Here’s A Lesson On The Major Scale For Beginners

If you’re interested in learning about the major scale, then you just arrived at the right page.

Attention: This lesson is written with beginners in mind, to take them step-by-step through the major scale in all twelve keys. Consequently, intermediate and advanced players may find it absolutely easy.

In this lesson, we’re starting out, assuming that you know nothing about scales. So, let’s answer the question that a vast majority of beginners ask: “what is a scale?”

A Short Note On The Musical Scale

The term scale is derived from the Latin word scala which means ladder or staircase.

Believe it or not, the musical scale has a lot to do with the staircase and you’ll understand that in a better light as we proceed.

Here’s the definition of a scale:

A scale is a product of the progression of notes in ascending or descending order, based on a fixed formula.

The part of the definition of a scale that says “progression of notes” talks about the nature of scale. Scales are melodic in nature and this explains why the notes of a scale are played or heard successively.

The part of the definition of a scale that says “ascending or descending” talks about the direction of a scale. A scale can either ascend or descend.

The part of the definition of a scale that says “fixed formula” talks about the distance between the successive notes of a scale.

Playing all the white notes on the keyboard successively from C to C:

…in ascending or descending direction, using a fixed formula produces a scale.

Although there are a variety of scales, our focus in this lesson is on the major scale. So, let’s proceed to the study of the major scale.

The Major Scale – Explained

The major scale is an outline of all the notes in the major key, starting from the tonic (which is the key center) to its octave (which is a duplicate of the tonic.)

The most universal major scale is the C major scale:

…which is an outline of all the notes in the C major scale:

…starting from C (which is the key center:

…and ending on C (the octave):

The Formula Of The Major Scale

The formula of the major scale is derived from the  distance between its successive tones. For example, in the C major scale:

The distance between C to D:

…is a whole-step.

The distance between D to E:

…is a whole-step.

The distance between E to F:

…is a half-step.

The distance between F to G:

…is a whole-step.

The distance between G to A:

…is a whole-step.

The distance between A to B:

…is a whole-step.

The distance between B to C:

…is a half-step.

If we go ahead and represent whole-steps with “w” and half-steps with “h”, we’ll derive the formula of the major scale:

w w h w w w h

Although there are so many ways to formularize the major scale. One of the them that we’ve covered in the past is using the mnemonic why won’t he wear white when hot.

Why represents the whole step

Won’t represents the whole step

He represents the half step

Wear represents the whole step

White represents the whole step

When represents the whole step

Hot represents the half step

Instead of the formular:

w w h w w w h

…we can use the mnemonic:

why won’t he wear white when hot

Let’s apply this mnemonic to the formation of the major scale in all the twelve major keys on the keyboard.

The Formation Of The Major Scale In All Twelve Keys

In this segment, we’ll be forming the major scale in all twelve keys using the mnemonic we covered in the last segment.

We’ll be using the musical clock:

…as a reference and we’ll be going counter-clockwise from F to Bb, etc.

The F Major Scale

Starting from F:

Why takes us to G:

Won’t takes us to A:

He takes us to Bb:

Wear takes us to C:

White takes us to D:

When takes us to E:

Hot takes us to F:

Altogether, we have the F major scale:

The Bb Major Scale

Starting from Bb:

Why takes us to C:

Won’t takes us to D:

He takes us to Eb:

Wear takes us to F:

White takes us to G:

When takes us to A:

Hot takes us to Bb:

Altogether, we have the Bb major scale:

The Eb Major Scale

Starting from Eb:

Why takes us to F:

Won’t takes us to G:

He takes us to Ab:

Wear takes us to Bb:

White takes us to C:

When takes us to D:

Hot takes us to Eb:

Altogether, we have the Eb major scale:

The Ab Major Scale

Starting from Ab:

Why takes us to Bb:

Won’t takes us to C:

He takes us to Db:

Wear takes us to Eb:

White takes us to F:

When takes us to G:

Hot takes us to Ab:

Altogether, we have the Ab major scale:

The Db Major Scale

Starting from Db:

Why takes us to Eb:

Won’t takes us to F:

He takes us to Gb:

Wear takes us to Ab:

White takes us to Bb:

When takes us to C:

Hot takes us to Db:

Altogether, we have the Db major scale:

The Gb Major Scale

Starting from Gb:

Why takes us to Ab:

Won’t takes us to Bb:

He takes us to Cb:

Wear takes us to Db:

White takes us to Eb:

When takes us to F:

Hot takes us to Gb:

Altogether, we have the Gb major scale:

The B Major Scale

Starting from B:

Why takes us to C#:

Won’t takes us to D#:

He takes us to E:

Wear takes us to F#:

White takes us to G#:

When takes us to A#:

Hot takes us to B:

Altogether, we have the B major scale:

The E Major Scale

Starting from E:

Why takes us to F#:

Won’t takes us to G#:

He takes us to A:

Wear takes us to B:

White takes us to C#:

When takes us to D#:

Hot takes us to E:

Altogether, we have the E major scale:

The A Major Scale

Starting from A:

Why takes us to B:

Won’t takes us to C#:

He takes us to D:

Wear takes us to E:

White takes us to F#:

When takes us to G#:

Hot takes us to A:

Altogether, we have the A major scale:

The D Major Scale

Starting from D:

Why takes us to E:

Won’t takes us to F#:

He takes us to G:

Wear takes us to A:

White takes us to B:

When takes us to C#:

Hot takes us to D:

Altogether, we have the D major scale:

The G Major Scale

Starting from G:

Why takes us to A:

Won’t takes us to B:

He takes us to C:

Wear takes us to D:

White takes us to E:

When takes us to F#:

Hot takes us to G:

Altogether, we have the G major scale:

Final Words

Congratulations! You just completed your study on the major scale. Go ahead and practice the major scale in all twelve keys on both hands.

See you in the next lesson!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.