Beginning of Major Scales - why start on a fretted note, not the open A string?

I’m a bit confused. Why would we start the A scale on a string that isn’t that note with an open. For instance it would seem to make sense that the A scale would start on the A string and be open. The D on the D string open etc. But that’s not what the example showed. Or am I misinterpreting and that scale can start on any A or D etc…


Hi @brucester and welcome to the community! I hope I don’t mess this up but this is how I look at it.

The fifth string is the open A string. If I’m not mistaken, if you play a major scale with the root note on the fifth string then you’re playing the third shape of that scale. So, as far as I’ve seen so far the third shape of the A scale starts at the 12th fret of the fifth string. And when you play that shape you’ll see that all the notes are played on the 12th and lower frets. So, if you would start the A scale on the open fifth string, you would have to play most of the notes on frets lower than the open strings and you can’t do that.

This is at least how I make sense of your question (which by the way I think is a good question). I’m happy to be corrected if I got anything wrong.

I just realized that what you’re thinking of, you can actually do with the first shape of the Em pentatonic scale (i.e. start on the open sixth string). That’s becase none of the notes go to a lower fret than the open strings. So I guess it has to do with the shape you’re playing.

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Scales begin on the root note and end on the root note that is an octave higher. (doe ray me fa so la ti doe). There are multiple "A " notes on the guitar so your scale can begin on any of those “A” notes. I guess the reason guitar players learn the “A” scale starting on the 5th fret of the 6th string is that you can play two octaves without moving your hand. Once you learn the scale and finger pattern you can play a different scale using the same fingering by changing the starting note. Practing scales is boring but great for picking accuracy and fingering. Use a metonome and it helps with your timing.


Welcome to the forum Bruce.
Philip is correct. You can start the A major scale on any A note on the fret board. You need to start learning somewhere and the A note on the E string is the lowest A note on the guitar.
Also the 5th fret E string is the same note as the open A string

Welcome, @brucester !

Hello @brucester and welcome to the community.
You are learning movable scale patterns.
The moment you introduce an open string that is outside the fret span of the scale pattern you do not have a movable pattern.

Learn the exact pattern of the A major scale and move it up two frets - you now have the B major scale.
If you rely on the open A string you will need to learn something new for the other 11 keys that are not A major.
I hope that helps.

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Makes sense - thanks!