The Major Scale

Question: These are the questions that my music teacher asked me and I didn’t quite know what he was trying to tell me.

Here are the questions:

  • Of what is the major scale composed?
  • What degrees of the scale are used to build the major scale?

Could you help?

– Courtney

Albert’s reply: All scales are composed of intervals. Standard scales (major and minor) are all composed only of seconds; there are no thirds, fourths or any other intervals involved.

The interval between any of these notes and the next is a second:

Since we don’t have a clef, we don’t know what notes these actually are – only that the intervals between them are seconds. We can ascertain this purely visually, since subsequent notes are all on the very next available line or space above the last.

Since we don’t know the actual notes (only their relative positions to one another), we don’t know what kind of seconds they are. Each second can be diminished, minor, major or augmented (each of these is one half step greater than the last.)

Intervals can be abbreviated as follows:

  • diminished 2nd: °2
  • minor 2nd: m2
  • major 2nd: M2
  • augmented 2nd: +2

The major scale is composed of the following intervals: M2, M2, m2, M2, M2, M2, m2.

There are seven notes in the major (and minor) scale, and they are referred to by scale degrees 1 through 7. The first note of the scale is scale degree 1, the second is scale degree 2, etc.

For more detail, please read How to Play a Piano Scale.

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