What is a scale?
A Scale is a run of notes that are defined by the spacing between them. These spaces are called intervals and are measured in tones and semitones. A semitone is the interval between two touching frets on the same string. A tone is the interval between two notes that are two frets apart. (like circle and semicircle, a tone is made up for two semitones)
The note our scale starts from is called our “Root Note” and from here we go up in intervals (tones and semitones) until we get back to our root note in the next octave.
What can we do with scales?
1) To Create Chords
2) To create chord progressions (aka Write songs)
3) To write riffs/hooks to songs
4) To write solos for songs
5) To Improvise along to songs
The Ionian Mode - aka The Major Scale
The Ionian Mode is another name for the Major scale. They are the same thing, however when diving deeper into more scales it is worth knowing both names for it as both come in handy in different situations.
The Major scale is effectively the foundation of all music theory in the western world and is best known and recognised by The Sound Of Music’s “Do Re Mi” as the notes played and sung in this song follow the Major scale.
The Major scale is as follows:
This doesn’t make much sense by itself, yet it works when we apply a root note and add our other notes following the intervals.
12 Notes of Music
A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#
The Ionian Mode - Applied to Notes
So If we take the root note of “A” then go up by the right amount each time we get the following notes.
A – (+ tone) B – (+tone) C – (+Semitone) D – (+Tone) E – (+Tone) F# – (+Tone) G#- (+Semitone) A.
So A Major or A Ionian =
A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A
If we now apply this to some other root notes we can work out other Major scales:
B – C# – D# – E – F# – G# – A# – B
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
D – E – F# – G – A – B – C# – D
As you can see the notes change from scale top scale when we have different root notes, however the Intervals (spacings) stay the same.
Applying The Scale To The Guitar
The great news is because each fret on the guitar is a semitone and each scale keeps to the same intervals all we need to do is learn the scale shape and then move it to find the right root note and the shape will give you the right intervals every time.
The First shape of the Ionian Mode (or Major scale) is as follows.
From the example shown we are playing the F# Ionian. or the F# Major scale. this is purely stated as the note we are starting from (our root note) is an F#.
If we wanted to play the A Major scale we would simply take this same shape of notes and move it so that the first note we play is on the 5th fret.
Now you want to go and practice running up and down these notes. Start by going in order then play around with different patterns and get used to the overall shape and not just running in order. This will help you get a feel for the scale to use in more creative ways like making songs or solos.