Major Scales


In this lesson you will learn everything you need to know about major scales. You have to understand major scales if you want to grow as a musician. The Major scale is the mother of all scales and most of the music we hear on the TV or the radio is based on the major scale.
The major scale is familiar to most of us by sound and by sight and it consists of 8 notes in which the 8th note is the repeat of the 1st note.

Before I show you how to build a major scale, you need to understand about intervals, whole step, and half step. 

What are intervals?
The letters in the music alphabet are A B C D E F G, and each letter represents a specific pitch. An interval is the distance between any two musical notes in a melody.

You can build a major scale by following a specific pattern of half-step and whole-step intervals.
The pattern for a major scale is:

major scale formula
W – stands for whole step and H – stands for half step

Half Step
A Half Step is the distance from any note to the very next note (from one pitch to another) or one fret to the next on the guitar. On the guitar, each fret is a half-step apart.

a half step

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The intervals between B to C and E to F are the only naturally occurring half-steps. Naturally occurring means without using sharps or flats.
In other words, you do not have a B#/ Cb between the notes B to C and you do not have an E#/ Fb between the notes E to F.

naturally occurring half steps

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Whole Step
A Whole Step is two half-steps put together. A Whole Step is the equivalent of a two fret span on a guitar.

whole step

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For example, E to F is a half step while C to D, which includes C# (two half steps), is a whole step.

Note: A major scale is also known as a diatonic scale because it contains 5 whole steps and 2 half steps in each octave.

The arrangement of these whole-steps and half-steps in a scale gives the scale a unique quality (example major, minor etc). Starting on any note, if you follow this pattern you will build a major scale in the note’s key.

Example 1: Building a C major scale

Let us build a C major scale using the formula  “Whole – Whole – Half – Whole – Whole – Whole – Half”.

We have C as the root note,

  • a whole step from C would be D (C – C#),
  • a whole step from D would be E (D – D#),
  • a half step from E would be F (since there is no notes between E and F),
  • after two whole steps and a half step we have another whole step, a whole step from F would be G (F – F#),
  • a whole step from G would be A (G – G#),
  • a whole step from A would  be B (A – A#) and
  • a half step from B would be C (since there is no notes between B and C)  

When you finish writing all the notes, your C major scale should look like this:

c major scale


Major Scale Exercise

Fill in the major scale notes using this interval pattern
Whole – Whole – Half – Whole – Whole -Whole – Half

To help you I have filled some of the gaps.
The following scales all contain SHARPS

Major scale exercise

The following scales all contain FLATS

Major scale exercise

Importance of Major Scales

You need to memorize major scales to be able to effectively create chords, create chord progression, knowing the key of a song and much more.

Do yourself a favor and memorize the following table of major scales.

Major scales chart

If you like this lesson, please leave a comment.

I’d appreciate it 🙂


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