Understanding music scales and the 12 major scales, part two

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Learning the 12 major scales becomes easy once you understand whole steps and half steps.

In this part of our lesson on music scales we will learn a simple formula that you can use to figure out a major scale starting with any note.

Remember that there are 12 different notes that repeat themselves on the keyboard so there are 12 major scales associated with each of the 12 notes.

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So lets begin with the formula and use it to form a few of the major music scales we will be using in our early playing. If you have not done the lesson on whole and half steps click here before completing.

major scales part one, whole and half steps

So what is a major scale?

A major scale is the most important of the music scales to understand. It consists of 8 notes or tones with the first and last note of the scale being the same letter name.

A major scale will contain all the letter names, some may have flats or sharps but all major scales will contain every letter once and only once except for the first and last note which will always be the same.

The Formula?

Start with any note, and then move up the keyboard 2 whole steps, followed by a half step, then three whole steps followed by a half step. The diagram below applies this formula to the C major scale on the keyboard.

Go ahead and play the scale on your piano or electronic keyboard. Don't worry about fingering right now.

Recognize the sound? Notice also that the C scale is the only major scale that contains no black keys.

Now let's apply the formula again and figure out the G major scale.

So starting with the note G we proceed whole step to A, another whole step to B then a half step to C a whole step to D another whole step to E another whole step to F# and finally a half step to G.

So the G scale reads G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G and is pictured below on the keyboard.

So why the F#?

From the note E to F is only an half step (no key in between) and we needed a whole step, so we skip F and use F#. We can't call it Gb because we need to have every letter represented in the scale.

Your mission should you decide to accept it?

Take a few minutes to figure out the D major scale and the A major scale. Remember to try and memorize the way the scales look on the keyboard and to proof them out by the way they sound.


Here is a list of all twelve major scales.

C Major C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

Db Major Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db

D Major D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D

Eb Major Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb

E Major E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# E

F Major F, G, A, Bb, C, D, E, F

Gb Major Gb, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F Gb

G Major G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G

Ab Major Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab

A Major A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A

Bb Major Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb

B Major B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B

What do I do with these scales?

Okay now! Take a breath. You have gotten a lot of information in a short time and may be saying to yourself. I just want to play my favorite songs on the keyboard, not practice music scales!

Speaking as your Personal Piano Professor , I am not suggesting that you need to sit the piano and practice scales all day.

My goal in presenting this material on the major scales is to give the necessary information you will need to figure out any chord you may have to use in your playing! The chord formulas you will learn are all based on knowing the notes of a particular major scale and these formulas will allow you to find any chord on the keyboard with out the aid of a chord chart.

Playing the scales will however give you finger dexterity!

You can't get enough finger dexterity!

I remember that learning to play these music scales with both hands up and down the keyboard was a major pain and it was only my passion for learning that got me through it.

In the end it was a net gain. I can recommend a book called Hannon, the virtuoso pianist part one. This book will give you progressive finger exercises and the fingerings for all the major scales as well as all the other music scales.

A final note...(forgive the pun)

If there is any part of this lesson you have a question about or if you have any suggestions or requests I would be honored to here from you. Use the contact form below for general questions and suggestions and be sure to register for you customized lessons from your Personal Piano Professor.

Understanding musical intervals.

This lesson on musical intervals will teach you to recognize and understand how intervals, the distance between two notes, are used in both melodies and chords on piano.

Learn about musical intervals here

The pentatonic scale.

Learn about this widely used and important scale that is the basis for improvisation on the piano keyboard. Click the link below to begin.

Learn the Pentatonic Scale here...

The Blues Scale.

This lesson on the basic blues scale will give you the basic scale formula to be able to improvise over blues, rock, country and jazz songs. Clink the link below to begin.

Learn the Blues Scale here...

from music scales pt2 to PIANO THEORY
from music scales to Free Piano Lessons for Life HOME PAGE

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