Playing the guitar – learning what matters – C major scale and melody

When taking classes for beginners, after showing them how to hold the guitar, we directly get to play the C Major scale and then a simple melody. Here i have included the C major scale and a melody.

The C Major scale

Download C major scale and simple melody (Janaganamana) in a zip file

The image shows the C major scale played with open strings and maximum two fingered notes on any string.

Why play the C Major Scale?

We learn things to an end. Monotonous exercises, without an idea of how they lead you finally to what you find pleasure from, results in a poor learning experience and will not produce good results.

What to play taken care of

When playing music on an instrument, one part is what to play while the other is how to play it, which is dependent on the instrument.

C Major scale is a scale with no sharp or flat notes. It serves as a simple introduction to notes, sequence of notes, how they are related to each other etc.

Once you know the C major scale notes as given on the diagram, the sharp and flat notes can be found easily by playing the note next to it or before it respectively. For example once you know that 4th string 3rd fret gives you a F note, F# can be played on the immediate next fret – 4th string 4th fret.

Starting with notes without flats or sharps and using them as reference to play all the notes, is a better learning method – better remembered, better learnt in context.

How to play notes on the guitar

While playing the C major scale, you will learn

  1. how to hold the guitar
  2. how to place your fingers and press to play a note on the guitar
  3. how to strike the string – open or while pressing – the coordination
  4. how to keep your wrist while playing
  5. awareness of the tension of the arm and the whole body

Playing the guitar involves coordination of both hands. Something simple like C major scale makes that easier for you when you start out.

Being aware of tension in different parts of the body and relaxing them is part of learning to play an instrument well. Be aware from the start.

C major scale as Path towards Melody playing freedom

Learning the C major scale introduces you to the notes on the fretboard. Remembering the notes of the C major scale, how they are played, where they are played on the strings and frets, lets you play melodies when the notes are given.

Notes for almost anything you wish is freely available on the internet already. Once you know where to play the C or the F#, you are on your own to explore and try playing melodies you like. C major scale is used here as the gate for entry to the path of freedom towards melody / lead playing on the guitar.

Jana gana mana – starting to play melody

Once we are familiar with the notes of the C major scale and reasonably comfortable with playing notes on the guitar, we can apply the learning to start playing simple melodies.

Jana gana mana, the national anthem of India is a good melody to start playing on the guitar. Download Janaganamana notes (.txt file).

Here is how it will look like :

1. Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka, jaya he
2. C D    E E    E E      EE  E  E E    D E  F        –   the notes
3. C                                                     F                 –   the chords (first learn the notes, play the chords after we learn them)

The first line shows the lyrics of the song. The second line has notes of the melody, each note arranged immediately below the syllable of the lyrics where the note has to be played.
The third line has the chords. If you are not familiar with chords, wait till you learn the basic chords, rhythm and strumming patterns on the guitar.

Internet as melody and chord resource

Many who learn music or guitar with me, uses the internet for

  • melody notes – search with "<song title> notes"
  • guitar tabs for melodies – search with "<song title> tabs"
  • chords – search with "<song title> chords"
  • video tutorials – youtube
  • indian swaras for songs

If you want the notes for a melody of your choice, chances are you will find the information on the internet for free. You will be able to find melody written as C, C# etc.

Once you have the notes, you can play it on the guitar with your knowledge of the C major scale. As mentioned before, sharps and flats can be played with the C major scale as reference.

When you need a F# for example,

  • find the F note on the C major scale on you guitar
  • play the immediate next fret (to your right) for F#

To play Bb, you can either play the note before the B on 5th string 2nd fret, or you can play A# (same as Bb) on the third string 3rd fret, depending on which octave you want the note to be played.

If you are a beginning guitar player, this work can keep you busy for the first month – a month well spent.

Posted in GTM, Guitar

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