I like to think of the major scale as the ‘diving board into the pool of chord theory’. So much information can be drawn from a major scale:
- key note signatures (of less importance to guitar players)
- chord families – which chords belong in the key of the scale
- the chord formulas for chord variations
A major scale is made up of 8 notes. The notes when played in sequence sound like “DO RE MI FA SO LA TI DO”. The key of C is built off the C major scale, the key of G is built from the G major scale, etc. The notes of the C major scale are: C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C (notice there are no sharps or flats in the key of C).
We can number each of these notes 1 through 8.
An important observation to make here is the interval (or spacing) between each numbered note. I’ll use “w” to represent a whole step, and “h” to represent a half step. So the interval between the numbered notes in the major scale could be represented like this:
1 w 2 w 3 h 4 w 5 w 6 w 7 h 8
Or you could say there are whole steps between all of the notes except between 3 & 4, and 7 & 8. If we follow this pattern, we can “build” the major scale in any key. Look at the following chart:
|A Major Scale Chart|
|Key of C||C||D||E||F||G||A||B||C|
|Key of G||G||A||B||C||D||E||F#||G|
|Key of D||D||E||F#||G||A||B||C#||D|
|Key of A||A||B||C#||D||E||F#||G#||A|
|Key of E||E||F#||G#||A||B||C#||D#||E|
|Key of F||F||G||A||B♭||C||D||E||F|
There are a couple of important things to note in the chart above. In each key, between notes 3 & 4 and 7 & 8 there are half steps. Between all the other numbered notes, there are whole steps. Also, note that each letter A through G are represented in each scale. In the key of G we don’t go from E to Gb because we would skip “F”. Likewise, in the key of F, we don’t go from A to A# because we would not be notating B anywhere in the scale. Also, notes 1 and 8 are always the same, only an “octave” apart in pitch.
For a complete list of the major scales in PDF format, click here: Major Scale Sheet.