The Major scale Explained
The major scale is the scale which sounds positive – it is used when a composer wants to depict happiness, hope, joy or even a party atmosphere. In order to be able to recognise and play a major scale you need to understand semitones (half tones) and tones.
Look at the notes on a keyboard/piano like the one shown below. Start on C and go up pressing down every single black note and white note. This is called the chromatic scale. Each step you go up is called a semitone or a half tone.
This time start on C and go up the keyboard, but instead of pressing down every note on your way up play every other note. Each step you go up this time is a tone. You have just played what is called a whole tone scale.
It is important to understand semitones (half tones) and tones because they are the basis for major and minor scales.
The major scale Explained
Let’s have a look at the the easiest major scale – a C major scale:
C major is the easiest major scale to play because all you have to do is start on a C and play all the white notes up the keyboard until you reach the next C up. Can you see how the notes go up using a variety of semitone and tone steps? The good news is that this combination of semitone and tone steps is actually a set pattern that every major scale follows:
Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone
All you have to do is learn the pattern and you will be able to apply it to any note on the keyboard.
Playing a major scale
As I said, you can start playing on any note on a keyboard and, as long as you follow the set pattern above, you will be able to play a major scale. For example, here is an A major scale:
Can you see how the same pattern of steps (Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone) is used?
Have a go at playing as many major scales as you can using the set pattern.