The Major Scale

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.

piano keyboard chromatic scale

Whole Tones

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.

piano keyboard 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:

piano keyboard c major scale

Play 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:

piano keyboard a major scale

Play 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.
Good luck!

In the next lesson we are going to look at the minor scales.