Scales: Major Scales 

Written by Gustavo Zecharies 


Major scales are one of the multiple sequences of notes we can generate going from a note to its octave. The major scale or Ionian scale is one of the diatonic scales. For the scale of C Major, these notes correspond to the syllables "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, (Do)", the "Do" in the parenthesis at the end being the octave of the tonic starting pitch.  

Structure: major scale may be seen as two identical tetrachords separated by a whole tone, or whole step, the new set of steps: "Whole: Whole: Half: Whole: Whole: Whole: Half"(in Semi-tone 2 2 1 2 2 2 1).

Each tetrachord consists of two whole steps followed by a half step. Western scales do not skip any line or space on the staff, and they do not repeat any note with a different accidental. This has the effect of forcing the key signature to feature just sharps or just flats.


Named scale degrees 

  • 1st – Tonic- key note
  • 2nd – Supertonic 
  • 3rd – Mediant 
  • 4th – Subdominant 
  • 5th – Dominant 
  • 6th – Submediant 
  • 7th – Leading tone 
  • 8th – Tonic (or Octave)
The circle of fifths

The Circle of Fifths, first described in 1728 by Johann David Heinichen in his book Der General-bass, has been used ever since as a means of illustrating the relative harmonic distance between musical keys.


Minor and Major scales that share the same structure/key signature are “relatives”. Each Major scale has a relative Minor; they have the same key signature, but a different tonic. To remember it quickly, we can say that any Mayor scale has its Relative Minor 1 and ½ tones lower than its tonic. For example, C Major is the relative major of A Minor, and A Minor is the relative minor of C Major. This relationship is the same for every note, such as G Major – E minor, D Major – B minor, and so on. The Major and minor scales are essentially the same, but with different tonics. We will cover this more in the Minor Scales section of this website.

The numbers inside the circle show the number of sharps or flats in the key signature, with the sharp keys going clockwise, and the flat keys counterclockwise from C major (which has no sharps or flats.) The circular arrangement depends on enharmonic relationships in the circle, usually reckoned at six sharps or flats for the major keys of F♯ = G♭ and D♯ = E♭ for minor keys. Seven sharps or flats make major keys (C♯ major and C♭ major) that may be more conveniently spelled with five flats or sharps (as D♭ major or B major).

How to play them in your Warr Guitar

We will separate the way these scales are played (or located in your instrument) for each one of the hands. We will assume for now that the scales to be played mostly on the melody side, while the bass side will play the chords (either as in an arpeggio or in unison). As you may have figured out already, the notes of any scale are all over the instrument… in other words, anywhere you look you may find notes corresponding to the major scale of any note. There are several methodologies used to teach the scales, some schools use scale “positions” that are found as you travel through the fretboard, or there also can be seen as “modes” of the scale. In both cases, the approaches aim the same objective, which is to get you to use these scales in your instrument and learn how to locate the notes on it. We will refer to “positions” which are repetitive sequences of notes that will help you find the scales in your instrument.

We will name “Position 1” the scale that will start with the tonic of the scale (in our example, C) on the lowest string (in our example the 6th string). In the case of C Major, the note appears in the 11th fret. So we leverage all the positions and most of the playable sections of your Warr Guitar, we will start with the positions by the 6th Fret.


All positions should be played down and up, trying to maintain the same exact speed/articulation for each note. When you are going up (from string 1 to 6), be sure that the pull-offs are done so it does not sound as “triplets” (effect that appears when you clearly play three notes per beat, whereas the first note sounds with higher volume than the rest), but that they follow the musical sense you want to give to the scale. For any positions starting beyond fret number 12, you can (if it makes sense), play the same position on the fret number minus 12 (for example, a position starting on fret 15 will be the same, only an octave lower, than the position starting on fret 3). Same is the opposite, a position starting on fret 6 will be the same as the one starting on fret 18.


Right Hand: C Major: Position 5
On the fretboard

Music Notation

Music Notation

Right Hand: C Major: Position 6
On the fretboard

Music Notation

Music Notation

Right Hand: C Major: Position 7
On the fretboard. Alternative Fingers on 4th,3rd 2nd and 1st strings could be 1,2,3-1,2,3-1,2,4-1,2,4

Music Notation

Music Notation