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  • Writer's pictureTom Glasson

Grade 1:9 - The Major Scale Formula

Before we look at scales, we need to cover intervals, as the scale is made of different intervals.

An interval is the distance between two notes. We saw semitones in the previous lesson for sharps and flats. Semitones are the smallest interval in western music. It is one note, or one key on a keyboard or one fret on a guitar. Two semitones make a tone. This can be any two semitones, such as F to G or B to C#. These two interval types are used to make scales. We will learn more about intervals in section 12. First, let's see how we combine intervals to make the major scale.

If you play all the white keys on a keyboard starting with a C, up to the next C, you will have played a C Major scale.

A scale is a series of notes. It contains all 7 lettered notes of some kind (natural, sharp or flat) once, in order and starts and ends on the same letter - this letter note is the name of the scale. This means that on the score, there will be a note on every line, and in every space between the first and last note. The C major scale contains C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C - all natural (no sharps or flats). Note that all 7 letters are always used, only once, and always in order from the first note used.

Each note in a scale is numbered, this is called the degree of the scale. The first note is called the 1st, so in C, the C is 1st, D is 2nd, E is 3rd... G is 5th and so on. The degree is different for each scale, so in G major, the G is 1st, and the D is 5th.

The Major Scale Formula

Major Scale Formula

If we look at the intervals between these notes, you will notice the interval between 3rd and 4th and 7th and 8th degrees are both semitones. All the other intervals are tones (two semitones).

C Major Scale Formula

This is the pattern of the Major scale, or the major scale 'formula':

Tone (T), Tone (T), Semitone (S), Tone (T), Tone (T), Tone (T), Semitone (S).

The pattern is the same for every major scale.

There are some important features of major scales:

1) Scales start on the note they are named, so C starts on C.

2) There is a note on every line, and in every space on the stave between the first and last note. (Every letter name is included once, in order,)

3) The pattern is T, T, S, T, T, T, S with the semitones between degrees 3 & 4 and 7 & 8.

These rules are true for every major scale, and we will come back to them when we look at the other grade 1 scales in the next section on the G, D and F Major scales.

A Free Gift for you...

Download the Grade 1 Music Theory Workbook - An Introduction to Music Theory for free. The workbook is a written course which teaches you the entire content of Grade 1 music theory from start to finish, it is the full written version of our video course. It contains activities, with answers, to test your knowledge and give you chance to practice what you are learning.

There are 19 sections, covering every topic as well as reference sheets and materials which will come in handy as you study.

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Introduction to Music Theory Workbook

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