Home » Lead Guitar Scales Part 2 – Major Scales

Lead Guitar Scales Part 2 – Major Scales

Gary Moore - Lead Guitar Scales Major
Gary Moore – not afraid to throw in some major pentatonic licks!

Major Keys

Right, if you play black metal and wear a mask you may want to look away now! We are looking at the major lead guitar scales in part 2, the happy scales, the ‘not so Rock N’ Roll’ scales…or are they?

Well, if you’re into your thrash metal, hard rock, doom or grindcore, not really. However, the major lead guitar scales do play a big part in pop music, as well as the blues, country, classical and some rock music! The major keys lend themselves beautifully to lead guitar, and the difference in licks and fingerings makes them a welcome break from the minor lead guitar scales.

In this lesson we will take the scales we’ve already learnt in Part 1 and look at the major scale versions of the same keys.

4. Major Pentatonic Scale

I love to jam along to a blues backing track and rip out some sweet major pentatonic licks. Moreover, this scale is used a lot in blues and country music. So it’s worth checking out some of the cool licks and exercises that can be achieved with this scale!

Lets now take a look at 1 & 2 octaves of the G major pentatonic scale;

G major pentatonic scale - 1 & 2 octaves
G major pentatonic scale – 1 & 2 octaves

As you can see from the guitar tabs above, there is no 4th interval here. But, if there was a fourth interval of C (third fret, ‘A’ string), the third and fifth intervals of C are in the scale; C – E – G. Therefore, we can still play all the usual 12 bar blues and country tunes with this scale, and we can add in that fourth if we need it!

Scale formula

1M – 2m – 3m – 5M – 6m

As already mentioned, there is the fourth interval missing from this scale but we can add it in if we need it. If we were to add it in then it would be a major fourth. This is because the fourth chord tends to be the same as the first chord and sometimes the fifth chord. Also, the major third of the fourth interval is in this scale so we can assume its a major 4th chord!

In the major scales we have a major 1st, 4th and 5th chords, and the minor scales have a minor 1st, 4th and 5th.

Major Pentatonic Exercises and Licks

Try out these exercises and licks in the key of G major pentatonic!

G Major Pentatonic Exercise 1 - lead guitar scales major
G Major Pentatonic Exercise 1
 G Major Pentatonic Exercise 2
G Major Pentatonic Exercise 2
  G Major Pentatonic Exercise 3
G Major Pentatonic Exercise 3

Major Pentatonic Licks…

G Major Pentatonic Lick 1
G Major Pentatonic Lick 1
G Major Pentatonic Lick 2 - lead guitar scales major
G Major Pentatonic Lick 2

As you can see from the licks above, the major pentatonic licks and exercises are not too different from the major scale. However, the lack of a 4th & 7th interval gives this scale a distinct sound and results in some cheeky sounding licks.

Lets looks at 4 positions for the G major pentatonic scale covering one octave and see what shapes we can use.

Remember, pay attention to where the root notes are and try moving from one position to another!

G Major Pentatonic Position 1
G Major Pentatonic Position 1
G Major Pentatonic Position 2
G Major Pentatonic Position 2
G Major Pentatonic Position 3
G Major Pentatonic Position 3
G Major Pentatonic Position 4
G Major Pentatonic Position 4

Practice Time!

So, now it’s time to take all the licks and scale positions we’ve covered and apply them to a backing track! Certainly, run through each lick and exercise slowly first, and then build up speed. Don’t worry if you can’t get it to fit the music perfectly, above all just try and use the suggested notes and positions and see what you can come up with!

G Major Pentatonic Backing Track

So, we’ve covered this scale and some cool licks and exercises. Now it’s time to check out the masters and see how they do it!

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Country Boy – Albert Lee & Steve Morse

That concludes our look at the major pentatonic scale. This will be useful in your playing career, and just like the minor positions, this scale is very interchangeable with it’s bigger sister; the Major Scale!

5. Major Scale

The foundational scale of western music, the one we should all know inside out, especially if you want to be a lead guitarist! Most popular keys played in the west are derived from the major scale. Moreover, most of our music comes from it too!

The minor keys and the modes are all contained within the minor scale. But what does this mean? Well, lets take a look at one and two octaves of the A major scale;

A Major Scale - 1 octave lead guitar scales
A Major Scale – 1 octave
 A Major Scale - 2 octaves lead guitar scales
A Major Scale – 2 octaves

So, where are the minor keys I said about within the major scale? Well, if we take the two octaves of the A major above and start the sequence on the sixth interval (F#) and play one octave from F# to F#, we get the F# minor scale, which is the relative minor to the A major scale!

F# minor scale
F# minor scale

Whenever we are playing in a major key we can easily switch to the relative minor by locating the sixth interval and use that as the root note for our minor key!

This is why it’s good to know your guitar intervals. Different intervals are indicators for certain sounds and choices!

Interval Outline;

  • 1st – root note!
  • 2nd – good to play before going back to root or when a 5th chord is playing.
  • 3rd – dictates chord as being either major or minor.
  • 4th – ….comes after the 3rd….
  • 5th – good to play before going back to root chord.
  • 6th – tells us what the relative minor key is.
  • 7th – leading note, good to play before root note.

These are a very rough guideline. There is more to each interval than this, especially when different chords are being played underneath.

Lets look at some major lead guitar scales and potential exercises and licks in the key of A major!

Lead Guitar Scale Exercises – A Major

A Major Scale exercise 1 - lead guitar scales
A Major Scale exercise 1
 A Major Scale exercise 2
A Major Scale exercise 2
A Major Scale exercise 3
A Major Scale exercise 3

A Major Licks

A Major Lick 1
A Major Lick 1
A Major Lick 2  major lead guitar scales
A Major Lick 2

So there is an overview of the mighty major scale and its potential! Some of the exercises above are finger twisters. They make take a little while to get your fingers around. But trust me, it doesn’t take the brain long to register these patterns and for you to become comfortable with them.

There are so many exercises and licks that we can come up with in this scale, and anything you do in the major key can be transposed into the minors keys too!

Lets look at 4 fun positions to play one octave of the A major scale;

TASK! See if you can link each of these positions up to create long guitar runs. These will be great for improving your memory and finger dexterity!

A Major Scale Position 1 major lead guitar scales
A Major Scale Position 1
A Major Scale Position 2
A Major Scale Position 2
 A Major Scale Position 3 major lead guitar scales
A Major Scale Position 3
A Major Scale Position 4 major lead guitar scales
A Major Scale Position 4

Time To Act Like A Rockstar!

Use the backing track provided below to try out the licks and exercises above. See if you can play around with the various patterns and positions I’ve given you, can you can do some improvising and come up with your own licks? Break the rules!

Lets take a look at some cool major lead guitar scales solos!

I believe In A Thing Called Love – The Darkness

I Want To Break Free – Queen

Hammer To Fall – Queen

Maggie May – Rod Stewart

Conclusion

That is it for our look at the essential major lead guitar scales. By knowing these scales and the ones covered in the previous lesson, it will give you a lifetimes worth of playing and opportunities for personal development.

Use the exercises, licks and positions given here in this lesson to open up your playing and improving your technique. Further to this, Backing tracks are a great way to explore lead guitar playing and scales. There is an abundance of backing tracks on YouTube covering all the main keys and scale types. Use these to your advantage!

Check out part 1 on the minor scales if you haven’t done so already. These are more used in rock and blues music and compliment what is given in this lesson!

Part 1 – Minor Lead Guitar Scales

In the next lesson in this series we will look at Lead Guitar Techniques and start to explore how we can use these scales to create melodic guitar phrases using advanced techniques!

Lesson 4 – Lead Guitar Techniques