Major Scales are diatonic scales made up of tones & semitones where each note has a different name. There are 8 notes in alphabetical order consisting of 5 tones and 2 semitones - the 8th note is the same as the first note, but is one octave higher.Diagram 1:
The easiest way to describe a tone and a semitone is to use a piano or keyboard instrument. A whole tone is to move from one given note to the 2nd next note immediately above or below it. A half-tone or semitone is to move from one given note to the very next note immediately above or below... more on tones and semitones.
The Step Method
The following diagram describes the pattern of whole and half steps used to calculate any major scale - it is through the C Major Scale that the step method is derived. All the white keys on a piano belong to the C Major Scale - as you move from C to C (one octave higher), the series of whole and half-steps becomes apparent.
This in turn can be used to calculate all other Major Scales.Diagram 2:
- Whole - W represents a whole tone or whole step which is equivalent to 2 semitones
- Half - H represents a half-tone or half step which is equivalent to 1 semitone
- We can determine all major scales by using the step method.
- Each whole and half step is placed between each note of any 8-note major scale in the exact order as follows: W - W - H - W - W - W - H
- 1 - (W) - 2 - (W) - 3 - (H) - 4 - (W) - 5 - (W) - 6 - (W) - 7 - (H) - 8 (Notes represented by numbers 1-8)
Major Scales using Tones and Semitones
So how do we calculate Major Scales?
- All Major Scales start on the same note and finish on the same note
C Maj Scale begins with the note C and ends with the note C.
The D Maj Scale begins with the note D and ends with the note D.
The F Maj Scale begins with the note F and ends with the note F.
- Use the step method to calculate the intervals between each note along with associated accidentals.
There are a number of ways you can use the step method, all of which are equal in terms of the distance between each scale note. Remember that each of these steps occur between each of the 8 scale notes.
- W - W - H - W - W - W - H : This indicates Whole and Half Tones or Whole and Half Steps
- T - T - S - T - T - T - S : Indicates Tones and Semitones
- 2 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 1 : Indicates number of Semitones
They all mean the same thing - some people prefer to use a Tone instead of whole tone or whole-step; a semitone instead of a half tone or half-step; a number representing total semitones instead of names... the choice is yours. The important thing is that you calculate the scale correctly.
The following is a number of examples using the step method of whole and half-steps along with tones and semitones to calculate Major Scales.Table 1:
|C Major Scale||C||D||E||F||G||A||B||C|
|G Major Scale||G||A||B||C||D||E||F#||G|
|D Major Scale||D||E||F#||G||A||B||C#||D|
|F Major Scale||F||G||A||B♭||C||D||E||F|
|B♭ Major Scale||B♭||C||D||E♭||F||G||A||B|
|E♭ Major Scale||E♭||F||G||A♭||B||C||D||E♭|
Below you will find a chart of all the Major Scales along with the order of sharps and flats.
Remember that we are dealing with diatonic scales where every note must have a different name. This means on a music stave, every note has its own line or space - no 2 notes are on the same line except in cases where you have an ascending and descending scale where the first and last notes are exactly the same...
C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C - B - A - G - F - E - D - C
In a major scale, the notes ascending and descending are exactly the same. If there is a F# ascending there will be an F# descending etc.
Major Scales Chart
The following chart lists all the major scales, their sharps and flats and also the order of sharps and flats. This is a key signature and a very important part of music theory.
When I was learning music theory, my teacher gave me 'sayings' to help me remember the order of sharps and flats in any given key signature. The first letter of each word indicated the sharp or flat, and where the word lay in the sentence indicated its order. If you find these sayings hard to remember, make up your own and have fun with them. I use them all the time.
Order of Sharps: Few Can Gain Distinction And Escape Blame...
F - C - G - D - A - E - B
Order of Flats: By Energy And Diligence Good Children Flourish...
B - E - A - D - G - C - F
This order never changes... no matter what key you are in, the order of sharps and flats in a key signature is always the same.
|Major||Sharps||Notes in Scale||Order Of Sharps||Saying|
|C||None||C - D - E - F - G - A - B|
|G||1#||G - A - B - C - D - E - F#||F#||Few|
|D||2#||D - E - F# - G - A - B - C#||F# - C#||Can|
|A||3#||A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G#||F# - C# - G#||Gain|
|E||4#||E - F# - G# - A - B - C# - D#||F# - C# - G# - D#||Distinction|
|*B||5#||B - C# - D# - E - F# - #G - A#||F# - C# - G# - D# - A#||And|
|*F#||6#||F# - G# - A# - B - C# - D# - E#||F# - C# - G# - D# - A# - E#||Escape|
|*C#||7#||C# - D# - E# - F# - G# - A# - B#||F# - C# - G# - D# - A# -E# - B#||Blame|
|Major||Flats||Notes in Scale||Order Of Sharps||Saying|
|C||None||C - D - E - F - G - A - B|
|F||1♭||F - G - A - B♭ - C - D - E||B♭||By|
|B♭||2♭||B♭ - C - D - E♭ - F - G - A||B♭ - E♭||Energy|
|E♭||3♭||E♭ - F - G - A♭ - B♭ - C - D||B♭ - E♭ - A♭||And|
|A♭||4♭||A♭ - B♭ - C - D♭ - E♭ - F - G||B♭ - E♭ - A♭ - D♭||Diligence|
|*D♭||5♭||D♭ - E♭ - F - G♭ - A♭ - B♭ - C||B♭ - E♭ - A♭ - D♭ - G♭||Good|
|*G♭||6♭||G♭ - A♭ - B♭ - C♭ - D♭ - E♭ - F||B♭ - E♭ - A♭ - D♭ - G♭ - C♭||Children|
|*C♭||7♭||C♭ - D♭ - E♭ - F♭ - G♭ - A♭ - B♭||B♭ - E♭ - A♭ - D♭ - G♭ - C♭ - F♭||Flourish|
* indicates 'enharmonic' which is a note or key signature which is equivalent to another note or key signature, but spelled differently, e.g., B Major = C♭ Major F# Major = G♭ Major C# Major = D♭ Major↓ Major Scales chart.
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