Building Major scales intervallically

For our third music theory lesson, we explore a different way of building Major scales. Instead of relying on the Circle of 5ths and moving from one scale to the next, we pick a starting key and build the scale using a sequence of half steps and whole steps that is unique to Major scales.

Goal: Build a Major scale starting on any note without using the Circle of 5ths

Method: Use the sequence of intervals for Major scales

Interval: Distance between one note and another

Why it works: Even though each Major scale has a different key signature, every Major scale has the same intervallic sequence

Intervals used in Major Scales: Half Steps and Whole Steps

Half Step: Distance between two notes right next to each other
Whole Step: Distance between two notes that have one note in between them

Whole Step = 2 Half Steps

Half steps in C Major:

between E and F (3 and 4)
between B and C (7 and 8)

Whole steps in C Major:

between C and D (1 and 2)
between D and E (2 and 3)
between F and G (4 and 5)
between G and A (5 and 6)
between A and B (6 and 7)

Major Scale Intervallic Sequence: Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half This intervallic sequence is what makes the scale Major

Major Scale Intervallic Sequence Applied to C:

C Major Intervalic Sequence in Chromatic Scale
C Major on its own

Major Scale Intervallic Sequence Applied to Ab:

Ab Major Intervallic Sequence in Chromatic Scale
Ab Major Scale on its own

So, now that you know this sequence of intervals defines a Major scale, you should be able to use it to build Major scales starting on any note!

Exercise: Try using this method to build other Major scales (I recommend going through all 12 but you can pick the ones you want).

1) Pick a starting note.
2) Use the sequence whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half to build a Major scale starting on that note.
3) Check your work

A) Does the scale start and end on the same note ? If not, then something’s wrong.
B) How many sharps or flats does the scale contain? Check your answer against the Circle of 5ths and make sure you have the correct number of accidentals (on the correct notes) for the key you chose.
C) Did you skip any letters? You should have used all 7 letters to build your scale.

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