The Major Scale

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The major scale is probably the most familiar sound in all of western music.

If you hear the words:

“Doh, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Doh”

… you will most likely associate them with an ascending sequence of notes. If you want to hear that sequence, simply find “C” on the piano and play it, then every white note above it, one at a time. If you try this from any other position, you’ll notice that it doesn’t make that same sound.

The reason for this is to do with intervals. When you play all the white notes upwards from “C”, you ascend by 2 semitones, 2 semitones, 1 semitone, 2 semitones, 2 semitones, 2 semitones and 1 semitone (2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1).

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If you start at any point on the piano and ascend by 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1 semitones at a time, you will make the sound of the major scale from any point. This will require a mixture of white and black notes.

Try starting from any point on the piano and making a major scale from where you are without thinking too much.

Some people like to do this by trial-and-error… hearing the wrong notes they play and correcting them. Others like to count “2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1″. Take a few minutes now and try to make a major scale from any key (black or white) from the piano. You’ll see that some keys are harder to start from than others. Don’t worry too much about that now.

One of the fundamental skills of playing pop and jazz piano is being able to make the major scale starting from any note.

When you play the major scale, starting from “C”, we call that “the key of C major”.

The key of “G” major is the closest related key to “C” major, requiring only one black note (F#).

Try playing the scale of G major. The notes are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G. Only one note is different from C major, and the sound is the same.

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Sit at the piano and try to figure out what notes are needed to make the major scale starting from C, G, D, A and E.

The answers lie in the next lesson (the Circle of Fifths) but it’s really much better if you’ve had a go at figuring it out for yourself. Remember, you can find the notes by counting (2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1) or by listening for wrong notes and correcting them.

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