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Basic Music Theory 2: Major Scale

Updated: Sep 17, 2018

This is the ‘bread and butter’ of Western music. It consist of 7 notes derived from the 12 note chromatic scale. We can use the chromatic scale to find the notes of any major scale/ key using a very simple method. Lets look at the chromatic scale again:

I. The distance between A and A#Bb is a semitone or half step (one fret).

II. The distance between A and B is a tone or wholestep (twofrets). III. Once we get to G#/Ab the notes cycle back round to A again.

To find the notes of a major scale/key all we need to do is follow this simple formula for the intervallic sequence:

tone - tone - semitone - tone - tone - tone - semitone

To make it simpler to read lets abbreviate it:


This method works for all keys but for this example, lets work out the notes for the key of Aor A major:

A Major= A B C# D E F# G#A

Lets translate this on the fretboard:

If you have understood the concept and had a go working out some scales for yourself.

I recommend getting a pencil and some paper to work out other scales.

Write down the 12 notes, then use the T-T-S-T-T-T-S formula starting from the note of your choice. Check the table below to see if you got them right:

You may be asking yourself “How do you know whether to name a note sharp (#) or flat (b)?”. The answer to this is simple. If we take the key of F as an example, it makes logical sense to call the note Bb instead of A# because we already have an A note within the scale:


Much easier to read and understand than:

F G A A# C D E F

Hope that makes sense to you. Let me know how useful you have found this in the comments section and feel free to ask questions.


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