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HomeMusic Theory: Scales: Major Scales

"Major Scales"
The Structure of Music Starts Here

scale-c-major-halfOne of the biggest issues associated with learning music is why do we learn scales. 

The significance of learning the scales is in application to a song or in composition. The phrases and chords are built around the notes of a scale. The notes of the song will be based on the scale or key signature being used.

If you were playing a song with a specific major scale structure, then it would not make since that someone else in your band be playing with a minor scale structure at the same time.

That would just clash and the audience would likely not be pleased with your performance.

In the note by note learning that is often taught today the theory is only used as an way to simply recognize portions of the music and not the foundation needed to propel your music experience forward. 

You need to understand scale theory in order to be creative in composition and in harmonizing and understanding music flow.


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The Major Scale

On the music theory scales page we introduced you to the concept of music math associated with scales. Here we will take a closer look at the major scale.

The seven notes plus a repeat of the first note an octave up forms the foundation of a scale. Eight notes make a scale.

There is a very specific math formula to create a major scale. The starting note is the root note called the tonic note and is the name of the Key signature and scale. The end note is an octave higher on the same note name.

Here is the staff representation of the C Major Scale in both the treble and bass clefs.


Constructing a Major Scale

The 12 notes with their corresponding sharps and flats are used to build the various  music scales. Use the keyboard section below to follow the visual construction of the C major scale.

The major scales are developed mathematically using whole and half steps. If we assign a numeric value (an interval) to each note, the scales will use the numbers 1  - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 and you will have one of each in the music scale each representing an interval.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C


We use the S = Start position then add the steps to construct a scale. Mathematically the major scale is produced using the following formula.

S + W + W + H + W + W + W + H  
C  - D - E - F - G - A - B - C 

You can create all the scales using this formula. By applying additional music theory as learned in the key signature section you can build scales and see relationships between the various keys signatures and scale building.

Building Scales in Order

One way of relating the scales and the rules of key signatures is to understand scale note relationships.

The tetra blocks are an easy way to build the scales. These groups of four share scale notes. Lets take a look.

For sharp keys - the last four notes of the current scale provide the first four notes of the next sharp scale.  

S +W + W + H + W + W + W + H  
for C
C + D + E + F + [G + A + B + C]

use last 4 for beginning of next scale
[G + A + B + C] + D + E + F# + G

The rule of "the 7th interval creates the new sharp note". As you can see here the F# is the seventh interval and is the added sharp.


Similarly for flat keys, they can be created in a reverse order by using the first four notes of the current scale as the last four of the new scale:

S + W + W + H + W + W + W + H

for C
[C + D + E + F] + G + A + B + C

use first 4 for last half of next scale
F +G + A + Bb + [C + D + E + F]

Then applying the rule of "the 4th as the new flat key", it is "Bb" for the key of F.


This is manner in which you can learn the major scales from C major the 7 sharp keys and the 7 flat keys. Check out the workbooks for complete course on learning and developing all the scales it goes into greater detail on how the sharps and flats are arranged to make the key signature when building scales.

Next up Minor Scales Navagate below.

Learning Resources

Scales Workshop

Learning scales is intimidating for the beginning student.

Don't let them get the best of you.

This Getting It Down Cold Key and Scale Workshop easily leads you through the process step by step.

Learn More...

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