The B Major Scale isn’t as popular on guitar as other scales, but there are still a lot of songs that use it.
This guide will walk you through the B Major scale and explain what notes, chords, and songs fit the scale.
These resources are based on having your guitar in standard tuning. Read this guide on Alternate Guitar Tunings if you want to try something different.
I suggest learning the B Major scale after you memorize the E Major scale because changing from E Major to B Major only needs you to change one note.
Note: I suggest only using these resources as a basic reference to help you learn the scale. The best way to truly memorize a scale is to follow the advice in my guide on memorizing the notes on the fretboard here. Once you follow the advice in that guide, memorizing a scale becomes much easier.
B Major Scale = G# Minor Scale
For every Major scale in music, there is what we call a ‘relative’ minor. A ‘relative’ scale is one that uses the same notes but is used in different ways. This means for every Major scale, there is a minor scale using the same notes. The relative minor for B Major is G# minor.
What this means is the B Major scale and the G# minor scale both use the exact same notes. The main difference between the two (to keep things simple) is the root note of each scale. In the B Major scale, the root note is ‘B’. In the G# minor scale, the root note is ‘G#’.
Once you learn some basic music theory you will understand how two different scales can use the same notes, but for now, all you need to do is remember that both B Major and G# minor scales use the same notes.
This means you can use all the diagrams, exercises, and chords covered in this guide for both the B Major scale and the G# minor scale.
Notes in the B Major Scale
The B Major scale uses five sharp notes. The notes in the B Major Scale are: B C# D# E F# G# A#
This is what the key signature for B Major looks like:
Even if you don’t know how to read music, if you see a key signature with five sharp symbols, it means the music is in B Major (or G# minor). Find out how to read standard notation in this guide.
The notes in the G# minor scale are: G# A# B C# D# E F#
As you can see, it’s the exact same notes as the B Major scale. The G# minor scale starts on ‘G#’ (called the root note) and the B Major scale starts on ‘B’, but both scales contain the same seven notes.
While the key signature doesn’t tell you whether the song is in B Major or G# minor, you can figure it out based on the chords or what notes the song tends to lean on the most.
If you compare the notes in the E Major scale (A B C# D# E F# G#) and the B Major scale, you’ll notice that the only difference is the note A#.
This is why I suggest learning the E Major scale before you learn the B Major scale (learn the A Major scale in this guide). Once you memorize the E Major scale, all you need to do to change from E Major to B Major is remember to change A to A#.
Circle of Fifths
You may have heard about the circle of fifths. The circle of fifths makes use of patterns to help you move from one scale to the next.
If you know the basics of intervals (learn about intervals in this lesson), you’ll start to see the patterns as we move from C Major to G Major to D Major to A Major to E Major to B Major.
If we start from the C and move up a fifth, we end up on G. If we move up a fifth from G, we end up on D. A fifth up from D is A. A fifth up from A is E. A fifth up from E is B.
That’s the same order I suggest memorizing scales. Start with learning the C Major scale (no sharps or flats), then learn the G Major scale (one sharp), then the D Major scale (two sharps), then the A Major scale (three sharps), then the E Major scale (four sharps), then the B Major scale (five sharps), and so on.
Notice the jump in fifths between each scale root note? If you can, you can probably already figure out what the next scale in the series might be (hint: what’s a fifth up from E?).
You’ll also notice that we add one more sharp note to the scale each time.
You can also learn your scales in the other direction, but starting on the C Major scale, then learn the F Major scale which uses one flat note (learn the F Major scale here). Then continue in that direction using the circle of fifths.
Hopefully, this short description gives you a glimpse of how useful music theory can be. With some basic music theory, you can easily memorize the notes in all scales without having to look anything up.
To learn more about this basic theory, read this lesson on intervals.
B Major Scale Fretboard Diagram
Here are the notes of the B Major scale across the entire fretboard:
When memorizing this scale, try to pay extra attention to all of the ‘B’ positions. You want to focus on all of the positions where you play B because that’s the root note of the scale. Memorizing those positions first helps you when writing riffs, licks, or improvising.
It’s also a good idea to focus on memorizing the G# positions, for when you want to play in G# minor.
As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend you start by memorizing the C Major scale, then work your way through the circle of fifths before you try to memorize this scale.
By the time you get to the B Major scale, you won’t even need to spend time memorizing it. You’ll be able to instinctively change A to A# as needed. Seriously.
Here is the B Major scale diagram up to the 12th fret with the root notes highlighted on each string:
Something you might notice about this scale is that it doesn’t use the open A, D, or G strings. This is why the B Major scale isn’t as popular as the C Major or G Major scales, which make use of all open strings. The fewer open strings you can use, the less open chords you can use.
Read my lesson on how to memorize the fretboard to get the most out of this diagram.
How to use the above fretboard diagram:
- Improvise over a B Major or G# minor backing track by playing any of the above notes
- Learn to find chord shapes that fit with the highlighted notes
- Practice scale runs between any two points on the fretboard (don’t just stick to scale shapes you’ve already memorized)
- Memorize the notes on the fretboard one string at a time
If you’ve already spent time memorizing the E Major scale, you might be surprised by how quickly you can fully memorize the B Major scale.
The more scales you learn using the method covered in the above guide, the faster it is to learn any new scales.
B Major Scale in Guitar TAB and Standard Notation
The below Guitar TAB and standard notation show three examples of the B Major scale starting on different root note positions:
If you don’t know how to read the above example, find out how to read Standard Notation in this guide and how to read Guitar TAB in this guide. Knowing at least one of these methods can significantly speed up how fast you can learn new songs.
Try playing the examples to get a feel for how B Major sounds and where the correct notes are on the fretboard. Then I suggest trying to come up with your own examples of scale runs in different positions on the fretboard.
But as a general rule, I don’t recommend practicing scale runs like this. Playing up and down scale shapes is how a lot of guitarists get stuck in a rut.
B Major Scale Open Chords on Guitar
The more sharps and flats a guitar scale uses, the fewer simple open chords you’ll find perfectly match the scale.
Because the B Major scale uses five sharp notes and it doesn’t use the open A, D, or G strings, you will need to use some barre chords if you want to create chord progressions in the key of B.
Here are the seven main chords of the B Major scale:
One look at the above chords and you’ll understand what I mean when I say the B Major scale isn’t as common on guitar compared to other scales.
While there are plenty of songs written in B Major, they don’t use open chords. The only common open chord you may recognize is E Major. The rest of the chords aren’t typical open chord shapes.
While this might look intimidating for a beginner, it’s a great scale for any songwriter looking at breaking away from writing songs using common open chords. If you write a song in B Major, it will sound and feel very different compared to writing chord progressions using typical open chords.
Note: remember that the G# minor scale uses the exact same notes as the B Major scale. This means the above chords also fit in the key of G# minor.
As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t rely on these resources. Learn how to memorize the notes on the fretboard. It might be easier to use a chart like the ones above to find your way across the fretboard, but you’ll become a far better guitarist if you properly memorize the fretboard notes.
Guitar Songs Using the B Major Scale
While the B Major scale contains fewer open chord shapes than other scales, there are still a lot of popular songs that were written in B you might want to check out.
Here are some iconic guitar songs using the B Major scale:
- November Rain by Guns N’ Roses
- Queen of California by John Mayer
- I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
- Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana
- Thunderstruck by AC DC
- Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
- Yellow by Coldplay
- Learn to Fly by Foo Fighters
- Starlight by Muse
Keep in mind that the B Major and G# minor scales use the same notes, so some of the above songs are in the key of B, while others are in the key of G# minor.
Here are some other resources for guitar scales worth learning:
- C Major Scale – learn first
- G Major Scale – learn after C Major
- D Major Scale – learn after G Major
- A Major Scale – learn after D Major
- E Major Scale – learn after A Major
- F Major Scale – learn after C Major