The Major Scale

This is globally the most used .

A scale is :

a bundle of notes ( here, 7 notes ) separated by gaps of 1 tone or ½ tone.

a bundle of chords ( here, 7 chords ) built with 4 notes , generated by the 7 notes above .

a certain "atmosphere" or "climate", when you develop it. But it takes some practice for that , this is what is called the modal approach.

Consider the C major scale :

The notes are: C D E F G A B C
The spaces between notes are : W W H W W W H

These spaces , with their precise order , characterize the major scale.

So , the major scale is the “ tone tone ½ tone tone tone ½ tone “ scale.

Let’s find the G major scale:

G A B C D E F# G
W W H W W W H


Exercise :

Find the notes of the Ab major scale.

Now let’s concern with the package of chords generated by the package of notes of the major scale.

Reminder : Composition of a chord

(see the reminder)

A chord is always composed of notes which are called the tonic, third, fifth, and possibly the seventh to be played on demand (if indicated in the score )

- The tonic is the root that gives its name to the chord, and is usually the lowest note of the chord , played generally by the electric bass or double bass .

The third, fifth and seventh are intervals between notes defined as follows:

Major Third: 2 steps over the tonic
Minor third: 1 ½ steps over the tonic
Diminished fifth: 3 steps over the tonic
Perfect fifth: 3 ½ steps over the tonic
Augmented fifth: 4 steps over the tonic
Diminished seventh: 4 ½ steps over the tonic
Minor seventh: 5 steps over the tonic
Major seventh: 5 ½ steps over the tonic

Let's see how chords are encrypted:

For example, A-5bM7 :

- The “-“ indicates a minor third (the third, if major, is not specified) (note = C)

- 5b indicates that the fifth is diminished (note = Eb)

- M7 indicates that the seventh is major (note =Ab)

It is therefore a chord built with the notes A + C + E flat + A flat

For example, B5 # 7

- No indication about the third, it is major (Note = Eb)

- 5# indicates an augmented fifth (Note = G)

- 7 indicated a minor seventh (note = A)

So this chord is built with the notes B + Eb + G + A

For example, A

- The third is major (Note = C # )

- The fifth is perfect (Note = E )

- The seventh is not played since not mentioned

The chord is composed of notes A + C# + E

Genesis of the chords of the C major scale :

See the table on doc6.

We write the C scale, then we'll shift forward a note on the second line, and so on the third, fourth ... :

C     D     E     F     G     A     B

D     E     F     G     A     B     C

E     F     G     A     B     C     D     and so on…

For each line, we take the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th notes to generate a chord and we look at the gap there is between the first and the other notes.

This will give us the chords and their encryptions.

This is by this trick that we ‘ll find the chords generated by any scale, harmonic or melodic minor !

Let’s look , for example , at the line 7 of the doc6 :

B     C     D     E     F     G     A     B

The tonic is the first note: So the chord is B

Between B and D , there is 1 ½ tone, so that is a minor third, and the chord is B-

Between B and F, there are 3 tones, this is a diminished fifth , the chord is spelt B-5b

Between B and A , there are five tones, thus it ‘s a minor seventh, the chord is spelt B-5b7

And voila !

In technical terms, we say that the degree VII of the C major scale (or tonality) is B-5b7

Harmonic analysis of a piece:

With the table doc6, we will be able to analyse a piece harmonically, and understand how the piece has been composed .

Consider the chords sequence as follows:

F       G7       D-7       G7       C       E-       F       G7

This sequence (we will see later how to detect it) is based on the tonality of C major and its analysis is therefore:

F       G7       D-7       G7       C       E-       F       G7

IV/C   V/C   II/C     V/C     I/C   III/C   IV/C   V/C

We say here that G7 is the degree 5 regard to the tone of C major

Harmonic analysis is essential for improvising (discussed later) , and to understand what are the possible notes (scales) to play.

One can also say that the analysis provides informations about which scales th piece has been built with , how many tonalities it contains ...

We see on the third, fourth and fifth chords that we have a II / V / I sequence , which is a very common chords sequence .

On doc7, as a further example, I give you the tonality of Bb and its chords .

Exercise : do it for the C # tonality

Some examples of major scale studies

(doc3)

(doc4)

(doc5)