The 5 Major Scale Positions

This article serves as a reference for navigating major scales all over the guitar fretboard. (Recommended prerequisite knowledge: The CAGED System, Scale Degrees vs. Intervals.)

Scale Definition

The major scale uses scale degrees 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. All the fretboard diagrams below show the C major scale, so the notes built on that root are C D E F G A B.

The 5 Positions

As outlined in my article on the CAGED System, I refer to the five positions by where the roots are. When the roots fall on strings 1, 4, and 6, I call it the “1-4-6 position.” When the roots fall on strings 2 and 5, I call it the “2-5 position,” and so on. This is not universal, but it’s the clearest scheme I’ve encountered.

C Major Scale, 1-4-6 Position

C Major Scale 1-4-6

C Major Scale, 2-4 Position

C Major Scale 2-4

C Major Scale, 2-5 Position

C Major Scale 2-5

C Major Scale, 3-5 Position

C Major Scale 3-5

C Major Scale, 1-3-6 Position

C Major Scale 1-3-6

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  • ETF

    Why when working through the positions does it go from Phrygian to Mixolydian skipping out the next natural step which is Lydian? Please could you explain I don’t understand.

    • http://deftdigits.com/ Joe Walker

      Sounds like you’re equating each guitar scale shape with a mode of the major scale. This is all major scale on this page, no modes. What mode you’re playing depends on where the root is, not on which fretboard shape you’re using. You can play all seven modes with a single shape, just by changing the root note. Keep in mind that all the theory stuff should work just as well on any instrument, and there are no fretboards on pianos or clarinets.