The G Major Scale is a common scale in guitar music

If you learned the G Major Scale with a traditional finger pattern on the guitar, it's not helpful if you want to play fast. If you have trouble mastering the G Major scale, you should consider using a different fingering pattern.

Why Learn A Different Scale Fingering?

The major scale is the most common scale in Western music, upon which the Western musical system of tonality is based. You will come across many guitar licks written using the major scale, so sooner or later, you will have to master playing this series of notes quickly.

Unfortunately, most guides on how to play the G Major scale will show you patterns which aren't easy to memorize. I will demonstrate how a different fingering can improve not only your speed but also your memorization of patterns of notes.

Why Is a Simple Finger Pattern Important?

Fingerstyle guitar involves the careful co-ordination of both the plucking hand and the fretting hand. If you can simplify the fingering pattern in in at least one, but ideally both hands, your playing will be cleaner, and your songs will be easier to memorize.

We will demonstrate how this works with the G Major Scale.

How to Play the G Major Scale on The Guitar

The notes in the G Major Scale are G, A, B, C, D, E, and F♯. The tonic note, G, is found on the sixth string at the third fret.

Here is the tablature and standard notation for the two octave G major scale as I learned it, taken from Classical Guitar manuals.

Tab and Standard Notation for the G Major Scale

The Royal Conservatory Scales and Arpeggios book contains the exact fingering for the G Major scale shown above, which contains no position changes. Unfortunately, this fingering is not practical if you want to increase your playing or memorization speed of the scale.

Why The Traditional Fingering Isn't Suitable For Guitar

The diatonic Major Scale just isn't as easy to play on the guitar as on the piano. When we play the major scale on the guitar over several strings, there are an unequal number of notes per string.

This type of fingering isn't very logical. Sometimes there are two notes per string; other times there are three. Sometimes we need to use fingers 1,2,4; other times it’s 1,3,4.

The Better Way to Play The G Major Scale

There is another way to finger the two-octave major scale: using a three-note-per-string pattern and using fingers 1,2,4 for most of the scale. The fingering is simplified, but this causes larger finger stretches. 

Here is the three note per string fingering pattern for the ascending G major scale:

The G Major Scale - Tablature
Tablature for the G Major Scale - Three Notes Per String

The Advantage To Learning Three Notes Per String

Notice that we now play three notes per string, instead of a mixture of one, two or three notes per string.

Thankfully at the very last page of the Royal Conservatory Scales and Arpeggios Book, we find a helpful half-page about an alternative fingering to the major scale. This is the three-note-per-string fingering favoured by both heavy metal and flamenco guitarists for blazing fast performance speed of the Major Scale.

Here is the two octave G major scale, ascending and descending, fingered this time to have the exact same number of notes per fret:

The G Major Scale - Three Notes Per String
The G Major Scale on the Guitar - Tablature for the Two Octave Ascending and Descending Version

How To Simpify The Plucking Hand

We talked about simplifying the fretting hand; now let's work on the plucking hand.

Normally, when you pluck repeated notes, you'll want to avoid using the same finger twice in a row. I teach a method that I call walking fingers, where you alternate plucking the same string with the index and middle fingers.

Using Three Fingers Per String

Since we have grouped together three notes per string, let's instead of using only two plucking fingers, use a combination of three separate fingers.

Use either the thumb, index and middle fingers or the index, middle and ring fingers of the plucking hands in repetition as you play the G Major Scale.

How To Play Any Major Scale Using This Pattern

Knowing the interval distance in the major scale, can help you to memorize the fingering for the major scale on the guitar.

Start on the 6th string and play three notes: the first note is the tonic, followed by the supertonic which is a whole step (two frets) above the tonic, then the mediant which is a whole step above the supertonic.

Repeat these same intervals on the 5th string. Play the subdominant note at the same fret in which you played the tonic. Then the dominant is one step above the subdominant, and the submediant is one step above the dominant.

Switch to the 4th string and move up one fret from the starting fret. Now play the subtonic note followed by the tonic a half step above. That's it; you have completed the major scale.

Licks that Use the Major Scale

The lick that is at the end of the Sungha Jung song "Riding a bicycle" uses the notes from the G Major Scale.