How to Learn Major and Relative Minor Scales on the Guitar

Learn Major and Minor Chords

The first part of this lesson is to get you familiarized with the Major scales using the C Major as example. This exercise will also include the relative minor of the C Major to highlight the relationship between Major and minor scales for practical application. To do this, will be using whole step half step formula called intervals, key signatures and the musical alphabet.

  • Major Formula: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
  • minor Formula: W-H-W-W-H-W-W

Progression of Musical Alphabet: A B C D E F G – Including the sharps A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#. Take note that the sharp can also be in the form of flat. Like your A# can be B♭ and the rest – A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab. There is a ruling on this when plotting the scales that will be shown later bellow.

  • Natural: A B C D E F G
  • Sharp: A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#
  • Flat: A Bb B C Db D Eb E F Gb G Ab

This basically is the 12 notes of music (The Chromatic Scale) compose of Natural, Sharp and Flat.

A Major Chromatic ScaleEven not part of the C Major example, we already manage to identify a Major Scale using the formula of tone and semitones for Major and music alphabet. This is A Major Scale – A B C# D E F# G# A

Memorizing Guitar Scales Utilizing Wholes Step Half Step Formula

This is C Major so we begin with C (Root) on the progression of musical alphabet, A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A. The whole step is from C going to D, D to E, then the half step would be from E going to F. Continuing on to finish the Major scale with the formula.

  • C Major using the formula for Major: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
  • Musical alphabet: 12 Notes of Music 

C Major Chromatic ScaleC Major Scale: C D E F G A B C – From the 12 notes of the Chromatic scale, we have now the diatonic notes starting from the root C and  7 pitches – D E F G A B C.  

To find the relative minor is by going to the 6th degree or note of C Major Scale.

C Major relative minor AmIn vise versa to discover the Major Scale of Am, is to go to the 3rd degree or note of Am Scale, but first let us use the interval for minor to get the Am. minor formula: W-H-W-W-H-W-W

A minor Chromatic ScaleAm Scale: A B C D E F G A

A minor Relative Major CRelative Major of Am: C Major. This principle is applied on every Major and minor keys. (Try what you’ve learned on other Major and minor Scales)

Just mention earlier that there is an exception to the rule regarding the scales. When you begin plotting F minor (Fm) for example, you will notice that the G and G# will be together. This two kinds of G is not allowed in scale spelling or any repeat for that matter on any scale. The use of flat progression instead of sharp is now applied.

Example: Wrong spelling of Fm Scale using sharp progression.

Wrong spelling of Fm using Sharp ProgressionCorrect spelling for Fm Scale: F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F

Example: Wrong spelling on Major Scale particularly on F Major.

Wrong spelling of F Major ScaleCorrect spelling for F Major Scale: F G A Bb C D E F

At this point you have also learned that each Major and minor scales has a unique key signature on them based on their sharp and flat. Always remember the no two kind of notes rule, except of course for the octave.

  • C Major Scale Octave: C D E F G A B C
  • Am Scale Octave:  A B C D E F G A

This table will act as your guide on knowing key signatures helping to correctly spell Major and minor scales. The examples given are highlighted – Fm and F Major with the other minor having a flat key signature.Key Signature of Major and minor scales

Now how about Major chords that has a sharp or flat relative minor. Example: A Major relative minor F#m and Db Major relative minor Bbm.

Minor Relative Major ScaleTo right it down is simply by starting at the 6th degree up to the octave. This explains the relation of the Major to its relative minor. They maybe written differently yet still having the same notes.

Major and minor ChordsFollow up to this tutorial is locating the chords using a visual diagram called Circle of Fifths or Cycle of Fifths. This second part is a support for this lesson because you now understand how the chords is written in the right order. If your still not tired of reading, you can continue using this link to Circle of Fifths Lesson: Master Guitar Chords in No Time.