Music Theory Part 2 – The Major Scale

Welcome to part 2 in our Music Theory series.  If you don’t already know what tones and semitones are then Find part 1 here.

The Major Scale is the foundation of Western music.  All other scales are described in terms of how they differ with it.
It is almost built-in to our brains, being the “doh-ray-mi” scale, and the heart of all nursery rhymes, jingles and ditties.  The number of songs and compositions built upon the Major scale is uncountable, it is the beginning of all music theory.

To build a major scale we begin with a “root note”.  This is the note that gives the scale its name.  For example, the C Major scale begins from the note of C, the G Major scale from G, and so on, without exception.  From this root note, the scale is built by following a certain formula, taking steps of either a tone or a semitone.  So where T = Tone and S = Semitone, the Major scale formula is:
(root note)        T        T       S       T       T       T        S        (root note)

So, in practice, using C major this gives us:


Thus the C Major scale is –  C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

The steps of the scale are numbered, and this is usually using roman numerals.  Although the scale is often written out as above, finishing at the root note at the top of the scale, it is also very often just written as 7 steps, finishing at the note before the repeated root note, in this case B.  So let’s take this, (below) to be our finished C Major scale, and remember we’ve found it by starting from a root note, then following a formula.

I          II          III          IV          V          VI          VII
C         D           E           F           G           A           B


Summary – The Major Scale is made using the formula T, T, S, T, T, T, S  and leaves us with 7 notes, all numbered.


Next Time – The Relative Minor Scale

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