E major scale

Learning the E major scale can be a challenge for some musicians.

There are many ways to learn the E major scale, but keeping all of the information straight can be tough.

We’ve created this guide to make learning the E major scale easy. In this guide, you’ll find interval structure, notes of the scale, chords of the key, and more. You’ll also find helpful diagrams and guitar positions. Plus, we’ve included a list of popular chord progressions in this key and songs that use this key signature.

Introduction To E Major Scale

The scale has been used in many concertos, but its use in symphonies was less. But many of these, which begin in the key of E minor, switch to E major for the finale. Some musicians have associated the key of E major with the “Music of Contemplation.”

Since the lowest and highest strings of the guitar are tuned to E, many slide guitar musicians prefer it, particularly in the Blues.

Structure of Major Scales

You may already be aware of the structure of any major scale. All major and minor scales follow the same pattern, characteristic of any diatonic structure. So, like other diatonic scales, a major scale has seven notes separated by 5 tones and two semitones, based on the following scale formulas.

{W W H W W W H} in terms of the whole step and half step, and

{T T S T T T S} in terms of tones and semitone.

The structure can be shown by a more detailed representation below:

R – T – M2 – T – M3 – S – P4 – T – P5 – T – M6 – T – M7 – S – R(O), where R(O) is the root an octave higher.

Intervals Of E Major

As you can interpret from the detailed structural representation, the intervals of any major scale are:

R – M2 – M3 – P4 – P5 – M6 – M7 – R(O),

Capital M represents a Major interval, Major 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 7th, in the present case, and

Capital P represents a Perfect interval, Perfect 4th and 5th.

Note Names Of E Major

You may use the scale formulas given above to find the notes of E major, as shown below:

R – E – T- F# – T – G# – S – A – T – B – T – C# – T – D# – S – E(O). This gives the notes as {E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E(O)}, where E(O) is one octave above the root.

As you can see, the key signature of the E major carries four sharps. Hence, if you play it on a piano keyboard, you must play four black keys and three white keys.

IntervalsRoot M2M3P4P5M6M7
Scale Degrees1234567

Diagram Of This Scale On The Treble And Bass Clef:

You can see the notes of the E major scale on the bass and treble clef below.

Treble Clef

Bass Clef

E Major Scale Guitar Positions

Before you embark on your journey to play major scales on the guitar, you need to memorize the notes on the guitar fretboard. It will help you a great deal. As you may already know, playing the guitar scales helps you hone your creative skills and teaches you to improvise and even make your own melodies.

Observe the complete E major scale on the below diagram on the D string. The root note E is shown in orange color, while all other notes are in pink. The notes on any fretboard repeat after the twelfth fret (the octave), and the twelfth fret have the notes of the open strings. The diagram shows the notes of the E Major scale across the entire fretboard.

E Major Scale Up to 14 Fret

Don’t be overwhelmed with the second diagram, as yet. In the following section, you will learn to understand and play it with a fair degree of comfort, using what is known as the CAGED system in guitar music theory parlance.

The CAGED system divides the fretboard into five distinct boxes, patterns, or enclosures. Each box has a unique name, different note order, and position on the fingerboard. The notes may, of course, sometimes overlap between these boxes.

To learn to play them, you should start with one box at a time. Once you have completed the first two boxes and are comfortable with both, start linking the two shapes together.

In the subsequent sections, we introduce you to the individual patterns and suggest easy fingerings for each shape. Please note that the order of these positions is selected from the CAGED system in the increasing order of the fret number with the root note. For example, the D shape has the lowest root note position at the 2nd fret, lower than any other shape; hence it is considered the first box, and so on.

Please note that the fingering patterns and switching suggested for you below involve minimal movement of your fretting hand. You are free to follow any other if you have previously tried or are comfortable with it.

1st Shape Or Box (D Shape)

See the diagram below for the CAGED system’s D shape for the E major scale. The D shape spans from the 1st to the 5th fret, with the lowest root note on the second fret of the 4th (D) string. You may know that the strings are numbered from high E (first string) to low E (sixth string). Carefully observe the position of all the root notes.


While practicing the scales, always start from the lowest root note, in the present case, on the 4th string. Go all the way up to the A on the first string before returning back to the F# on the sixth string, and finally return back to the E on the fourth string.

To play this shape, place your index finger on the first fret, the middle finger on the second, your ring finger on the third, and the pinky finger on the fourth fret. Let us call this Finger Position I. Since this shape spans five frets, it is trickier, particularly for beginners.

Start by playing E on the fourth string with the middle finger, then F# with the little finger. Continue playing G# on the third string with the index, A with the middle, and B with the little finger.

Here is the important portion, where you need to switch your fingers one fret horizontally so that the following note C# on the 2nd string is played by your index, Eb by the middle, and E by the little finger. Let us call this Finger Position II.

Again, you need to make the following switches of the fingers:

  1. Switch back to Finger Position I on returning back from the 2nd string to the 3rd string.
  2. Switch to Finger Position II on transitioning from the 4th to the 5th string.
  3. Switch to Finger Position I to go back from the 5th to 4th string to complete one scale round.

2nd Shape Or Box (C Shape)

The 2nd shape, or the C shape, spans from the 4th to the 7th fret of the fretboard, with the lowest root note on the 7th fret of the fifth string. The diagram is placed below. This shape is much easier to play as it spans only four frets and does not require switching off fingers. You may use the index for the 4th fret, the middle for the 5th, the ring for the 6th, and the little finger for the 7th fret.


Remember to start on the lowest root note on the 5th string before going to B on the high string, back to Ab on the low string, and before returning back to E.

3rd Shape Or Box (A Shape)

As seen from the diagram below, the 3rd pattern, or the A shape, spans from the 6th to the 10th fret of the fretboard, with the lowest root note on the 7th fret of the fifth string.

E Major Scale P3 (A shape)

As the shape spans five frets, you will require switching of fingers as shown to you for the D shape. However, instead of four switches, you can play the shape with only two switches, from the 3rd to 2nd string and back.

4th Shape Or Box (G Shape)

The 4th shape, or the G shape, spans from the 8th to the 12th fret, with the lowest root note on the 9th fret of the third string. See the below diagram.


Observe that this and E shapes have three root notes instead of two, as we have seen so far. This shape will require you to make four switches in your finger placements.

5th Shape Or Box (E Shape)

As per the below diagram, the 5th shape, or the E shape, spans from the 11th to the 14th fret, with the lowest root note on the 12th fret of the sixth string. C and E shapes are the easiest to play as they span over four frets only.


However, as the fifth shape is near the body, the frets get closer, making it particularly difficult for players with large hands. Secondly, if your guitar does not have a cutaway, playing the frets while keeping your hand parallel to the fretboard may be difficult.

What Are The Chords Of E Major?

The E major scale notes and their scale degrees are {E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#}.

Scale Degree1234567
Chord DesignationIiiiiiIVVvivii°
Chord QualityMajorminorminorMajorMajorminordiminished
Chord NameEF#mG#mABC#mD#dim

Harmonizing any major scale results in the following seven sets of chords:

  1. Three major chords start with scale degrees I, IV, and V. For the E scale, these are E, A, and B major chords.
  2. Three minor chords start with scale degrees ii, iii, and vi. These are F#m, G#m, and C#m chords for the E major scale.
  3. One diminished chord, vii°, D#dim.

What Are The Notes In These Chords?

As you may be aware, the triad chords are built by stacking the intervals of thirds (major third, M3 and minor third, m3) above the root. This leads to the following types of triads:

  1. R – M3 – m3 gives a major chord
  2. R – m3 – M3 gives a minor chord
  3. R – m3 – m3 gives a diminished chord
  4. R – M3 – M3 gives an augmented chord

Since harmonizing a major scale, does not yield any augmented chord, we can focus on the first three sets of intervals to find the notes of the different chords, starting with each scale degree as the first note of the chords. The seven sets of triads are shown in the table below.

Scale DegreeDetailed Intervals & NotesNotesChord Name
1R - E - M3 - G# - m3 - BE G# BE Major
2R - F# - m3 - A - M3 - CF# A C F# minor
3R - G# - m3 - B - M3 - D#G# B D# G# minor
4R - A - M3 - C# - m3 - EA C# EA Major
5R - B - M3 - D# - m3 - F#B D# F#B Major
6R - C# - m3 - E - M3 - G#C# E G#C# minor
7R - D# - m3 - F# - m3 - AD# F# AD#dim

Popular Chord Progressions In The Key Of E Major

Relative Minor Of E Major

The relative scales share the same notes. You can find out the relative minor scales of any major scale by any one of the three methods:

  1. The sixth scale degree of the major scale is the relative minor. In the current case, C# is the note at the sixth degree. Hence C#m is the relative minor of the E major.
  2. You can use the circle of fifths diagram, as shown below. The inner circle in the diagram shows the relative minor, corresponding to every major scale.
  3. In another method, you can move three steps clockwise to get the relative minor. E major is at the 4 o’clock position in the circle of fifths. By moving the steps clockwise, you reach the 7 o’clock position, which has the notes C#/Db. Hence C#m is the relative minor.
  4. The last method involves lowering the note by a minor third or going three semitones below. If you move three half steps below, i.e., {D#, D, C#}, you get the relative minor as C#m.
Circle of Fifths

Songs In The Key Of E Major

Some of the famous and iconic guitar songs that make use of the key of E major are

  • “I want to break free” by Queen.
  • “Black or White” by Michael Jackson.
  • “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
  • “Slow dancing in the burning room” by John Mayer.
  • “My heart will go on” by Celine Dion.


That’s all for the E major scale. This blog post looked at this scale’s intervals, notes, and chords. We also looked at some popular chord progressions and songs in this key. I hope you found this information helpful. Please let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions or want me to clarify anything. Happy practicing!

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