1.13 The major scale


Category: Harmony | Tags: Scales, Ear training: scales


In this chapter you will learn what a scale is. In the videos and examples you learn that the major scale has a fixed sequence of whole and half steps. You will also learn to recognize the major scale by ear.

Several definitions of a scale can be found. However, simple definitions are incomplete and if you look for a more comprehensive definition, they are often full of difficult musical terms, as on Wikipedia. So if you read a definition and you don't get it, or you're left with questions, it's not your fault. A definition doesn't teach you what a scale is.

It is very important to understand and be able to play scales. That's why you need to practice scales on your instrument. Not in a boring, mindless and mechanical robot way. But in a musical way, for example, by playing scales beautifully, musically.

1. What is a scale?

I'm going to explain what a scale is, using the melody of "A Merry Christmas". First, we're going to line up all the tones of this melody. Then we'll take out all the double tones, put the tones in alphabetical order, and start and end the row with the most important tone. This is the tone on which the melody ends.

First download the sheet music (this is without notes but with note names). Next, listen to the melody:



See what happens if we first line up all the notes:
G C C D C B A A A D D E D C B G G E E F E D C A G G A D B C,

and then take out all the double notes so that each note name appears only 1 time:
G C D B A E B F,

and then put the note names in alphabetical order, starting with the note on which the melody ends:
C D E F G A B C.

This sequence of notes is the scale of this song. The melody of "A Merry Christmas" is made up of the notes of this scale. A very important aspect is that a scale is used for the structure of a piece of music, for its construction. When you create a piece of music, or improvise, you use the notes of a scale.

2. The major scale

You have learned that the tones C D E F G A B C is a scale. Do you see that this scale is made up of 7 different tones? That each note name occurs once? That no note name is skipped? Remember this, you will need it for many other scales you are about to learn.



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In the video, you learned that:

  1. the scale C D E F G A B C is a scale with steps: whole - whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half.
  2. a scale with this sequence of whole and half steps, is called a major scale.
  3. the first tone gives the scale its name.
  4. the scale C D E F G A B C is called the C major scale, or the scale of C major.

Every major scale is a scale with steps: whole - whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half.



Which scale is a major scale?

note example

piano example

3. Ear training

Listen to the sound of the major scale.

cd Ch.1.13 The major scaleThe major scale



Ear Training exercise 1h: practise being able to hear a right or wrong played major scale.

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Example question

Is the next major scale played right or wrong?


Practical steps

Sing the scale being played to train your inner hearing abilties. Decide whether the scale sounds like the major scale or not.

Answer: wrong.