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Build Yourself A Major Scale In Any Key

scalesThe twelve notes of the chromatic scale are the building blocks of western music. In solfege, the notes of the major scale are named as: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti (or Si). Another notation that is used is the following: C    D    E    F    G    A    B. All major scales have a typical structure. Let’s have a look at the C major scale to find out more about that structure. The twelve notes of the chromatic scale, starting with C (the C at the end is not counted in the twelve since the scale is repeating itself at that point):

C – C#/Db – D – D#/Eb – E – F – F#/Gb – G – G#/Ab – A – A#/Bb – B – C

Building a major scale is simply a matter of selecting certain notes from the chromatic scale in a specific pattern. Here are some key words we need to know before understanding this pattern.

Octave: An “octave” is twelve half steps. For example, from C to the next higher C is one octave. Root: The “root” of any scale is the note on which it starts. C Major scale’s root is C because it is the first note of the scale. Interval: An “interval” describes the distance between two notes. Scales are a series of intervals. Each different type of scale (major vs. minor, for example) has its own pattern.

Half Step: A “half step” is the distance from one chromatic note to the next chromatic note. For example, C – C#/Db is a half step. Whole Step:  A “whole step” is two half steps. For example, C – D is a whole step. Enharmonic: An “enharmonic” is when two differently notated notes have the same pitch. For example, C# and Db are two different ways of notating the exact same note.

Starting on any root note, the intervals for a major scale are: Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half. So the C major scale looks like below,

C   D   E F   G   A   B C  (C-D: Whole step, D-E: Whole step, E-F: Half step, F-G: Whole step, G-A: Whole step, A-B: Whole step, B-C: Half step). We can use this as formula for building a major scale in any key: 2   2  1  2   2   2  1