The Major Scale And Its Intervals

The Major Scale

The basis and foundation of all music theory is the major scale. Its sort of like the playing field or game board where you move notes, names and numbers around as a way of not only playing the game of music but as a way of organizing musical knowledge. I always thought of music theory as ‘words that describe sounds’ and the major scale is a very pleasant, tuneful sounding scale with inherant melodic qualities.


Four Ways To Learn The Major Scale

1.) Solfege syllables
These are the familiar “Do – Re – Mi” singing syllables that are used in melodic analysis, ear training and singing instruction. Each note in the scale will assume its own very familiar sound, almost a personality as you study and grow. I have written a lot of listening, ear trainng studies, guitar exercises and further study of the Major Scale in lesson number 1 of the scale department.

2.) Scale Degrees

For orginizational purposes, the notes in the major scale must also be given numbers 1 through 7. The octave note, C above middle C in this case, is never refered to as “8”. Since it is the root note of the scale it is always considered to be !, ot the 1st note of the scale.


Table Of Intervals

The distance between two notes is called an interval. Intervals are the numerical part of music theory and they form a huge part of the vocabulary and knowledge base. Study the interval chart below with the use of a keyboard, experimenting with playing and listening to the intervals.


3.) Scale Spellings

These are the actual letter names of the notes in the scale -spellings are important because no two major scales are spelled the same. Since the C major scale can be palyed on the keyboard with out using any black keys it is said that “C major has no sharps or flats”. For this reason C Major is the best and easiest scale to use in the study of music theory. If you are beginniong your studies of music theory, copy down the scale you see below in your music writing notebook.


4.) Scale Formulas

are written to show the distances between each and every note in the scale, this is expressed as a series of HALF STEPS and WHOLE STEPS as you see in the graphic below. The next thing to write down in your music writing notebook. is the scale, with its spelling and formula, as written below. Being musically literate contributes directly to your skill level and writing ability. Do any writing exercise several times, until it’s comfortably memorized.


Guitar Wise

1.)For a guitar lesson have completely covered the Major Scale in lesson number 1 of the scale department. As this is a guitar course, there are some guitar exercises included here for greater, hands on understanding for guitarists.

The first exercise directly to your the right is a C major scale played by sliding up and down string 5, the “A” string. Slide your mouse over the diagram and you can see how the highlighting has revealed the symetrical nature of the scale. These 4 note scale segments are called tetrachords (tetra meaning 4). The major scale is composed of two tetrachords, or 4 note scale segments that are symetrical in nature.

Play the scale by sliding you first finger up and down the fretboard. As you pick each note say or sing ” Do – Re – Mi “, as ascend and descend slowly and thoiughtfully through the scale. Play the scale with great care and a sharp ear, almost as if it were a song that was very important to you.

The second exercise is included here for the sake of completeness, it is the classic iopen position version of a C major scale, usually one of the first things someone learns when they are taking guitar lessons.

Play the scale up and down in the same thoughtful and slow manner as yiou say or sing the “Do -Re v- Mi” syllables. If reading the tab or playing the scale paterns are not easy and automatic you should enlist the help of a qualified teacher to take you through this course.



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