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C Major Scale

Note - The information here lays down the fundamentals to music theory. If you don't understand something stated on any of the other pages on Free Jam Tracks you should spend some time to understand the music theory that is below.

C Major Scale Guitar Tab

1. C Major Scale - 7th Position - Root note on the 6th, 4th and 1st Strings

The C Major Scale is also known as C Ionian Mode.

Below is the guitar tab for the most common pattern for the C Major Scale. Here we play 2 Octaves, starting with the Root note on the 6th (low E) string. The scale moves through the 7 notes of the C Major Scale. C, D, E, F, G, A, B and to the Root note one Octave higher, C (located on the 10th fret of the 4th string).

7th position means that you index finger is at the 7th fret. It doesn't mean that you are playing the 7th fret, just that's where your index finger is. So that your middle finger will be in position to play the 8th fret. Your ring finger will be in position to play the 9th fret and your little finger will be in position to play the 10th fret.

With pattern 1 you don't move out of 7th position for the entire scale.

If we number the notes of the Major scale in order we get 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 for the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Where 1 is the Root note. 2 is the Major 2nd. 3 is the Major 3rd. 4 is the Perfect 4th. 5 is the Perfect 5th. 6 is the Major 6th and 7 is the Major 7th.

Numbering the notes of the Major Scale is very important as all other scales, modes and chords use numbers relative to the 7 notes of the Major Scale. For example when describing a minor scale we say that the 3rd note is the b3 (flat 3rd) which means the 3rd note in the minor scale is flattened compared to the Major 3rd in the Major scale.

One of the main benefits of using numbering is that all scales of a particular type use the same numbers. All Major scales use the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (and 8 for the Octave which you can also say is back to the 1). So when you know a scale pattern you can apply that same pattern up or down the guitar neck to a new Root note to give you a new Major Scale.

For example in pattern 1 below the Root note is at the 8th fret of the 6th string which is the note C. This is the C Major scale. If you move your hand 2 frets up from 7th to 9th position your root note will be on the 10th fret which is the note D. Then playing the same pattern as you were in 7th position will give you the D Major scale which you can now play without even know what the notes in the D Major Scale are. You can continue on like this for all 12 keys just because you know the 1 pattern and that the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 are the same note intervals for all 12 Major Scales.

So here's pattern 1 for the C Major Scale:


2. Scale - 2nd and 5th Positions - Root note on the 5th and 3rd Strings

With pattern 2 of the Major Scale we are playing from 2nd position and moving up to the 5th position. This gives us good coverage of the guitar neck.


3. C Major Scale - 8th Position Root note, move up to 12th Position

Pattern 3 of the C Major Scale starts with the Root note C in 8th position and moves up to 12th position.


4. Scale - 14th Position - Root note on the 5th and 3rd Strings

Pattern 4 is the same pattern as pattern 2 above except it's one Octave higher. The notes and intervals are the same as they are for pattern 2. This is just to show you that anything you play on a string 12 frets above is the same note one Octave higher (or one Octave lower if you are playing a note 12 frets below).


Combine all Scales Above

You can use pattern 1 and pattern 3 to cover the C Major scale from 7th position right up to 12th position. From there you can move up to 14th position to play pattern 4 and use the same pattern from pattern 2 to move from pattern 14th position to 17th position - which is the same notes as used in pattern 2 at 5th position. Remember the notes in 5th position are the same notes in 17th position. 5 + 12 = 17. There are 12 notes in Western Music - moving up 12 frets on the guitar takes you to the Root note you started on one Octave higher than your original position.

The notes of the Open Strings are the same as the notes on the 12 fret.

6th string Open is the Low E note. 12th fret is E one Octave higher.
5th string Open is the note A. 12th fret on the 5th string is A one Octave higher.
4th string Open is the note D. 12th fret on the 4th string is D one Octave higher.
3rd string Open is the note G. 12th fret on the 3rd string is G one Octave higher.
2nd string Open is the note B. 12th fret on the 2nd string is B one Octave higher.
1st string Open is the note E. 12th fret on the 1st string is E one Octave higher.

You can continue this for all notes - just add 12 to whatever fret you are on and the note 12 frets higher (or lower) is the same note one Octave higher (or lower if you are taking away 12/moving down the string 12 frets).


The 1st fret on the 6th string is the note F. Add 12 to 1 (for the 1st fret) so you are at the 13th fret and you know you are again playing the note F (one Octave higher).

The 3rd fret on the 4th string is the note C. Add 12 frets so you are one Octave higher at the 15th fret and you are also playing the note C.

The 14th fret on the 4th string is the note E. Move down 12 frets (14 - 12) to the 2nd fret and you are playing the note E one Octave lower.

The bottom line is - if you know all the notes from the open strings up to the 12 frets then all the notes from the 13th fret just repeat from the notes on the 1st fret and onwards. They are all one Octave higher than the notes 12 frets below.

The information above is the foundation for learning scale patterns and scales and modes in general.


Scales are great to know about but they fast become boring to play and more boring to listen to. The scales shown here are for music theory purposes. You want to break them up, use the notes from the scale but don't play them up and down. Play partial scales, skip notes and bring some melody into your playing. We are talking about playing music. It's great to know and understand music, it's vital, but you don't want to sound like a text book on music theory.

No-one on the planet wants to hear anyone play scales, and that's a fact.

Always play from the heart. Even if you are practicing exercises, work out ways to make them musical.

C Major Scale Chord-Scale Relationship

Here is the guitar tab for 2 shapes of the C Major chord. Shape 1 has the Root note on the 5th string where as shape 2 has the Root note on the 6th string. Any Major chord uses various combinations of only 3 notes: The Root note, the Major 3rd and the 5th (or Perfect 5th).

You can see below next to each chord shape I've written the chord tone associated with each note.

So for shape 1 where you play the 3rd fret of the A string you can see next to is that this is the Root note from the Major scale. On the D string you play the 2nd fret which you can see I've stated that it is the Major 3rd note from the Major scale. The open G string is the 5th note from the Major scale.

This is another place where numbering the notes of the Major scale comes in handy. From our 7 notes:, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 you only use the notes, 1, 3 and 5 to make up a Major chord. If you add other notes you are playing a different type of chord.

If we change the notes that are the Major 3rd by lowering them 1 fret the 3rd note would become a b3rd (flat 3rd). So we'd be playing the notes 1, b3 and 5. This would give us the chord C minor.

The 3rd in a chord is very important as it determines the type of chord. If it's a Major 3rd then the chord is Major. If it's a minor 3rd then the chord is minor.

Here we are using the Major 3rd as we are using notes from the C Major scale above, giving us the chord C Major.

Note that shape 2 is a barre chord. This is the most common chord shape on the guitar.

1. C Major


1. C Major Intervals

E|--Major 3rd
D|--Major 3rd

2. C Major


2. C Major Intervals

G|--Major 3rd

By adding a fourth note, the Major 7th, to our chord shapes above we come up with C Major 7th (CMaj7) chords.

So now we are using the notes 1, 3, 5 and 7 from the C Major scale.

In shape 2 play it with your thumb over the neck fretting the 8th fret on the 6th string. This will allow you to fret the 10th fret with your little finger, the 9th fret with your ring finger, the 8th fret with your middle finger and the 7th fret (which is the note B, the Major 7th of the C chord) with your index finger.

This is a really nice sounding chord that I came up with when I didn't own a television!

3. C Major 7


3. C Major 7 Intervals

E|--Major 3rd
B|--Major 7th
D|--Major 3rd

4. C Major 7


4. C Maj7 Intervals

E|--Major 7th
G|--Major 3rd

Play over the chords

Now you have the C Major scale and the C Major and C Major 7th chords which contain notes only from the C Major scale. This chord-scale relationship means that the notes in the C Major scale above will fit very well over chords C Major and C Major 7.

Anytime you see the chord C Major or C Major 7 (CMaj7) in a piece of music and you need to play lead - you can play the C Major scale over it.

Similarly, if you are playing a melody or lead guitar solo using the notes from the C Major scale then you can play the C Major or CMaj7 chord under the lead playing.

This gives you the foundation that you can use to build your knowledge on playing guitar solos over any chords. There are lots of ways you can go about soloing and what scales to use this is one of them. i.e. You can play the C Major scale, so you can play over C Major chords.

C Major Scale Bass Tab

1. C Major Scale - 2nd Position

All of the music theory for the C Major scale on the guitar above (including the chord-scale relationship) applies to the bass guitar as well.

Here is the bass guitar tab for the C Major Scale in 8th and 2nd positions:


2. C Major Scale - 8th Position


3. C Major Scale - 14th Position

It sounds great on the bass when you move a bass line up one Octave. Try it with the scale patterns 1 moving it up to 14th position. Even though you are playing the same notes, only one Octave higher, it takes on a totally fresh sound.

It's a bit boring when you are just playing scales, but when you play bass lines and copy the line one Octave higher it can give you a really great 'new' bass line, even though it's recycled!


Jam on!

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