North Fremantle Guitar Lessons

Major Scale Formula

29 January 2017

What is the Major Scale formula?

It is a way of labelling distances between notes.

The Major Scale Formula sets you up with the foundation to learn a lot of theory.

The Major Scale uses all of the letters of the Musical Alphabet:

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G

These letters create the C Major Scale

  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B

The C Major Scale contains NO #’s (sharps) or b’s (flats). From here we measure the distance between the notes using the units Tone and semi-Tone:

  • semi-Tone = One fret
  • Tone = Two frets

(If you do not know how to work out the notes on the fretboard check out Fretboard Notes).

Measuring the notes C to D you can see that they are a Tone apart.

C to D is one tone
C to D is one tone

I reference that distance on my scale:

  • C
  • T
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B

I keep going…D to E is a Tone…and I keep going, completing the sequence by linking the last note with the first.

  • C
  • T
  • D
  • T
  • E
  • sT
  • F
  • T
  • G
  • T
  • A
  • T
  • B
  • sT
  • C

This creates the Major Scale Formula:

  • T
  • T
  • sT
  • T
  • T
  • T
  • sT

I can now create any Major Scale by using this formula.

There are two rules to remember:

  1. All letters must be consecutive i.e. C#, D#, E# and not C#, D#, F
  2. All letters must be used once and once only i.e. D#, E#, F# and not D#, F, F#

Create a Major Scale

Starting with a letter, I have chosen G, add the remaining letters of the musical alphabet to complete the sequence:

  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G

Now add the formula:

  • G
  • T
  • A
  • T
  • B
  • sT
  • C
  • T
  • D
  • T
  • E
  • T
  • F
  • sT
  • G

Now apply the formula:

  • G to A should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • A to B should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • B to C should be a semi-Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • C to D should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • D to E should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • E to F should be a Tone, a Tone form E is F#
  • F# toG is a semi-Tone so that can stay as it is

This is the G Major Scale:

  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F#

You can see that the G Major Scale has one sharp, an F#.

Any time you see a single sharp at the beginning of a piece of music, it will be on the line denoting F. That is telling you it is in the key of G.

Key of G
Key of G

Another go, I’ll start with F, adding the remaining letters to complete the sequence:

  • F
  • G
  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E

Now add the formula:

  • F
  • T
  • G
  • T
  • A
  • sT
  • B
  • T
  • C
  • T
  • D
  • T
  • E
  • sT
  • F

Now apply the formula:

  • F to G should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • G to A should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • A to B should be a semi-Tone, a semi-Tone up from A is Bb
  • Bb to C should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • C to D should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • D to E should be a Tone, so that can stay as it is
  • E toF should be a semi-Tone, so that can stay as it is

This is the F Major Scale:

  • F
  • G
  • A
  • Bb
  • C
  • D
  • E

You can see that the F Major Scale has one flat, a Bb.

Any time you see a single flat at the beginning of a piece of music, it will be on the line denoting B. That is telling you it is in the key of F.

Key of F
Key of F

You can and should create all the Major scales starting from each letter so that you are used to thinking this way. Writing this down makes it easier to digest and remember. You need to also start with #’s and b’s i.e. C# or Db.

Remember the two rules:

  1. All letters must be consecutive i.e. C#, D#, E# and not C#, D#, F
  2. All letters must be used once and once only i.e. D#, E#, F# and not D#, F, F#

Next up I recommend you read Circle of Fifths. It takes this process and turns it in to a tool to make your life easier.