Learn Major & Minor Scales the Easy Way (Part 1)

Learn Major & Minor Scales the Easy Way (Part 1)

The minor fall and the major lift. While the minor keys sound sad, depressing, soft and dark, the major keys sound the other way round—the sound of it is cheery, bright, clear and open. The following is a series of an overview of major and minor scales but we will first look at major scale first in part 1. By the end of this lesson, you should be able to play any major scale on the guitar.

Major Scale

As for major scale, each pitch has the following interval:
Tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone

Let’s take the extensively used C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B & C) as an example.
C and D have an interval of tone
D and E have an interval of tone
E and F have an interval of semitone
F and G have an interval of tone
G and A have an interval of tone
A and B have an interval of tone
B and C have an interval of semitone

Key Signature

In musical notation, a key signature is a set of accidentals, including sharp (#), flat (b) and rarely, natural (♮) symbols placed together on the staff, between the clef and the time signature.

Here is a list of major keys:

Cb-7 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb)
Gb-6 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb)
Db-5 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)
Ab-4 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
Eb-3 flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
Bb-2 flats (Bb, Eb)
F-1 flat (Bb)
C-no sharps or flats
G-1 sharp (F#)
D-2 sharps (F#, C#)
A-3 sharps (F#, C#, G#)
E-4 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#)
B-5 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#)
F#-6 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#)
C#-7 sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)

How to construct major scales?

  • Step 1: Start with the Root Note
    The name of the scale specifies its tonic and its interval pattern. For example, C major is a major scale based (rooted) on C. In other words, if you want to compose C major scale, start with a C.

  • Step 2: Reach an Octave Higher (or Lower)

From the root note, put a note on every line and space on the staff until you reach C again. There should be 8 notes altogether.

  • Step 3: Add the accidentals

Since the key signature of C major has no accidentals. You need not add any flats or sharps to it. G major, however, has one sharp, F#, in its key signature. Therefore, we need to make any F in this scale sharp.

Exercise: Apply the above three steps to all other the major keys.

Ready to play all major scales on the guitar?

1. C Major Scale ( C D E F G A B )

C Major Scale

2. G Major Scale ( G A B C D E F# )

G Major Scale

3. D Major Scale ( D E F# G A B C# )

D Major Scale

4. A Major Scale ( A B C# D E F# G# )

A Major Scale

5. E Major Scale ( E F# G# A B C# D# )

E Major Scale

6. B Major Scale ( B C# D# E F# G# A# ) / Cb Major Scale ( Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb )

B/Cb Major Scale

7. F# Major Scale ( F# G# A# B C# D# E# ) /Gb Major Scale ( Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F )

F#/Gb Major Scale

8. C# Major Scale ( C# D# E# F# G# A# B# ) / Db Major Scale ( Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C )

C#/Db Major Scale

9. Ab Major Scale ( Ab Bb C Db Eb F G )

Ab Major Scale

10. Eb Major Scale ( Eb F G Ab Bb C D )

Eb Major Scale

11. Bb Major Scale ( Bb C D Eb F G A )

Bb Major Scale

12. F Major Scale ( F G A Bb C D E )

F Major Scale

Wonder if it is possible to figure out and remember all the key signatures and major scales in a more systematic way? Let’s look into the method called circle of fifths.

In the next entry, we will be looking at the minor scale. Don’t miss out on a gem!