A Chromatic and Major scales

Animated A Chromatic and Major scales tab by ActionTab on guitar. So easy you'll be playing in minutes.

A scale is a sequence of notes played in a definite order. So far in the Music Theory Fundamentals Section we have begun by playing the father of all scales - the chromatic scale. 'Chromatic' just means we play every possible note (there are 12) from the root note to the next octave note.

The note you begin from (the root note) tells you which chromatic scale you are playing. Because there are 12 notes, there are 12 possible chromatic scales. So far in this section we have played out the A chromatic scale and C chromatic scale along 1 string.

In this ActionTab we start by playing out the A chromatic scale again along the A string. The notes are in this order:

Root A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G# - A (octave)

As mentioned earlier the chromatic scale is the father of all other scales. To get other scales we apply intervals to it. In simple terms - we skip some notes!

There are 2 types of interval - the TONE and the SEMITONE. Read the article on Intervals in the Fundamentals Section if you are lost!

If we apply the following sequence of intervals (tones and semitones) to the A chromatic scale we will get the A major scale:

root - tone - tone - semitone - tone - tone - tone - semitone (octave)

This is more easily remembered as:

Root - 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 1 - Octave

This A major scale is the second scale you will see in the ActionTab. Notice that the only difference between the A chromatic scale and the A major scale is that we skip some notes in the A major scale. In fact we are left with 8 notes:

Root A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A (octave)

Now why do this? Why not just use the chromatic scale all the time? After all it contains every note!

Well, there are a number of reasons, and some of those will become very apparent when we look at playing with chords. But the main reason is simple enough - some notes work better together than others. In fact some notes don't sound good together at all. Scales are a way of arranging notes according to the strength of their harmonic relationships. The major scale is a great way of showing this. It is a scale which includes the notes with the strongest harmonic relationships.

Play both scales and you should hear the difference between them. The major scale is nicer to the ear. This becomes particularly clear whenever playing over an A major chord. As the ActionTab is playing, strum out an A major chord on your guitar (or even just the open A note if you don't know the A major chord yet). Listen to how the scales in the ActionTab work with the A you are playing on your guitar. The A major scale will sound good, the chromatic scale won't sound so good in places. Remember - The reason we have scales is simply this - some notes work well with each other and others don't!

The good news is that whatever note you start with, if you apply the following sequence of intervals - you will always get the major scale for that note!

root - tone - tone - semitone - tone - tone - tone - semitone (octave)

or - to keep things less wordy, just remember the following sequence of fret distances:

root - 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 1 (octave)

Play that sequence of intervals on your guitar - start from any note you like and you will be playing the major scale for it!

This means that once you know this sequence of intervals you can play all 12 major scales! This is the sort of thing that makes music theory very useful. We will be looking at this in depth soon in a special section dealing with the Major Scale.

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