The G Major Scale is one of the first scales you should learn on the guitar. After you learn the C Major Scale (learn the C Major scale in this guide) I recommend learning the G Major scale because it only changes one note.
This guide covers everything you might want to know about the G Major scale including common open chords, note positions on a fretboard diagram, and more.
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.
Note: the resources here are helpful, but they should only be a starting point for your practice. Once you memorize these notes on your fretboard, you won’t need to use the resources found in this guide. Find out how to memorize the notes on the fretboard here using effective methods that don’t require much time or effort.
G Major Scale = E 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 G Major scale and the E 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 G Major scale, the root note is ‘G’. In the E minor scale, the root note is ‘E’.
The E minor scale is an incredibly popular scale for guitarists due to the way we tune our guitars. Rock and metal tend to focus on this scale more than any other scale.
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 G Major and E minor scales use the same notes.
This means you can use all the diagrams, exercises and chords covered in this guide for both the G Major scale and the E minor scale.
Notes in the G Major Scale
The G Major scale is easy to remember because it only contains one sharp note. The notes in the G Major Scale are: G A B C D E F#
This is what the key signature for G Major looks like:
Even if you don’t know how to read music, if you see a key signature with only one sharp symbol, it means the music is in G Major (or E minor).
The notes in the E minor scale are: E F# G A B C D. As you can see, it’s the exact same notes as the G Major scale. The E minor scale starts on ‘E’ (called the root note) and the G Major scale starts on ‘G’, but both scales contain the same seven notes.
The key point to remember with the G Major scale is F# (F sharp). You only need to remember that the G Major scale uses F sharp and all the other notes are natural (not sharp or flat).
This is why the G Major scale is so easy to learn after you learn the C Major scale. All you need to do to change from C Major to G Major is remember to raise the note F by one fret.
G Major Scale Fretboard Diagram
Here are the notes of the G Major scale across the entire fretboard:
The main notes to focus on when you try to memorize this scale is G and F#.
You want to pay extra attention to G because it’s the root note, so you want to be able to easily find those note positions while improvising or writing riffs.
You also want to pay attention to the F# positions to help you switch into this scale from C Major.
Here is the G Major scale diagram up to the 12th fret with the root notes highlighted on each string:
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 G Major or E 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 C Major scale, it should only take a day or two of practice to fully memorize the G Major scale.
G Major Scale in Guitar TAB and Standard Notation
The below Guitar TAB and standard notation show four examples of the G 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 your progress.
Try playing the four examples to get a feel for how G Major sounds and where the correct notes are on the fretboard.
I recommend trying to avoid playing scale runs like this as your main form of practicing scales. Playing up and down scale shapes can lead to bad habits and a lot of guitarists eventually get stuck in a rut.
Instead of merely running up and down scale shapes, I recommend learning to randomly walk around the fretboard by focusing on the note names.
This feels harder in the beginning, but once you learn how to do this with one or two scales, all of the other scales quickly fall into place.
G Major Scale Open Chords on Guitar
One of the reasons why the G Major scale is such a popular scale for guitarists is because there are a lot of open chords that fit with the scale.
Once you learn the G Major scale, you’ll quickly realize how many songs are written in G Major or E minor.
In music theory, we can ‘harmonize’ the scale to figure out what those chords are. To make things easy for you, here are the seven main chords of the G Major scale:
You might already know most of these chords as they are some of the most common open chords on the guitar.
Apart from Bm (B minor) and F#dim (F sharp diminished), all of the other chords are simple open chords every beginner learns.
There are countless songs that use the chords G, Am, C, D, and Em in progressions.
If you’ve memorized the open chords from the C Major scale, you will notice that both scales share the chords C, Am, Em, and G. If you see a song using those chords, you can normally tell if it was written in the C or G Major scale depending on whether you see the chord D Major or D minor.
Try making up some chord progressions using the above chords and listen to how they sound when played together. A lot of songs use the above chords so you may find you accidentally play a progression from a well-known song.
The chord Bm is a barre chord, so if you’re a beginner, leave it for last or until you’re ready to start learning barre chords.
Don’t worry about the last chord (F#dim) as you’re unlikely to use it. When we harmonize a Major scale, the last chord in the scale is always a diminished chord. While diminished chords are used in music, as a beginner or intermediate guitarist you may not have much use for them yet.
Note: remember that the E minor scale uses the exact same notes as the G Major scale. This means the above chords also fit in the key of E 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 G Major Scale
There are countless songs written on guitar using the G Major scale. The scale makes use of all of the open strings and there are a lot of open chords that fit perfectly with the scale.
Here are some popular guitar songs using the G Major scale:
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- Nothing Else Matters by Metallica
- Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day
- Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Blackbird by The Beatles
- Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix
- Gravity by John Mayer
- Let Her Go by Passenger
Keep in mind that the G Major and E minor scales use the same notes, so some of the above songs are in the key of G, while others are in the key of E minor.
Here are some other resources for guitar scales worth learning:
- C Major Scale – learn first
- D Major Scale – learn after G Major
- F Major Scale – learn anytime after C Major