Pirate metal, Pop punk, Pop rockPost-black metal, Post-Britpop, Post-grunge, Post-hardcore, Post-metal, Post-punk, Post-punk revival, Post-rock, Power pop, Power metal, Powerviolence, Progressive metal, Progressive metalcore, Progressive rock, Protopunk, Psychedelic rock, Psychobilly, Pub rock (Australia), Pub rock (United Kingdom), Punk blues, Punk jazz, Punk rock, Queercore, Raga rock, Rapcore, Rap metal, Rap rock, Reggae rock, Riot grrrl, Rock Against Communism, Rock and roll, Rockabilly, Rock in Opposition, Roots rock, Sadcore, Samba rock, Screamo, Shoegazing, Shock rock, Ska punk, Skate punk, Slowcore, Sludge metal, Soft rock, Southern metalSouthern rock, Space rock, Speed metal, Straight edge, Stoner rock, Street punk, Sufi rock, Sunshine pop, Surf music, Swamp pop, Swedish death metal, Symphonic black metal, Symphonic metal, Symphonic rock, Synthpop, Taqwacore, Technical death metal, Teutonic thrash metal, Thrashcore, Thrash metal, Trønder rock, Traditional heavy metal, Tropical rock, Tulsa Sound, 2 Tone, Unblack metal, Viking metal, Viking rock, Visual kei, Wagnerian rock, War metal, Wizard rock, Yacht rock, Youth crew, Zeuhl.

Have lessons and expand your horizons!

4. turn a hobby into a profession!

We at Bristol House of Music know better than anyone how music can change your life! Check out our tutor stories to see how it has made a positive impact on our careers! If you are passionate about music, maybe you have been in a band before or currently play music and need some extra help to get to that next level. We are professional musicians at Bristol House of Music and we can help you progress your playing and songwriting in a positive way that could affect your life!

5. Scales are your enemy

I remember first learning scales and being taught it really badly! Especially once I started learning modes! I don’t think anyone ever explained it very well, it was a nightmare getting my head around it. This doesn’t have to be the case and once you understand scales you will be able to play over any chord progression and take your playing to another level. Scales are super important and fun to play, so don’t let bad teachers affect your ability.

6. Have instruments as decorations?

Do you have instruments around your house as decorations? Get playing them! It doesn’t take long to start learning an instrument, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can start picking up chords and songs. We will have you playing right from your first lesson! There is no excuse! If you look at that guitar every day and just want to be able to pick it up and jam out some songs, then get started now (remember the first lesson is free!).

7. Bad rhythm or playing the same rhythms in every song?

Another common sign that you need guitar lessons is when you are playing the same rhythm all the time. Or maybe your rhythm is just bad! Don’t worry though, before you know it we will have you playing hundreds of different rhythms. This will make your playing a lot more varied and you will stop being so frustrated from sounding the same every time you pick up the guitar.

8. You think you’re too old.

Do you think you’ve missed your chance to learn an instrument? Maybe you’ve had lessons before and it never worked out? Well don’t let that stop you from picking it up now! We have taught people of all ages and always had a lot of fun no matter what!  Push yourself to start learning now!

9. You’re too stressed!

Learning an instrument is a great stress release. Had a hard day at work? Coming home and having 30 minutes playing guitar will be a great way to escape the stresses of every day life. Having lessons each week will give you structure to your practice and you will want to play each night! 

10. Working out songs is hard?

Do you listen to songs and wish you could play them? It can be so frustrating listening to songs and not being able to work them out! Sifting through bad tablature on the internet is time consuming and eventually you lose your enthusiasm. Spend some time training your ear and if you work hard at it you will eventually be able to play any song you hear! Every song you learn at Bristol House of Music you will be provided with complete tablature/sheet music that is accurate! 


What are you waiting for? Get started now! At Bristol House of Music we offer lessons in Guitar, Bass, Piano, Vocals, Ukulele, Music Theory & Songwriting. Fill out the form below to book your first FREE lesson today:

Name *
What Instrument(s) do you want to learn? *
Find out more information by clicking on the individual class pages. Feel free to select more than one!
Are you a Beginner/Intermediate or Advanced player?
Any favourite bands/artists?

We have released our first book!

This book teaches you every chord you will ever need in all five CAGED shapes, allowing you to master the fretboard and helping you to develop and expand your chord knowledge whilst keeping it fun and easy to grasp. Get the book and take your chord playing to new heights. 'Every Chord Shape You Will Ever Need' is ideal for guitarists trying to get to the next level and who like to play, perform and write music.


Meet Your Tutor - with James Ashbury


We caught up with James Ashbury, GuitarBass, Ukulele & Songwriting Instructor at Bristol House of Music and asked him some questions about how he got started in music.

When did you start playing music?

I started playing guitar when I was 15 years old. I was really into skateboarding when I was young and annoyingly when I was 15 I broke my wrist at the skatepark one Saturday morning! It was painful! More annoyingly, this was during the 6 weeks holiday from school. All my friends we're out skating, so needed something to do! Luckily my dad bought me a cheap acoustic guitar. By the time the wounds were healed I was really obsessed with guitar and was always worried I would break my wrist again and not be able to play!

Did learning guitar come naturalLY to you?

It didn't! Not at all! When I was 15, everyone was better than me at guitar. When I was 17 everyone was better than me! However it really meant a lot to me playing guitar and I never started to be the best. I just enjoyed doing it. But because it meant alot much to me, I kept on practicing and learning. I went to college at the Academy of Music and Sound and studied guitar from 16-18 and I put everything into improving as a musician and got better and better! Having instructors who knew what they we're doing really helped!

What was your first gig?

My first gig was at the Wolverhampton Little Civic, I was in a metal band called Frontline, we were basically a Metallica rip off. It was really fun and I learn't a lot from playing in front of a live crowd. We eventually won a round of a Battle of the Bands which was really cool (we didn't win the whole competition though!). Weirdly the Wolverhampton Civic (next door to the little civic) was where we supported Robert Plant for the first time. 

What was your favourite show ever?

I've been lucky to have some great ones! Supporting Robert Plant will always be a highlight, he invited us to play with him in front of 20,000 people. That was a big one! Being in Wildflowers has allowed me to tour the world and has created some amazing moments. But some of my favourite times have been playing in Bristol where we first started. One show at the Crofters Rights I will always remember! It was the first time I looked out to a sold out crowd and everyone knew all the words.

What was it like being a Guitar Tech with Jake Bugg?

It was fun! It was something I had never done before and I just said yes for the adventure (TBH). We toured in places I never imagined I would go to including New York, Canada, Nashville, Alabama, New Orleans and loads more incredible places. Jake is a great person to work with, but also everyone else involved made it really great!

When did you start teaching?

I actually started teaching when I was 18! I have actually always enjoyed teaching, I feel it's something I have always been good at. I have had a lot of terrible teachers, throughout school, private lessons, college and university. They are everywhere! haha! I think I have learn't how to teach from being taught myself. I am well trained now in music, so if anyone ever wants to learn something and put me on the spot, that is never a problem! I actually love that!

Songwriting? How do you start doing that?

Well first, I never wrote a song before I met Siddy (Lead singer of Wildflowers) at university at 18 and I never thought for a second I would be any good at writing songs. But now I am 28 and have written (I would say) 500 songs!! The main advice I can give about songwriting is keep on writing, you will write songs that aren't the best, but if you persist you will just get better and better. 

What do you do other than music?

I like watching football! I do still skateboard (even though I am a lot more careful nowadays). Recently bought myself an electric scooter as well, so you may see me scooting around the streets of Bristol! Other than than I love travelling, taking photos and being creative!

Any final words of advice?

Don't give up on learning an instrument and you will never know where it will take you. Take a chance. You may just learn an instrument and play it as a hobby. But if you're anything like me and you fall in love with playing music it may just lead to some really amazing opportunities!

Book you first FREE guitar, bass or songwriting lesson with James now! By heading over to the signup page!