Last updated on February 19th, 2024
The D Major scale is one of the essential scales to know on guitar. You might have learned it in the first position of the guitar, but the next step is to learn the same set of notes throughout the fretboard. This post covers the 5 scale shapes for effectively playing the D Major scale on guitar.
If you still aren’t confident about naming the notes on the guitar, I recommend checking out these 7 tips to learn the notes on the fretboard. Let’s get started!
D Major scale theory
To help you understand the D Major scale, let’s first go over some music theory before playing it. The D Major scale has the notes D, E, F#, G, A, B, and C#. These notes come from the Major scale formula which has specific steps between each note (whole, whole, half, then whole, whole, whole half step). See the formula with the D Major scale notes below.
You can also think of the notes in the Major scale in terms of intervals related to the root note. The intervals in a Major scale are unison (with the root note), perfect 2nd, Major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, Major 6th, and Major 7th.
Another method that you can use to learn any Major scale is to memorize the key signature. In this case, the D Major scale has 2 sharps (F# and C#).
How to read the scale charts
For the charts below:
- Lowest horizontal line represents the thickest string (Low E) and the top horizontal line represents the thinnest string (high E).
- The green circles represent the root note of the Major scale and blue notes are every scale note in between.
- Circles to the left of a chart represent open strings.
If needed, check this link for more on how to read guitar notation symbols.
5 D Major scale shapes
This section shows you the D Major scale in five different areas of the fretboard. Each scale shape includes the music notation including guitar tabs. Afterward, you’ll see how all of these shapes connect.
D Major scale shape 1
For the notation below, the numbers above the notes suggest what fingers to use for your fretting hand.
D Major scale shape 2
D Major scale shape 3
D Major scale shape 4
D Major scale shape 5
You can also apply these Major scale shapes by shifting them to any key. Make sure to rearrange your fingers wherever necessary.
All the D Major scale notes on the fretboard
Finally, here are all of the D Major scale notes on the fretboard below. This is essentially all of the scale shapes connected.
Easily look up scales with the Essential Major Scales Guitar Chart!
This chart shows you the 5 essential Major scale shapes on guitar and how to play the Major scale starting on all 12 root notes.
There’s no need to stumble on what notes to play… Get the Essential Major Scales Guitar Chart printable to motivate and guide you on your musical journey!
3 tips for memorizing the Major scale shapes
Here are 3 quick tips to help you memorize the 5 Major scale shapes.
1. Master one shape at a time
The way I recommend learning and memorizing any scale is to start memorizing one particular shape that feels most comfortable for you. Try to really get the shape under your fingers to the point where you don’t have to look at the chart. Use the first shape you master as a guide to learn the other scale shapes around it.
2. Look for repeating fingering patterns
Look for patterns such as what strings repeat the same fingering within a shape.
Tip: The notes on the first and sixth string will always be the same.
For example, in shape 2 we see that the 1st, 2nd, and 6th string follow a 1, 2, and 4 finger pattern. The 4th and 5th string follow a 1, 3, and 4 finger pattern. The 3rd string has the unique finger pattern of fingers 1 and 3. Knowing where note patterns repeat will help you build a mental map of a scale shape.
3. Connect shapes around the ones you learned
After learning one of the scale shapes well, either learn the shape that comes before or after it to see how the notes connect on the fretboard. Again, try to master one shape at a time and make sure you can play it without looking at the chart. This will make the process more approachable by breaking it down into smaller sections before moving on to the next shape.
Learning the Major scale shapes will help you gain a better understanding of the guitar as you learn to play the same set of notes throughout the fretboard. Although it’s easy to stick to a comfort zone or one area of the guitar, learning these shapes will challenge you to approach the instrument with a fresh perspective.
Also, learning the scale shapes gives you confidence in choosing the right notes when playing melodies or when improvising. They will help you to create musical ideas more naturally and allow you to play more comfortably throughout the fretboard.
If you want to dive deeper, I recommend checking out this post on how to practice scales on guitar.
All the best,
JG Music Lessons