Ukulele Scales Part 1: Major Scale

When I did my ukulele scales posts there were a few people who didn’t have a clue what it was all about. So, I thought I’d go back to basics and cover it from there.

The most common scale in all music is the major scale. You’ll hear it all over the place (pretty much every nursery rhyme, Christmas carol and national anthem uses it) and it’s the basis of all chords.

The major scale creates a particular pattern on the ukulele. This pattern can be moved up and down the neck depending on which key you play in.

C Major Scale

The most important note to concentrate on is the root note – the first one played and the last one played. For example, The C major scale starts on the open C string and ends on the A string, third fret. The pattern looks like this on the fretboard:

ukulele scale C

The tab looks like this:

C major ukulele scale tab

And sounds like this:

 

There are lots of ways you can use the major scale. One is for improvising a solo. In the following snippet, I’m improvising a little melody with the chords C, F and G and using only notes in the major scale pattern.

 

D Major Scale

For the D major scale, you use exactly the same pattern but start on a D note (C string second fret) and end on a D note (A string, fifth fret). Giving you this:

ukulele d scale tab

d major ukulele scale tab

 

F Major Scale

Moving that pattern up and down the fretboard will give you a major scale wherever you use it. Whichever key you want to play the major scale in, find that note on the C string and start the pattern from there.

For example, to get the F major scale, you start the scale pattern on the fifth fret of the c string which gives you this pattern:

ukulele scale f major tab

This tab:

f major scale ukulele tab

And sounds like this:

 
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48 Comments

  1. Jon June 25th, 2008 6:16 pm

    Thanks, I was one of the people who expressed confusion.

  2. Woodshed June 25th, 2008 10:16 pm

    I hope it made more sense this time, Jon.

  3. Jon June 26th, 2008 5:18 am

    Yeah, it did. I’ve got two weeks off coming up shortly. I intend to devote the time to intensive practice. I haven’t had any time to learn anything new in months. I have just enough practice time to keep up my chops on the stuff I already know. By the way, I wrote something in defense of Julia Nunes that, on sober reflection, sounded slightly hostile. Let me make it clear that this site is fabulous and you are a great person. I’ve bought two of your e books and saved all of your finger picking emails, That’s what I’ll be studying on my vacation. I love learning new stuff on the ukulele, I just want to keep it silly.

  4. rilrod June 26th, 2008 7:26 am

    I was also one of the few who expressed confusion. You’ll be pleased to hear that I completely understand now. Keep up the great work on the site.

    Ukuleles Represent

  5. lillibit June 26th, 2008 6:08 pm

    Thanks! Ii was very confused with the other scales, I need see the tabs with numbers.

  6. Woodshed June 26th, 2008 10:45 pm

    Jon: Don’t worry about it. No offence taken. Have fun with your ukulele holiday.

    rilrod: Glad it helped.

    lillibit: Yeah, I like tabs, too. But some people prefer to see a fretboard layout.

  7. Evan June 20th, 2009 12:12 am

    so how come from the d scale to the f scale it went up 3 frets and not 4? i figured 2 frets to E scale and 2 frets to F scales

  8. Ryan June 20th, 2009 6:08 pm

    E to F is a half step

  9. Woodshed June 21st, 2009 8:51 pm

    Evan: Ryan is spot on. F is only one fret up from from E.

  10. Zuke February 4th, 2010 10:13 am

    Very useful – thanks!

    I’m just beginning to explore tabs after learning a few chords, what are the grey circles and semi circles in your tabs?

  11. Dave April 9th, 2010 7:58 pm

    This was a huge help, really appreciate you breaking it down even further for us all to understand.

  12. Woodshed April 11th, 2010 2:20 pm

    Zuke: I’m not sure what you’re referring to with the grey circles. Could you like to one with it on?

    Dave: Glad you found it useful.

  13. Levi April 23rd, 2010 3:40 am

    Zuke, those grey circles are the markings on the fretboard. They are great for easy reference points.

  14. Woodshed May 3rd, 2010 2:15 pm

    Levi: Thanks for clearing that up.

  15. Laurah Jean November 5th, 2010 9:50 am

    Ahahahah! After staring at the fretboard layouts for like an hour, i finally understand! (I already understood the patterns/progressions from clarinet and piano theory, but thought someone had been toking up or something before creating the fretboard patterns) I feel remarkably stupid, and thoroughly enlightened, all at the same time C:

  16. Woodshed November 6th, 2010 4:06 pm

    Laurah Jean: Glad you figured it out eventually. I’m still trying to come up with a better way of presenting this sort of thing.

  17. Vlad Levitt December 4th, 2010 3:44 am

    I as well was one of the confused people, but that post very easily cleared everything up. Thank you very much!

  18. Woodshed December 5th, 2010 5:06 pm

    Vlad: Glad it made sense to you.

  19. SteveG January 14th, 2011 6:18 pm

    SO correct me if I’m wrong this major scale ‘pattern’ once learned is portable? …that is it will work anywhere up or down the fretboard on the CEA strings …right? Kewl!!

  20. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 10:38 am

    Steve: Absolutely correct.

  21. Kate April 22nd, 2012 8:31 am

    Was going to finish my university application today but instead got sidetracked by this blog. Love it, thanks!

  22. Woodshed April 22nd, 2012 11:17 pm

    Kate: You made the right choice!

  23. Ryan June 2nd, 2012 5:31 pm

    So what about the G-string? And why jump between strings when you could play the entire C major scale on the C-string? I guess I’m having trouble with understanding the jumps between strings when playing scales…

  24. Woodshed June 3rd, 2012 11:43 am

    Ryan: Because it’s easier to play smoothly when you’re moving between strings. Particularly if you’ve got a large jump between notes.

    I left out the g-string to keep things simple.

  25. Bassface July 1st, 2012 3:58 am

    So, this might be a little advanced, but I’m a bass player and I’m used to flipping my chords inside and out when I need to put the scales in different places. I’m interested in playing chords and extra notes simultaneously, so I’d like to know if you have any advice for doing so on the uke. My theory isnt the strongest, but I’m solid on the shapes and moving the scale from note to note.

  26. Anthony Zayas July 4th, 2012 11:19 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing…
    Namaste (The light in me; honors the light in you)

  27. Woodshed July 9th, 2012 10:41 pm

    Anthony: Thanks. The light in me high-fives the light in you.

  28. Nick Rodriguez July 19th, 2012 9:06 am

    I’m having really hard time understanding these scales… In a way, all im seeing is the tab version, figuratively speaking… I mean, I understand the positions these major scales and I understand that you slide up and down the neck to get the different scales… I don’t know, I’m just REALLY having a hard understanding it. Sorry if I vague with my problem…

  29. ghost August 15th, 2012 6:27 pm

    :) Thanks Woodshed. I don’t know how I ever had trouble with this. It’s so easy once you understand.

  30. Woodshed August 17th, 2012 9:29 am

    ghost: Glad it helped!

  31. MIke G September 30th, 2012 2:22 pm

    What about for a baritone Uke?

  32. Woodshed October 1st, 2012 11:06 am

    Mike G: Best find a baritone site for that.

  33. anthony February 1st, 2013 2:53 am

    tnx

  34. Woodshed February 1st, 2013 9:01 am

    anthony: You’re welcome.

  35. Tim April 28th, 2013 9:58 pm

    Hi, thanks for taking the time to get me on the way to practicing my uke; a Lanikai LU-21T, which I bought from my brother.

  36. Woodshed April 29th, 2013 4:44 pm

    Tim: Happy practicing!

  37. Ku`ulei May 2nd, 2013 1:52 am

    Mahalo for the sounds, I like to compare to see if I’m doing it right. Thanks for this site ;D

  38. Woodshed May 3rd, 2013 2:38 pm

    Ku`ulei: Thank you!

  39. Wesley August 20th, 2013 2:44 am

    I was thinking,what we do with the G string?

  40. Zoinks October 9th, 2013 4:04 am

    Wow..
    Just wow.
    Took me like 5 days of coming here, looking at this, reading it, and then leaving still not understanding the scale charts (?) but following the tabs, obviously. I now understand, feel like a mook, and thank you so much for the lesson. haha.

  41. Woodshed October 9th, 2013 7:12 am

    Zoinks: Glad you got there!

  42. Juliet October 9th, 2013 5:10 pm

    really good, clear and helpful. the audio clips are also very good so that you can hear if you’re actually doing it right! would be nice if there was a couple more though :)

  43. Woodshed October 10th, 2013 11:14 am

    Juliet: Thanks! I’m glad it helped.

  44. Carol Ann November 12th, 2013 5:33 pm

    Well, I know you did this a LONG time ago, but I really appreciate it. I had been looking for this information. You have made it easy for me to understand. Thank you. BTW, love your ebooks, especially the Christmas ones. I have both. Got them last year, but this year, things are beginning to “click”. Keep doing what you are doing. It is appreciated.

  45. Woodshed November 14th, 2013 6:14 am

    Carol Ann: Thanks! I’m really glad it helped.

  46. Dr43nD November 22nd, 2013 8:07 pm

    OHMERGAHD! I GET IT MEOW! HOLY BANANAS, I CAN SEE!

  47. Peter January 13th, 2014 9:41 am

    Thanks for the easy to understand pattern. But how do I apply this to when I’m strumming chords on my ‘ukulele by myself or when I’m in a group and we are all just strumming chords?
    Thanks

  48. Woodshed January 13th, 2014 9:34 pm

    Peter: It’s not so much for chord playing. More for single note things.

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