There are a few scales which could be considered beginner guitar scales, but today we’re going to learn the most commonly used beginner guitar scale, C Major in open position.

As a beginning guitar player, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out where to begin. You’ve probably bought a scale book or two with a bunch of scale diagrams all over the fretboard only to be left confused. Well, you’ve come to the right place.  In this two part series I’ll introduce you to two beginner guitar scales which will get you well on your way to playing scales and understanding why you’d even want to learn scales in the first place.

Getting Started – Open Position

The best place to begin is with some open position scales like the C Major scale. Open position scales can also be referred to as first position scales. Open position means we are using open strings with our first finger on the first fret when fretting notes. First position means that our first finger is fretting the first fret as well, however it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be using open strings.

So why start in open position? For a few reasons:

  1. This is already where you will be playing open position chords like C, Am, G and Em
  2. These are technically the easiest scales to play. No big stretches etc.
  3. These will build a foundation for later scales study

C Major Scale in Open Position

Lets start with a C Major scale.  This is a great beginner guitar scale as the C Major scale has no sharps or flats.  It only contains natural notes (the white keys on the piano). The notes in a C Major scale are C D E F G A B C.


This diagram may look confusing if you have never read a scale diagram before, but it’s actually quite simple. What we’re looking at right now is the diagram in the top left. We’re going to start on the root note “C”(the naming note of the scale) and simply play up the rest of the notes in alphabetical order. C D E F G A B C D E F G. Remember the musical alphabet only goes up to “G”. When you go higher than the “G”, the notes start again at “A”. Also you want to make sure you are using one finger for each fret. First finger for the first fret, second finger for the second fret and so on. This prevents unnecessary hand movement and is extremely important! Don’t ignore this or you will regret it later on. :)

You’ve just played up to the top of the scale in open position, now what? Well, now we go backwards. G F E D C B A G F E D C and then continue even further past your root down to the lowest note on your guitar “Low E”. So from the top of the scale we’ll go G F E D C B A G F E D C B A G F E then work our way back up in sequence to our starting or “root note” C. Make sense? I hope so.

Memorizing and Learning Beginner Guitar Scales

You’ll probably want to take this beginner guitar scale and learn it in small chunks. Start with C D E F and memorize those four notes. Practice them slowly and without mistakes and with the correct fingering marked on the diagram. This will take you several repetitions. Now add G and A. C D E F G A. You’ll find within a fairly short period of time you’ll have the whole scale memorized. Make sure to revisit this scale often so you don’t lose all of that hard work you’ve put in!

What is a Major Scale?

In short, a major scale is the distances of Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone. That’s it! A tone on the guitar is the distance of two frets and a semitone is the distance of one fret.

One of our teachers Ray Hickey did up this great video that explains major scales very succinctly.

Part 2 – G Major >

Other Resources

Guitar Scales – A Practical Guide to Understanding the Guitar Fretboard (Volume 1)
Guitar Scales Ebook – A Practical Guide to Understanding the Guitar Fretboard (Volume 1)