F Major Scale on Guitar

A Complete Guide to the F Major Scale on Guitar

Scales can be seen as the building block to most musical ideas, whether it is a written melody or improvisation. If you start studying music theory, you will certainly come across a variety of scales that you should understand and be able to apply in a musical context. This F Major Guitar Scale guide goes in-depth about the F Major scale on the guitar. Aside from all the most important theory aspects, you will also have access to fretboard diagrams, scale patterns, and useful advice on how to study them properly.

Practicing scales on any musical instrument is not the activity that people look forward to doing when they first decide to learn one, but they are well worth the time investment.

Having a large catalog of choices when writing or improvising music will allow you to compose more interesting music since you are aware of all options that are available to you.

Achieving this kind of proficiency takes a lot of time and effort, but with a practice routine focused on memorizing the guitar’s fretboard and applying new concepts in real-life scenarios, you can progress much faster than you think!

In any case, while you’re learning this scale, keep in mind that the scale patterns on the guitar are movable. By shifting your fretting hand up and down the neck, you can play different scales with the same finger pattern.

The F Major Scale – Notes and General Knowledge

Just like any other major scale, the F Major scale follows a specific “formula,” which refers to the intervals between each scale degree (each note).

This formula, independently of the key center, can be represented like this:

  • W; W; H; W; W; W; H.

(W=whole tone; H=semitone)

Basically, this means that every note is at a distance of one whole tone (two semitones, or a major second) from the next one, apart from the intervals between the 3rd/4th degrees and between the 7th/1st degree of the scale.

The major scale can also be represented numerically like this: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7”, which means that every interval is major (second, third, sixth, and seventh) or perfect (fourths and fifths).

By applying this logic to the key of F Major, we obtain the following scale:

  • F (Root)
  • G (Major Second)
  • A (Major Third)
  • Bb (Perfect Fourth)
  • C (Perfect Fifth)
  • D (Major Sixth)
  • E (Major Seventh)

Notice that every note is one whole tone away from the next one, except for the notes A/Bb and E/F (3rd/4th and 7th/1st degrees of the scale).

If you write it down on a staff, the F Major scale looks like this:

Since all notes in F Major are natural except for Bb, this is one of the best scales to start practicing your sight-reading.

To know which notes are sharp or flat in any key center (also called accidentals), you can use a tool called Circle of Fifths.

The Circle of Fifths is a visual representation of all 12 major keys, and their relative minor keys, and the relationship they have with each other.

You can find a Circle of Fifths below:

This circle informs you about the accidentals of every key.

You start at the top, in C Major (no accidentals), and each time you move clockwise, you go up a perfect fifth and add one sharp to the key signature.

Whenever you move counterclockwise, you add a flat, and you’re going down a perfect fourth (this is the reason why this can also be called the Circle of Fourths).

Whenever you add a sharp, you must follow the following order, which is:

  • F, C, G, D, A, E, B

When you add a flat, you add them in the opposite order:

  • B, E, A, D, G, C, F

Since you only move once counterclockwise from C Major to get to F Major, you only add a Bb to the key signature.

Adding sharps and flats accordingly to the Circle of Fifths ensures that the corresponding major scale always respects the intervallic distance described at the beginning of this section.

The F Major Scale and its Relative Minor Scale: D Minor

If you take a closer look at the Circle of Fifths, you’ll see that the major keys are on the outer side of the circle, and the keys on the inner side are their relative minor keys.

A relative minor key shares the same set of notes as its major counterpart, but they are centered around a different root note. Obviously, one is major, and the other is minor.

In the case of F Major, you can see that its relative minor key is D minor.

You will always find a relative minor scale, either one major sixth above a major key (9 semitones) or one minor third (3 semitones) below it.

D is the major sixth of F, so it is its relative minor scale.

This tells us that its notes are:

  • D (Root)
  • E (Major Second)
  • F (Minor Third)
  • G (Perfect Fourth)
  • A (Perfect Fifth)
  • Bb (Minor Sixth)
  • C (Minor Seventh)

In comparison to the major scale, the natural minor scale can be represented numerically with “1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7”.

This is because the natural minor scale has the 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees flattened.

You can find the D minor scale written on a staff below. You can see how it uses the same set of notes as F Major, but the key center is D instead of F.

The F Major Scale on the Guitar’s Fretboard

The fretboard diagram found below is a representation of the F Major Scale on the guitar.

You can use it as a reference for when you are practicing it or when you need to confirm where a certain note is located.

Each note has its unique color, so you can identify them and find where they occur again on every string quicker.

For starters, you should memorize the location of the root note on the 6th and 5th strings and then move to other strings.

The root note is always going to be your primary reference to finding any scale pattern on the fretboard.

In F Major, you have it on the 1st and 13th frets of the 6th string and on the 8th and 20th frets of the 5th string.

Putting in the effort to memorize a specific scale throughout the entire fretboard will benefit you by allowing you to quickly visualize every note that belongs to that scale.

This avoids you playing notes that won’t sound particularly great while improvising or writing music.

One of the best exercises to slowly memorize and assimilate a scale on the guitar is to play it slowly against a drone.

Drones are “infinite” sustained sounds that establish a key very precisely. In this case, you can search platforms such as YouTube for a drone in the key of F Major; there are many different examples for each key.

While you have the drone playing in the background, explore every note of the scale, carefully listen to how it sounds against the root notes.

Each interval will have its own color and feeling, and becoming more intimate with these sensations will make you a better writer and improviser. By knowing the scale degree and sound of a note before you play it, you will start playing them with a lot more intention and confidence.

There are countless exercises that you can practice to master the F Major scale. Here are some examples:

  • Memorize where the root note is (or another note, like the 3rd or 5th degree of the scale) on every string, and play them all in sequence, up and down.
  • Pick a certain section of the neck (not more than 5 to 7 frets) and try to find all of the notes of the F Major scale inside it. Restricting yourself forces you to find alternatives to the regions where you are already more comfortable playing.
  • Play the scale on a single string up and down the neck.

Try making up your own exercises, so you don’t get bored as easily. There are many ways to be creative when studying, which helps with your motivation!

Although these things can seem like they aren’t paying off very much in the beginning, be persistent, and you are guaranteed to notice a big improvement long term.

Also, a big advantage of being methodic when learning a certain scale is that you can later move the patterns you learn up and down the neck in order to play scales in other key centers. This means that the knowledge you obtain learning and practicing the F Major Scale is applicable on other keys!

The next section of this guide focuses on a very well-known method to memorize the fretboard. Many guitar players are able to travel the fretboard effortlessly thanks to it.

This method is known as the “CAGED System.”

The CAGED System – 5 Scale Enclosures in F Major

The CAGED System exists to help guitarists learn the fretboard in a quicker, more effective way. The idea is to divide the neck into 5 different regions that we call “enclosures” or “boxes,” each one with a unique note pattern that you must memorize.

This makes learning scales much faster since you can memorize the patterns and move them across the neck when you want to transpose your music to another key.

After you’ve mastered each individual enclosure, you should work on being able to connect them in different ways, as this is what will allow you to truly navigate the fretboard fluently.

The CAGED System gets its name from the chord shapes that are the base of every pattern. These are chords that you had probably learned when you started out on guitar. They’re the following:

  • C Major
  • A Major
  • G Major
  • E Major
  • D Major

First Enclosure

Our first CAGED enclosure in the key of F is found between the open strings and the 3rd fret. It is based on the E Major open chord shape.

When you play through this enclosure, the root note will come up three times – on the 6th, 4th, and 1st strings.

It pays off to keep track of the root note locations on all the enclosures you’ll find on this guide, as these will be your primary references when identifying each box as you play.

You can cover two full octaves of the F Major Scale within this enclosure.

Also, notice that the lowest note isn’t F – these patterns are aimed at knowing where every note that belongs to the scale is located within a specific region.

You should obviously know how to play the scale from F to F, but it is equally important to be aware of the location of the rest of the notes, lower and higher in pitch.

Second Enclosure

The second CAGED enclosure in the key of F Major is located between the 2nd and 6th frets. It is based on the D Major open chord shape.

In this pattern, the root note appears twice – on the 4th and second strings. It can cover a full octave of the F Major Scale.

To play through it, you should play the notes on the 6th string with your index, ring, and pinky fingers, and when you move from the 5th to the 4th string, you must shift your hand back one fret.

You then shift it back again between the 3rd and the 2nd strings.

Third Enclosure

The third enclosure is located between the 5th and 8th frets, in the key of F Major. It is based on the C Major open chord shape.

The root note appears twice here – on the 5th and 2nd strings.

You can cover one octave of the F Major Scale without leaving this region of the fretboard.

Since this enclosure only covers a total of 4 frets, you can assign one left-hand finger to a fret each, which will make it much easier to play it efficiently.

Remember that you should practice every enclosure, both ascending and descending, since your lines when composing or improvising will also be varied.

Fourth Enclosure

Our fourth CAGED enclosure in F Major falls between the 7th and 11th frets. It is based on the A Major open chord shape.

Your root note comes up twice – on the 5th and 3rd strings.

It covers one full octave of the F Major scale.

You should start playing it with your middle and pinky fingers on the 6th string, as this will allow you to position your hand more appropriately for the next strings.

Fifth Enclosure

The fifth and final CAGED System enclosure in F Major is found between the 9th and 13th frets. It is based on the G Major open chord shape.

The root note appears three times within this box – on the 6th, 3rd, and 1st strings.

This pattern allows you to cover 2 octaves of the F Major Scale.

The notes on the 12th and 13th strings are the same ones that you’ve got on the first enclosure, on the open strings, and 1st fret.

All the patterns repeat themselves from this point onward.

Later in this guide, you’ll have access to guitar tabs that illustrate exactly how you should practice these enclosures.

Connecting the 5 F Major Scale CAGED Enclosures

As you’re studying each of the CAGED System’s scale patterns, you shouldn’t forget that your end goal is to be able to connect them seamlessly, so you can travel the fretboard comfortably and fluently.

The easiest way to start connecting the enclosures is to figure out the regions where two adjacent boxes share common notes.

These areas will be where you’ll focus the most when transitioning between enclosures.

The diagram below illustrates the F Major Scale just like before, but with highlights that show you where each pattern shares some notes with the following one.

To accomplish this, you can use several strategies.

You could use slides to easily travel a few frets; you can use bends to go in and out of an enclosure, use arpeggios, and much more.

Once again, it is advisable to start slow and steady with each individual enclosure, and only after you’re comfortable there start working on connecting them.

By approaching this goal consciously, you will end up being equally comfortable playing your favorite lines independently of where you are currently playing on the fretboard.

The F Major Scale in Notation and Guitar TABs

This section will provide you with all the guitar tabs you need to master each of the CAGED System enclosures that you’ve just seen.

Every tab features the full pattern, ascending and descending.

To practice these, you should set a metronome to a moderately slow tempo, around 60bpm.

Then, play one note on each beat of the metronome. You should not be focusing on the speed at this point; what you should do is to pay attention to where the root note is on each pattern and try not to make any mistakes.

Once you’re starting to get more comfortable, you can increase the speed by about 10bpm at a time, but don’t rush it; it’s more important to build muscle memory in the beginning.

Also, don’t forget that these patterns, despite being in the key of F Major, are the same ones that you can use to play other major scales; you just need to transpose them on the neck.

This is the main reason why it is useful to always be aware of the root note locations on each pattern!

Tab Number 1

The following guitar tab teaches you how to play through the first enclosure of the F Major Scale.

This one starts on the major 7th of the scale (E). It doesn’t require you to stretch your fingers much since it is located between the open strings and the third fret.

You can play every note with your index, middle, and ring fingers.

Tab Number 2

The following tab illustrates the second CAGED System enclosure in F Major.

You should play the first three notes on the low E string with your index, ring, and pinky fingers, respectively, in order to have your hand in the correct position.

Tab Number 3

The next tab teaches you how to play through the third CAGED System pattern in the key of F Major.

Every note is located between the 5th and 8th frets, which means you don’t need to move your left hand at all. You can just assign one finger to each of the 4 frets of this fretboard section.

Tab Number 4

The tab found below represents the fourth CAGED System enclosure in F Major.

You should use your middle and pinky fingers to start this one off since it will make it easier to play the rest of the notes.

Remember to play through each of these patterns slowly and very consciously in the beginning. You’ll make progress much faster than if you simply try to play them as fast as you can.

Tab Number 5

Finally, the last tab of the guide illustrates the fifth enclosure of the F Major Scale.

This one shares some notes with the first enclosure since it is located between the 9th and 13th frets. The 12th and 13th are the same notes as you previously had on the open strings and first fret, but one octave higher.

Use your index, ring, and pinky fingers to start it off to play this pattern most efficiently!

When playing through any of these five enclosures, you can also play the scale from root to root (F to F in this case) ascending and descending a few times to consolidate your awareness of where the actual scale is located. However, it is great to play through the whole enclosure so that you make the most out of your study sessions in regards to fretboard knowledge.

What Are the Chords That Can be Built From the F Major Scale Degrees?

We can find out which chords naturally exist in the key of F Major by taking its major scale and harmonizing each of its scale degrees.

The resulting set of 7 chords is known as the harmonic field of that key center.

In F Major, those chords are:

  • I – F Major
  • II – G Minor
  • III – A Minor
  • IV – Bb Major
  • V – C Major
  • VI – D Minor
  • VII – E Diminished

The F Major harmonic field looks like this when you write in on a staff:

There are obviously several different voicings available for you to play these chords, but in case you are unsure about any of them, you will find some diagrams of the most common ways to play these chords below.

Play these 7 chords in sequence and listen to how they sound in that context. You’re simply playing the F Major scale but harmonized.

You can try to come up with your own chord progressions using these 7 chords. There are more options, such as the ones that come from the modal interchange, but there are already limitless possibilities with just these 7.

It is also worth mentioning that just like the major scale itself, the harmonic field also follows a “formula” or pattern, which you can use to identify the chords of a key quickly.

This formula relates to the chord quality of each degree, and it always follows this pattern:

  • I – Major
  • II – Minor
  • III – Minor
  • IV – Major
  • V – Major
  • VI – Minor
  • VII – Diminished

This way, after you have identified the notes in a scale, you can quickly tell which chords are major, minor, or diminished in that key!

I, IV, and V are always major;

II, III, and VI are always minor;

VII is always diminished.

Which Songs Use the F Major Scale?

You have most likely heard many songs that either feature the F Major scale at some point or that have their whole melodies based on it.

You will find a few examples of these songs below, so you can either try to learn them or jam along to them using the F Major scale.

  • The Beatles – Yesterday
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue
  • The Who – Baba O’Riley
  • Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary
  • Tom Petty – Free Fallin’
  • Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours
  • Michael Jackson – It’s the Falling in Love
  • Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
  • Barry White – My First, My Last, My Everything
  • David Bowie – Slow Burn

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About the F Major Scale

Question: What are the Notes of the F Major Scale?

Answer: The notes in the F Major scale are:
F (Root)
G (Major Second)
A (Major Third)
Bb (Perfect Fourth)
C (Perfect Fifth)
D (Major Sixth)
E (Major Seventh)

Question: Which Chords Can be Built From the F Major Scale?

Answer: By harmonizing every scale degree of F Major, we obtain its harmonic field. The following chords occur naturally in F Major:
I – F Major
II – G Minor
III – A Minor
IV – Bb Major
V – C Major
VI – D Minor
VII – E Diminished

Question: What is the F Major Scale’s Relative Minor Scale?

Answer: The relative minor scale of F Major is D minor.
The relative minor is always the 6th degree of its corresponding major scale. In the key of F, the 6th degree is D.
This means that they share the same notes, but they are centered around a different key – one is major, and the other is minor.
The D minor scale has the notes D, E, F, G, A, Bb, C.

Question: What is the Best Method to Master the F Major Scale on the Guitar?

Answer: The best way to learn the F Major Scale (or any other scale) is to stick to a practice routine that incorporates exercises focused on building muscle memory and a good spatial awareness of the fretboard. You should learn its scale patterns, work on connecting them, and invent your own exercises to practice them.
This could be playing the scale on a single string, sets of 4 strings, in a section of 5-7 frets, and more.
The CAGED System is a great resource that ensures you cover all possibilities of a given scale if you study it properly.

Conclusion

F Major (and its relative minor key, D minor) come up quite frequently in music. Therefore, you should definitely work on memorizing and mastering this scale as much as possible.

Since it only has one accidental (B flat), it is one of the first scales that musicians typically learn after C Major, which has no accidentals. G Major is also a popular follow-up since its only accidental is F#.

Like every other major scale, its notes follow a pattern of intervals that gives it its characteristic sound. This pattern can be represented as “W; W; H; W; W; W; H.”

W means the whole tone, and H means semitone.

Numerically, it can be described as “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7”. In comparison, the minor scale would be described as “1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7” since its 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are flattened in comparison to the major scale.

Start working by memorizing each of the CAGED System enclosures of F Major, connecting them with one another, and be consistent with your practice sessions in order to progress gradually and steadily!

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