In the introductory
lesson, we learned its basic intervals - the whole step and
half step building blocks
of the scale. This lesson will delve a bit deeper into how these
intervals are formed. We can call this the major scale formula.
The most effective way of breaking down this formula is to see it in
relation to the chromatic
scale - the entire twelve notes of the guitar. The major
scale uses just seven notes from the twelve tone chromatic scale, which
is what gives us its unique intervals - the spaces between each note in
The table below shows us the twelve chromatic scale degrees. Each one
can be seen as a half
step/semitone interval from the previous/next. I've
highlighted in yellow which of these intervals are used by the major
So as you can see, there are no sharp or flat degrees in the
major scale - 1
2 3 4 5
We can also see that some degrees in the major scale are a half step
apart and others a whole step apart.
Just remember, there is a half step between the 3rd and 4th, 7th and
This gives us the interval formula of W
W H W W W H. Two whole steps followed by three whole steps.
Each degree of the scale can also be given an interval name in relation
to the root (1)
1 - 2 = major second
1 - 3 = major third
1 - 4 = perfect fourth
1 - 5 = perfect fifth
1 - 6 = major sixth
1 - 7 = major seventh
1 - 1 = unison
Another way of looking at it is to see a sequence of major 3rd and
minor 3rd intervals...
Major 3rd interval = two whole steps
Minor 3rd interval = one and a half steps
1 - 3 = major 3rd
2 - 4 = minor 3rd
3 - 5 = minor 3rd
4 - 6 = major 3rd
5 - 7 = major 3rd
6 - 1 = minor 3rd
7 - 2 = minor 3rd
Later, we'll learn about the significance of these major and minor 3rd
intervals, using them to build chords for harmonising the major scale.
If we use the same table as before, but this time use note names, we
can see which notes make up the C major scale (it's C major because C
is the root)...
I have to admit, I never fully memorised the major scale's note names
for every root.
I prefer to memorise the interval relationships we looked at earlier.
As long as you know the interval formula of the scale, you should be
able to play the scale in any key simply by moving the root to the
appropriate note (e.g. D major = D,
E major = E,
C# major = C#)
and visualising the interval sequence from that position.
course, you'll need to be able to visualise the scale on the fretboard.
See the links below for more lessons that will help you with this.