What Is The Major Scale – An Uncomplicated Definition!

Major Scale

Hola Amigos! We have gathered here today to witness the simplification of a guitar concept. This concept is hardly rocket science but is often over complicated by fancy music terminology. While that is great to impress your friends I believe it is more important to grasp the concept completely especially considering how important it is as a guitarist.

Let us answer the question “What Is The Major Scale?” For simplicity, we shall try and stick to the basics without straying too far into the complexities of music just yet.

The Major Scale – A Proper Introduction.

The Major Scale (which is also called the Ionian Mode), is one of the most important scales to music as many other scales and Chords are derived from it. The Major scale is composed of 8 notes in total. The first note and the last note are the same note. The difference is that the second note is an Octave higher than the first note.

For us, at this point, it is good enough to define an octave as a note that is 8 notes higher.

Tip: You can find more on MODES in the paragraph below that I have dedicated to them.

The Setup – Formula For Success!

The Major Scale is one of the principle concepts in music. The Major Scale has a set formula which can be learned and applied. The formula can be remembered in the following two ways:

  • Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone. (T, T, S, T, T, T, S)
  • Whole Step. Whole Step, Half Step, Whole Step, Whole step, Whole step, Half Step. (W, W, H, W, W, W, H)

Now that you know this tiny bit of very helpful information, perhaps you feel an example will facilitate a better understanding of the subject, however, we must first establish (or recall) some things. As you are probably aware by now, the musical alphabet is comprised of 7 letters of the English alphabet, namely:

  •  A, B, C, D, E, F and G.

If we are to now include the half steps/ semitones that exist between these notes of the musical alphabet, we get:

  • A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G# (then back to A note but an Octave higher)

If you are wondering why there are no semitones between B and C as well as E and F it is because there are none in western music that I know of. More precisely E# is mathematically equivalent to pitch and duration to the note we call F. The same rule applies to B# being equivalent to C.


The Major Scale Formula – Action Time!

I feel that as a reward to you (for being awesome!) I will walk you through you two examples of the use of this formula. Since the examples above start with AI will continue with that order and will also show you the C Major Scale. If you are wondering why it is simply because C Major is a very common scale because it has no sharp or flat notes.

Let us begin with the A Major Scale. The first note of the scale is an A note and that is where the scale gets its name from. To find the notes of the scale we can simply apply our formula from above (don’t worry it isn’t like those hardcore math formulae you had to use in school!).

To use the formula:

  1. Write out the musical alphabet (with sharps included), starting with the first note of the scale.
    1. In our case, we are figuring out the notes of the A Major scale, so the first note is A.
  2. Write the Major Scale Formula beneath your Alphabet to find the right notes.
    1. Remember its Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone.
  3. Locate the notes on your guitar and play the Major Scale.
    1. You can play the scale horizontally along the string or vertically up and down the frets.

So following our steps we get this.

A Major Scale


And Applying the exact same steps to C.

  1. Write out the musical alphabet (with sharps included), starting with the first note of the scale.
    1. In our case we are figuring out the notes of the C Major scale this time, so the first note is C.
  2. Write the Major Scale Formula beneath your Alphabet to find the right notes.
    1. Remember its Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone.
  3. Locate the notes on your guitar and play the Major Scale.
    1. You can play the scale horizontally along the string or vertically up and down the frets.

So following our steps this time we end up with this.

C Major Scale


I Have Heard About MODES – Tell Me More!

Modes are often a topic of confusion for many. I can now put this definition n a very simple way because after reading the information above you will now have a firm grasp of the Major Scale (hopefully – if not just ask below in the comments to clarify if necessary.)

A Mode is the Major Scale starting on different root notes. Modes are a very interesting topic (to me at least) so I will give you their names to give you a taste for them. In alphabetical order, the Modes are:

  • Aeolian
  • Dorian
  • Ionian
  • Locrian
  • Lydian
  • Mixolydian
  • Phrygian


Short And Sweet – A To G, For You, By Me!

Here I have decided to show you all of the notes once the formula is applied to every letter in the musical alphabet.

In Order, we Have the, A Major Scale, B Major Scale, C Major Scale, D Major Scale, E Major Scale, F Major Scale and the G Major Scale

Major Scales

Congratulations! – You Now Know The Major Scale!

Thanks for reading all of this. I hope it has been of benefit to you as it has definitely been of benefit to me trying to put this together and therefore having to make sure everything I tell you is accurate. I hope that this will serve you as you continue or begin your musical journey.

Keep practising and playing around on your guitar, that’s the whole point! Learning and playing shouldn’t feel like a chore but should actually be fun and entertaining. My hope for you is that the guitar will always bring you excitement and enjoyment as you play.

As always please feel free to comment and share your thoughts, opinions or corrections.

8 Replies to “What Is The Major Scale – An Uncomplicated Definition!”

  1. I am 51 and just thinking about getting a guitar and signing up for some lessons online.  Hey, I know I will never be Hendrix but maybe the campfire may appreciate my efforts.  I just read your page in the entirety and I have to say I am going to need to do a lot of learning,  You make it seem so simple but in my reality I feel kind of out of my league.  Im sure that can all be overcome with good beginner lessons.  If you have any suggestions feel free to share.

    1. Hey Dale! You are only too old to play when you say you are! No one else can ever be Hendrix, but no else can ever be you either! You don’t have to be the best in the world, just be the best you that is possible and you will surprise yourself for sure.

      There are many good posts on this site (in my humble opinion) however if you are looking for a well-structured programme to take you from beginner through to advanced I would suggest taking a look at my JamPlay Review.

  2. My 6y son is asking me to get him a guitar teacher so he can start learning. I’m trying to find some online tutorials first, to give him a bit more sense of what is it to learn an instrument, before I pay a lot of money to teachers. Your post helps me to remind myself what is the major scale, so I can teach my son now.

    Do you think a boy of his age needs to learn this theory basics or just jump strait to practice? Do you have any specific kids oriented tutorials?

    1. Hi Mary! Thank you for commenting. I think it is good to give your son an idea of what he is in for. It does require discipline and patience to learn any instrument but it is well worth it in my opinion. There are people who just learn to play (play by ear) without getting to deep into theory and it works for them>

      I would suggest your son learns theory because it allows you to progress much faster. The reason for this is because you understand what you are doing why you are doing it, rather than just learning parrot fashion.

      You can check out What Is A Note – Explained To A 5-Year-Old! for a basic explanation of notes. For a more structured programme, you can check out my post, Best Online Guitar Lessons – JamPlay Review.

  3. Wow, I feel like I have learned so much.

    Tones and semitones and all the notes that you can play on your guitar.

    I have not heard of all the different modes that there are.  I like the way that you show what you are talking about with the pictures.  It makes it easier to see what you mean.

    1. Thank you for the comment. I am glad you have learned something new here! I am also glad that you found the images useful because I really enjoy making them.

  4. For somebody with limited knowledge of music, you explained the concept of the major scale in such a way that I could appreciate and understand its significance. What I understand it to be basically, is the foundation of whatever musical piece you are going to write. What I understand the major scale to be somewhat like the skeleton in a body of music. 

    1. Hi Sophia. Thanks for the comment. I guess you could consider The Major Scale as the skeleton of music because it suports or enables other musical constructs to occur, such as chords and other scales.

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