Playing the C Major Scale for Lead Guitar

6) C Major Scale Guitar – How and when to use the C major scale.

So, now we know the C major scale, what can we do with it?

Scales are not and should not be simply exercises we learn for the sake of it. They’re there to be used.

The most obvious thing we can do with the C major scale is improvise with it, this is also known as ‘jamming’.

c major scale guitar

Do you have a friend who plays guitar who’s written a song in the key of C?

Do you want to play along on lead guitar?

Then the C major scale is exactly what we need.

If a rhythm guitarist is playing chords from the key of C then a lead guitarist can play any notes they like from any of the C major scale guitar patterns we’ve looked at in this article.

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Don’t have a friend with a song in C on hand?

Not to worry, here’s a quick backing track for us that should suffice.

As you listen to these chords in the key of C, try playing some notes from one of the C major scale guitar patterns and see what happens.

Don’t worry about being technically flash. If anything, we want to keep things simple to begin with.

Try simply playing a note, and then another note, and then another note and listen to your lead guitar melody start to form itself.

Try to be creative with the order of your notes. Don’t just play the scale notes in order. That will sound like an exercise rather than a melody. Mix the notes about!

Don’t feel you have to start on the first note of the pattern either.

Remember, we’re not looking to play the scale here. We’re looking to create a melody or a solo using the scale.

c major scale guitar

But how do we know if a song is in C major?

Here are the chords from the key of C major:

C   Dm  Em  F  G  Am  Bdim

If a song uses any combination of these chords then we’re in C major.

For example, if the chords go:

C            | F             | G            |C              |

We’re in C major and can use the C major scale.

If the chords go:

G            | F            | C             |C               |

We’re in the key of C major and can use the C major scale.

If the chords go:

C            | G           | D             | D              |

Then we’re NOT in C major.


Because ‘D’ isn’t one of the chords available in the key of C.

Dm is, but not D.

The sequence started on a C, but sadly, that doesn’t always mean it’s in C.

If you want to learn how to move the major scale around the fretboard so you can play in other keys besides C, check out this article: Guitar Keys: An Essential Guide

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7) C Major Scale Guitar – The Theory Behind The Scale

As we mentioned earlier, the C major scale is the easiest key to think in.

It doesn’t contain any confusing sharp or flat notes. The C major scale contains just ‘natural notes’.

You know how a piano or a keyboard has some black keys and some white keys?

The natural notes are the white ones.

c major scale guitar

To spell the C major scale we simply start with C and work our way through the alphabet.

C  D  E  F  G  A  B

Some people are a bit confused by the fact that after ‘G’ we suddenly have an ‘A’ note.

c major sclae guitar

There’s no ‘H’ note in music, or an ‘I’ note, or a ‘J’ note etc.

The musical alphabet only goes up to G. After that, we go back round to the beginning, which is A.

If you think about it, that actually makes the musical alphabet a lot simpler than the normal alphabet.

So if someone asks you, “What’s the third of C?” you needn’t be stumped.

All you need do is count along from C:

C  D  E

It’s E.

So the third of C is E.

If you want to know the fifth of C, again, let’s count along:

C  D  E  F  G

The fifth of C is G!

It’s really that simple.

Do you see what we mean when we say the C major scale is the doorway into the world of music theory?

Why not try playing some of the C major scale guitar patterns we’ve learnt today and say the names of the notes as you go.

8) C Major Scale Guitar – The A Natural Minor Scale

Every major key has what’s known as a relative minor key.

In the case of C major, it’s A minor.

So we can very easily transform a C major scale guitar pattern into an A natural minor scale guitar pattern.

Let’s find out how.

Here’s an open C major scale:

c major scale guitarTo make this into an A natural minor scale, all we do is add two notes at the beginning: the open A string and then the A string pressed down at the second fret (a B note):

c major scale guitar

Note: because we’ve started two notes earlier, we’ve finished two notes earlier.

The C major scale and the A natural minor scale are basically the same scale just approached from a different angle.

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