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Introducing the Major Scale

In this lesson we will learn all about the major scale. Although we will use a piano keyboard, the lesson should be of use to anyone who wants to learn about one of the most important and useful scales in music.

C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
A
B


Look at the picture of the keyboard above. It shows the familiar repeating pattern of notes. Starting from one C and moving upwards to the next produces the notes : C D E F G A B C.

If you've played those notes on your piano or keyboard - you've just played a Major Scale - it's as simple as that!
  • This is the scale known as C Major.
  • Pieces in C Major use the 8 notes shown above (yes, that's how this site gets its name!)
  • C Major is the most common scale in all Western Music (Classical, popular and jazz)

Understanding Tones and Semitones.

To understand how to find other major scales we need to look more closely at the construction of our C Major Scale. Have a look at the keyboard again. By adding in the black notes, we can see that there are actually 12 notes between one C and the next.

The distance from one of these 12 to its neighbour is known as a semitone. If you have a keyboard, try playing up the keyboard from one C to the next, playing all 12 notes.

Notice how some notes of the C major scale have another note in between them (eg. from C to D there is a black note in between), whereas some don't (eg. from E to F). The gap from C to D consists of two semitones, and is known as a tone.

This pattern of tones and semitones is how the scale gets its particular colour. The major scale is formed out of the following mixture of tones and semitones :

    tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.

Finding other major scales.

To find any other major scale, you simply repeat the pattern of tones and semitones shown above, starting from the note in question.

For example, let's try D major:

First note

D

Tone higher:

E

Tone higher:

F#

Semitone higher:

G

Tone higher:

A

Tone higher:

B

Tone higher:

C#

Semitone higher:

D



(Just in case you're not clear, F# indicates the black note immeditately above the F).

In a similar way, we can find all the Major Chords.

Visit our collection of Piano Major Scales










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