As you study any musical instrument, you are certainly going to encounter scales early on, as these work as building blocks for everything – phrases, melodies, improvisation, and more. Today, we focus E Major Guitar Scale guide. This is one of the scales that guitarists use the most since they are used to playing in the key of E. You will learn all the important theory about this scale and how to play it in different regions of the guitar’s neck.
Unfortunately, sitting in a practice room for hours practicing scales with a metronome click isn’t exactly what players have in mind when they decide to learn how to play an instrument.
Nevertheless, putting in the hours to master the most important scales is a must for any musician that wants to understand what they are playing. As you develop this type of awareness, your musical proficiency will increase exponentially, opening up a lot of opportunities for you in any possible scenario.
Keep yourself motivated, create a routine that allows you to study scales methodically, and you will start seeing results very soon.
Throughout this guide, you’ll have access to scale diagrams, tabs illustrating the important finger patterns of the E Major scale, and advice on how to study them!
The E Major Scale – Notes and General Knowledge
Just like all other major scales, the E Major scale follows a specific “formula” regarding its intervals.
Every major scale advances in whole tones and semitones in the following way:
- W; W; H; W; W; W; H.
(W=whole tone; H=semitone)
This means that you always move in major second intervals (one whole tone), except for between the 3rd and 4th degree and between the 7th and the first degree of the scale.
In E Major, this gives us the following set of notes:
- E (Root)
- F# (Major Second)
- G# (Major Third)
- A (Perfect Fourth)
- B (Perfect Fifth)
- C# (Major Sixth)
- D# (Major Seventh)
Here’s what the E Major scale looks like in musical notation:
Unlike the C Major scale, the E Major scale has some sharpened notes. You can use the Circle of Fifths to understand this visually.
This circle illustrates all of the existing key centers, the relation they have with each other, and the accidentals (sharps and flats) that they have.
As you move clockwise from one key center to another, you move in a perfect fifth interval, and you add one sharp.
Sharps are added in this specific order:
- F, C, G, D, A, E, B
Since you have to move four times to get from C Major (no sharps or flats) to E Major, you add a sharp to the notes F, C, G, and D.
The E Major Scale and its Relative Minor Scale: C# Minor
The Circle of Fifths also informs us of relative major and minor keys.
Every major scale has its relative minor scale, which can be found one major sixth above it (9 semitones) or one minor third (3 semitones) below it.
A relative minor scale shares the same notes as its major counterpart but has a different key center.
This tells us that C# minor has the following notes:
- C# (Root)
- D# (Major Second)
- E (Minor Third)
- F# (Perfect Fourth)
- G# (Perfect Fifth)
- A (Minor Sixth)
- B (Minor Seventh)
The E Major Scale On the Guitar
The fretboard diagram that you’ll find below illustrates the E Major scale from the open strings to the 12th fret. The same pattern repeats itself after that fret.
The notes are shown in different colors so that you can start to memorize where each note is on each string.
If you can land on a certain note and immediately visualize where it is on the rest of the strings, you’ll be able to navigate the fretboard much better.
A great exercise you can try out is to play each of these notes slowly against a drone in E.
Drones are long, sustained sounds that you can use to practice any musical concept in a specific key center.
There are several drones that you can find online. Pick one that you like, and try to play all of the notes in the E Major scale on top of it.
Carefully listen to how each scale degree sounds in its corresponding key center.
As you start to identify the “color” of each degree, you will develop a better ear to write and improvise music.
Here are a few examples of exercises you can try out to get more acquainted with the E Major scale on the guitar:
- Memorize the location of the note E on every string and play them in sequence;
- Play the scale on only one string, up and down;
- Memorize other important notes of the scale on every string (for example, the third, fifth, and seventh degrees);
- Pick a random region of the fretboard and play the E Major scale on that region exclusively.
If you practice this kind of exercise regularly, it will become much easier to play in this key.
More importantly, since every pattern on the fretboard is movable, you’ll gain knowledge that you will later apply on other major scales!
The next section of this guide will teach you a method that will greatly enhance the speed at which you’ll learn the E Major scale on the guitar.
The 5 E Major Scale Enclosures
There are multiple strategies that you can follow to learn the guitar’s fretboard. One of the most popular ones consists of mapping out the notes inside specific regions that we call “enclosures” or “boxes.”
By dividing the fretboard into smaller chunks, you can focus on learning these fragments individually and then work on connecting them.
This makes learning a scale throughout the fretboard much more efficient and straightforward.
The following fretboard sections are based on the famous “CAGED System,” which gets its name from the five open chord shapes that guitarists learn early on (C, A, G, E, and D Major in their open positions).
Our first enclosure can be located between the open strings and the fourth fret.
It encompasses two octaves of the E Major scale and is based on the E Major.
If you play all the notes in sequence from the 6th to the 1st string, you’ll notice that there’s a B that repeats itself: once on the fourth fret of the 3rd string and on the open 2nd string.
I’d recommend playing the one on the third fret since your fretting hand will be in a more comfortable position to play the notes that come before and after that B.
The second enclosure of the E Major scale is found between the second and sixth frets.
You can only cover one full octave of the scale within this enclosure, which is based on the D Major open chord shape.
Once again, there is a note that repeats itself: the C# on the sixth fret of the 3rd string, which appears again on the second fret of the 2nd string.
When playing this pattern, I’d recommend ignoring the one on the 3rd string, as the fingering is more comfortable to play when you pick the C# on the 2nd string instead.
Our third enclosure of the E Major scale is located between the fourth and seventh frets.
It covers one full octave of the scale, and its shape is based on the C Major open chord shape.
There are no notes that repeat themselves when you play through this enclosure, so the fingering should be pretty straightforward!
The fourth CAGED enclosure that we’ll be looking at is found between the sixth and the tenth frets.
It covers one full octave of the E Major scale, and it is based on the A Major open chord shape.
If you’re starting on the 6th string, play B and C# with your middle and pinky fingers.
This will position your other fingers in the most effective way to continue playing this pattern.
Our final enclosure can be found between the eighth and twelfth frets. Every pattern repeats itself in the same order after this point.
This enclosure covers two octaves of the E Major scale, and it is based on the G Major open chord shape.
You should position your index finger on the C# that is found on the 6th string.
That way, your other fingers will be in the best position to play the full pattern.
If you want to start to play it in the root note (E), then you should play it with your pinky finger.
The E Major Scale in Notation and Guitar Tablature
This section will provide you with tabs for each of the five enclosures that we have just seen.
Every tab teaches you how to play the full pattern, ascending and descending.
You should set a metronome to a slow tempo such as 60bpm and play one note per beat.
In the beginning, the main focus is not playing fast.
You should concentrate on building up muscle and visual memory of where each note is and the way you pick and fret them.
After you’re more comfortable, you can start to increase the tempo by 10bpm at a time and work on your rhythm. It is very important to be able to keep a beat while playing.
Tab Number 1
This first enclosure is the lowest position you have at your disposal in the guitar since it takes advantage of some of the open strings.
Don’t forget to transpose them too if you decide to move this pattern to another region of the neck!
This shape covers two octaves of the scale, and it is a fusion of the E Major and D Major chord shapes if you analyze it from the CAGED System’s perspective.
Tab Number 2
This second example is taken from the D Major shape, and while it may have a few difficult stretches to play in the first few frets, it is very easy to connect this shape to the ones that are found immediately before and after it. It starts on the major 2nd of the scale (F# if we’re in E Major).
The trickier stretches are on the 5th and on the 4th string – play those three notes with your index, middle and pinky finger, respectively.
Tab Number 3
The following pattern starts on the major third of the scale (G# if we’re in E Major), and it is based on the C Major open chord shape.
This shape only covers one full octave of the scale.
Use your index, middle and pinky finger for the first three notes, and your hand will be in the correct position to play the rest of the pattern.
Your index finger will always play the notes on the 4th fret, the middle finger plays the 5th fret, the ring finger plays the 6th fret, and your pinky finger plays the notes on the 7th fret.
Tab Number 4
This pattern starts on the 5th degree of the scale (B if we’re in E Major). It is based on the A Major open chord shape.
Play the first two notes with your ring and pinky fingers if you want to have your hand in the most efficient position to continue playing this pattern.
Tab Number 5
The last pattern we’re checking out starts on the 6th degree of the scale (C# when we’re in E Major), and it is based on the G Major open chord shape.
If you want to play through the whole pattern, you must use your index, ring, and pinky fingers for the first three notes.
What Chords Can We Build Using the E Major Scale?
If we write the E Major scale on a staff and then harmonize each degree, we obtain the harmonic field of the key.
The resulting chords are the ones that belong to the key of E Major.
- I – E Major
- II – F# minor
- III – G# minor
- IV – A Major
- V – B Major
- VI – C# minor
- VII – D# diminished
Here’s how they would look when written in a staff:
These chords can be played in multiples positions throughout the fretboard, but some of the simplest options you have available are illustrated in the following chord diagrams:
Which Songs Use the E Major Scale?
Because of the existence of the low E string on the guitar and on the bass, E is a very popular key choice for many artists.
There are countless songs that use the E Major scale, spanning across a variety of genres.
Here are a few examples so you can try out the patterns you’ve learned over these songs!
- Joan Jet – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
- AC/DC – Back in Black
- The Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
- The Beatles – And I Love Her
- The Black Crowes – She Talks to Angels
- Madonna – Crazy For You
- Dire Straits – Walk of Life
- Taylor Swift – Red
- Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World
- Van Halen – Ice Cream Man
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About the E Major Scale
Question: What Notes Are in the E Major Scale?
Answer: The E Major scale is composed of the notes E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#.
Question: What Chords Exist Within the Key of E Major?
Answer: By harmonizing the 7 degrees of the E Major scale, we get the following chords:
- E Major
- F# minor
- G# minor
- A Major
- B Major
- C# minor
- D# diminished
Question: What is the Relative Minor Scale of E Major?
Answer: C# minor is the relative minor scale of E Major, which means that they share the same set of notes.
However, you start the scale with C# instead, which shifts the intervals within the scale.
That way, you have a minor third, minor sixth, and a minor seventh, which are the intervals that make it a natural minor scale.
Its notes are C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, and B.
Question: How Can I Quickly Learn the E Major Scale On the Guitar?
Answer: By creating a routine in which you systematically practice a scale throughout the entire neck, you will gradually build muscle memory and the ability to locate every note on the fretboard before even playing it.
Using a method such as the CAGED System is a great way to make sure that you cover the entire fretboard and advance at a steady pace.
By now, you’ve most certainly realized that the E Major scale is definitely a scale you want to have under your fingers since it will come up many times when playing and writing.
Two other great options would be to check out the E natural minor scale and the E blues scale, due to being very popular choices among guitarists as well!
Remember, start by practicing the enclosures individually first until you have memorized the patterns of each one.
Then, work on being able to connect those shapes so that you can move freely through the fretboard of the guitar!