C Major Scale: Fretboard Diagrams, Chords, Notes and Charts
The C Major Scale is the first scale worth learning on guitar. It’s the starting point for all other scales and the easiest to learn. Once you learn the C Major scale, you can easily learn scales like the G Major or F Major scale by simply changing one note.
Looking for the A minor scale?
For every Major scale in music, there is what we call a ‘relative’ minor that uses the exact same notes. This means for every Major scale, there is a minor scale using the same notes. The C Major scale and the A 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 C Major scale, the root note is ‘C’. In the A minor scale, the root note is ‘A’.
This means you can use all the diagrams, exercises and chords covered in this page for both the C Major scale and the A minor scale.
Notes in the C Major Scale
The C Major scale is the easiest scale to remember because it doesn’t have any sharps or flats. The notes are: C D E F G A B
The main reason why the C Major scale is usually the first scale to learn is that it has no sharps or flats. It makes it easier to read on sheet music and easier to find the notes on the guitar. If you’re ever at a piano and want to noodle around, you can play the C Major scale if you only play the white keys. On a piano, the black keys are the sharps and flats.
The notes in the A minor scale are: A B C D E F G. As you can see, it’s the exact same notes as the C Major scale.
C Major Scale Fretboard Diagram
The fretboard diagram below shows the C Major scale across the entire fretboard:
Pay extra attention to all the ‘C’ positions as C is the root note of the scale. If you don’t know how to use the above diagram, keep reading as we will look at some basic exercises to get you playing the C Major scale.
How to use the above fretboard diagram:
- Improve over a C Major 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
- Memorize the notes on the fretboard one string at a time
The C Major scale is the most important scale to learn so it’s worth spending the time to memorize the above notes.
C Major Scale in Guitar TAB and Standard Notation
The below Guitar TAB and standard notation show four examples of the C Major scale:
Try playing the four examples to get a feel for how C Major sounds and where the correct notes are on the fretboard. Then use the fretboard diagram and try finding different scale positions. Play the scale runs up and down as an exercise to get you used to the positions.
C Major Scale Chords
There are certain chords that work with the C Major scale. This is handy to know if you want to write a song or jam in the ‘key of C’. 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 C Major scale:
You might already know most of these chords as they are the most common open chords on the guitar. Don’t worry about the last chord (Bdim) as you’re unlikely to use it. 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.
Note: remember that the A minor scale uses the exact same notes as the C Major scale. This means the above chords also fit in the key of A minor.