SCALES: THE MAJOR SCALE
What are Scales? Some music students might tell you that they are technical exercises, and that scales are the 'boring stuff'. However, more than just technical 'workout' exercises, scales are pools of notes from which music composers and improvising musicians draw upon to create compositions or improvise on the fly. There are many different types of scales beyond just the major and minor scales that are typically taught in the traditional pedagogy of piano. For example, there are the blues scales, pentatonic scales, modal scales, jazz scales, and so on. Each individual scale has its own color and character, and knowing your scales well also means that you would have a greater musical palette to express yourself in music. Knowing your scales well also serves as a the very basic foundation for venturing into the next level of musical concepts such as harmonic analysis, arrangement techniques, chord-scale theory, improvisation, and much more.
To begin learning about scales, it would be most useful to start with the major scale, as much of music theory jargon is discussed with reference to the major scale. (More on that in subsequent lessons; for now, don't worry if you're not sure what that means yet!)
To form a major scale, the first step is to find the Key Note. The Key Note of any scale, be it major or minor, is the same note as the name of the scale itself. For example, the key note of C major is C; the key note of Eb major is Eb; etc. For our purposes, let's start with forming the D major scale; the key note of D major is D.
Step 2: Write the subsequent notes from the Key Note up to the same note an octave higher. (e.g. D to D)
Step 3: Check for sharps or flats using the "TTS-TTTS" formula.
The "TTS-TTTS" formula is a description of the order of intervals from one note to the next in a major scale; "T" stands for Tone, while "S" stands for semitone. This means that the interval from the first note to the second should be a tone apart; the interval from the second to the third note should be a tone apart; the interval from the third to fourth note should be a semitone apart; and so on.
Step 4: Adjust for accidentals (sharps or flats) accordingly
After applying the TTS-TTTS formula, the notes that do not adhere to the formula will become apparent, as illustrated by the grey-highlighted note above. After adjusting the note to adhere to the formula, you should have the following scale:
Voila! There you have it, a D major scale! Did you get it? If you would like more practice, email us at to receive a FREE practice worksheet on forming major scales, complete with an answer sheet!
Now that you've learnt how to form major scales, you are ready to learn about Intervals!