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C Major Scale

The C Major Scale is part 22 in a 31 part series on musical notation and basic music theory. Below we have a C major scale. Notice that we don't play any black keys when we're in the key of C. This makes learning this scale first easier. However, there is a pattern to this scale.

This and other related music scales are what western tonality is based on. This is an introduction to something called diatonic harmony. Once we know the pattern that creates this scale, we can understand how other music theory scales work, how chords are built and how it all fits together like a puzzle.

C Major Scale

A half step (let's call it H) is moving to the next closest piano key on either side, including black keys. Another name for a half step is a semitone.

A whole step (let's call it W) is moving up or down two piano keys, again including black keys. A whole step is the equivalent of or equal to two semitones.

From left to right on the piano or from C to C, what's the pattern?

from C to D is a whole step or W

From D to E is a whole step or W

From E to F is a half step or H

From F to G is a whole step or W

From G to A is a whole step or W

From A to B is a whole step or W

From B to C is a half step or H



IMPORTANT: The reason any scale is major instead of minor, is that there are 4 semitones (or half steps) from the first note of the scale (TONIC) to the third note of the scale. (A) minor scale has a distance of 3 semitones from the TONIC to the third note of the scale.

You have just learned that this scale has all 7 notes contained in something called an octave (from C to C). The 8th note in the sequence is just C again. If an octopus has 8 tentacles and an octagon has 8 sides, then an octave must have 8 notes!!! When you go down the scale from right to left the same rules apply, just in reverse.

NOTE: This is a very important pattern to memorize as it is vital to understanding new keys and new scales. The pattern, WWHWWWH, creates a major scale no matter where you start on the piano(or any instrument). We will explore other scales and how they are built later in the course.

Another name for this major scale is the Ionian scale since it begins and ends on the TONIC (or first) degree in the key of C.

Let's take a look at this scale from the perspective of Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti.

Continue to Part 23, Do Re Mi

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