Improvising with Major Scale | Hub Guitar

Improvising with Major Scale

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Hi. This is Hub Guitar.

Let's talk about improvising using the major scale.

For this lesson, I'll assume you're able to find either a friend who can play some chords for you, or a backing track in a major key.

Generally, the notes of that scale will work well with any chords you encounter. So a track in G major will work pretty well with the G major scale. However, for each chord, some notes will sound better than others when played as a melody note. We'll get more into that in another lesson.

For now, just try to remember that you want to be especially careful with the fourth note of the scale. In the key of C major, the fourth will be F and that note will probably not sound very good on the C chord. That doesn't sound good no matter who plays it. A lot of players will subconsciously avoid that note on the major chord, or play it only momentarily on the way to another note. There are actually many relationships like this where a note belongs in the key but does not fit on the chord. However, this is probably the most significant one to remember in a major key.

To practice improv we're going to put on a backing track and then play a melodic idea of two or three notes each. Then we're going to play "simon says" adding a new bit to that melody every time.

Don't be afraid of repetition. It's one of the most important parts of music. And if you came up with a brilliant melody, your chances of doing so again within the same day are small, so you might as well milk it.

So try that-- see if you can come up with a simple idea of just 2 or 3 notes, and then build on it, repeat it, and add more stuff to it.


The major scale is the most commonly used scale in music, making it very useful for improvisation.

Play the scale up and down to make sure that you’ve gotten it underneath your fingers. We’ll be playing the scale in D for this example.

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c sharp, d flat
e natural
b natural
f sharp, g flat
c sharp, d flat
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d natural
a natural
g natural
d natural
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f sharp, g flat
c sharp, d flat
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e natural
b natural
g natural
d natural
a natural
e natural
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Backing Track: D Major Jam

The backing track has drums, bass, guitars and piano, played in D major.

D Major Improvisation Exercises

  1. Play the scale ascending and descending.
  2. Play the scale in thirds.
  3. Build a melody from the scale using different eighth note rhythms.
  4. The backing track has a single-note guitar part playing an interesting rhythm. Can you copy that rhythm and play along to it?

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