G Major Scale on Guitar: Positions & Theory
In this lesson we’re going to take a deep dive into the G major scale on guitar, which is probably the most popular guitar scale. We’ll look at the intervals and notes that make up the scale, the five positions and patterns for the scale, chords that are built from the G major scale, and also look at some song examples based in the key of G major.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
Notes of G Major
The G major scale is a 7-note diatonic scale made up of the following notes:
G – A – B – C – D – E – F#
As you can see, it contains one sharp (F#) and six natural notes.
All major scales are derived from the same intervals and, therefore, have the same interval qualities. The intervals for G major are as follows:
- Major 2nd
- Major 3rd
- Perfect 4th
- Perfect 5th
- Major 6th
- Major 7th
In the diagram below we see the relationship between the intervals and notes of the scale.
All major scales have a set structure of whole steps and half steps between the notes/intervals of the scale. The formula of whole steps and half steps for G major are as follows:
Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step – Whole Step – Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step
On the guitar, a whole step is equal to 2 frets while a half step is equal to 1 fret.
This is much easier to see when looking at the scale on the fretboard:
Starting from G, we get the following:
- From G to A is 2 frets (whole step)
- From A to B is 2 frets (whole step)
- From B to C is 1 fret (half step)
- From C to D is 2 frets (whole step)
- From D to E is 2 frets (whole step)
- From E to F# is 2 frets (whole step)
- From F# to G is 1 fret (half step)
G Major Scale Guitar Positions
Now that we know the notes and intervals that make up the G major scale, we can use this to map out the scale across the entire fretboard.
While the notes for the G major scale are found all over the fretboard, they can be grouped into five moveable positions, or patterns based in the CAGED system. These patterns make it much easier to learn the scale across the entire fretboard.
We’ll go through each position of the scale below.
For each position, three diagrams are provided. The first diagram notates the notes of the scale. The second provides the intervals, while the third provides the recommended fingering.
It’s also important to note the position of the root notes for each position. This will help you visualize each position and move between them more easily, as the root note can provide an anchor point for transitioning between scale positions.
When first learning the scale, it’s a good idea to start each scale pattern on the lowest root note and play through it both ascending and descending. This will allow your ear to become familiar with the tonal center of the scale and hear how it resolves back to the root note, G.
Position 1 of the G major scale starts with the low root on the 3rd fret of string 6. Starting with this note, play each note ascending and descending, ending back on the same root note in which you start. Use the guitar tab below to guide you.
Make note of the root note pattern in this position. Position 1 contains 3 root notes, which are found on strings 1, 4, and 6.
In position 2, the low root note is found on the 5th fret of string 4. Start with this note when practicing the scale pattern.
This position contains two root notes, which are found on strings 4 and 2.
Position 3 begins with the root note on fret 10 of the 5th string. The two root notes for this position are found on strings 2 and 5.
Position 4 also contains two root notes, which are located on strings 3 and 5. Begin with the root note on the 10th fret of the 5th string.
The only other position to contain three root notes, position 5 has roots on strings 1, 3, and 6. Begin this position of the scale on the root note of the 6th string.
Connecting the G Major Scale Positions
Each position of the G major scale shares common notes with the positions above and below. This means that each scale pattern is connected to the adjacent patterns. The diagram below highlights these connections.
These patterns repeat up and down the fretboard, which means positions 1 and 5 also have shared notes between them.
Building the Chords in G Major
The chords of a given scale, or key, come from building triads using the notes of the scale. This is also referred to as harmonizing the scale. To get the notes of the G major scale, we go note by note of the scale and build triads for each.
If you’re not familiar with triads, they are 3-note chords consisting of the root, 3rd, and 5th intervals. An easier way to look at it is we’re stacking every other note starting from the root and going to the 5th. I’d recommend the lessons on major triads, minor triads, and diminished triads to have a better understanding of how these triads are formed.
Let’s go through each note of the G major scale and stack the root, 3rd and 5th intervals to see what triads we form.
We’ll start out by putting down all of the notes of the scale:
G – A – B – C – D – E – F#
G Major Chord
Starting with G as the root, if we take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes we get the following triad:
G – A – B – C – D – E – F#
- G – B – D
This gives us a root, major 3rd, and perfect 5th interval, which creates a major triad giving us the G major chord.
Starting with the second note of the scale, A, as the root, if we take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes we get the following triad:
A – B – C – D – E – F# – G
- A – C – E
This gives us a root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th interval, which creates a minor triad giving us the A minor chord.
Starting with B as the root, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes give us the following triad:
B – C – D – E – F# – G – A
- B – D – F#
This gives us a root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th interval, which creates a minor triad giving us the B minor chord.
C Major Chord
Starting from C we get the following triad:
C – D – E – F# – G – A – B
- C – E – G
This gives us a root, major 3rd, and perfect 5th, which creates a major triad giving us the C major chord.
D Major Chord
From D, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes give us the following:
D – E – F# – G – A – B – C
- D – F# – A
This gives us a root, major 3rd, and perfect 5th, which creates a major triad giving us the D major chord.
E Minor Chord
From E, the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes give us the following:
E – F# – G – A – B – C – D
- E – G – B
This gives us a root, minor 3rd, and perfect 5th intervals, which creates a minor triad giving us the E minor chord.
F# Diminished Chord
Finally, from F# we get the following notes:
F#– G – A – B – C – D – E
- F# – A – C
This triad is a bit different in that it contains a minor 3rd and a flat 5th interval. This creates a diminished triad, giving us the F# diminished chord.
Putting it all together gives us the following chords for G major:
Relative Minor of G Major
Every major scale has a relative minor scale, which is a minor a scale that contains all of the same notes and chords as the major. It occurs on the 6th degree of the major scale, which for G major is E. So the relative minor for G major is E minor.
While it contains all of the same notes and chords, it has a tonal center based around E instead of G.
Parallel Minor of G Major
The parallel minor is the minor scale built from the same root note as the major scale. In this case, it would be the G minor scale.
The modes for G major are as follows:
- G Ionian (Major)
- A Dorian (Minor)
- B Phrygian (Minor)
- C Lydian (Major)
- D Mixolydian (Major)
- E Aeolian (Minor)
- F# Locrian (Minor)
Songs in the Key of G Major
The key of G is one of the most popular keys in music, with literally thousands of songs written in this key. Here are a few from my easy guitar songs list:
- “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
- “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Bob Dylan
- “Mother” – Pink Floyd
- “Love Me Do” – The Beatles
Take a listen to these songs and see if you can hear the G major tonal center.
In this lesson we took a deeper look at the G major scale, one of the most popular scales in music. You should now have a good understanding of the notes, intervals, scale positions and chords that make up the scale.
You can start to use the knowledge musically by creating simple 2-chord progressions and expand on that with 3- and 4-chord progressions. Once you have the scale positions memorized, you can begin to create your own licks to play to a backing track. If you need more help in this area, the major scale lesson pack can help guide you with this process.
Further your knowledge of the major scale with the Major & Minor Scale Lesson Pack, which includes lesson workbooks for both the major and minor scales, practice guides, and more.
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