** As featured in issue 41 **
Hi and welcome to my final column in this Back To Basics series. I have really enjoyed putting these lessons together and I hope you have found them useful.
Last time we looked at the CAGED system, how you can take the basic C, A, G, E and D chords and move them to a different area of the fretboard to generate a new Major chord depending on where your root note is. This time we are going to look at the scale that is built around them, and this will give us five shapes of the Major scale. We have looked in great depth at the Major and minor pentatonic scales, if you have those under your fingers then each shape you will only need to add two more notes to get a full Major scale. First let's have a closer look at the Major scale and how it is constructed. This scale is the most common sound in Western Music, many famous tunes come from it; Star Wars Theme, Superman, EastEnders to name but a few! If you have grown up listening to mainstream and Classical music, chances are your ear will be used to this sound without even realising it. The Major scale is made up of a set series of intervals (tones and semi-tones) and is the same “formula” in any key. Just to recap, a Tone is the distance of two notes or two frets, a semi-tone is the distance of one. This is how a Major scale is constructed, example in C:
Seven different notes, the 8th being the octave. As mentioned above these intervals remain the same no matter what Key you are in so it’s well worth getting familiar with. This knowledge will also serve you well when you start to delve into the world of Modes...
On the accompanying video you will see me demonstrate the five scale shapes, each starting from a different degree of the scale, based around the chord shapes we looked at last time. I can't emphasise enough the importance of learning the scale AROUND the chord as I mentioned with the pentatonic shapes. If you can play the chord then you are already holding down a large amount of the scale so you should aim to be able to visualise the scale shape built around that particular chord shape. This will help you when improvising in different keys, and overall fretboard visualisation. When practising play the chord first, then the scale around it. Once you have them under your fingers try the exercise I mentioned last time where you play all five shapes in one area of the fretboard, do the same now but incorporate the scales.
The CAGED system, if learned properly, will really open up the fretboard to you and enable you to play convincingly in any key and eventually over any chord. You will be able to outline chord tones (notes in the chords) if you can visualise the chord shape, making your solos far more coherent and musical. These will also lead you onto modes, I won’t get into it now, but all these shapes are also the mode shapes, so invest as much time as you can into getting this system down.
I hope you have enjoyed these columns and got some useful information out of them