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Revisiting the Importance of the Major Scale

Over the last few articles I’ve covered quite a lot of ground with Chords and Modes. I thought it would be useful for those that missed the start, and, as a refresher to the others, to return to where we started and reiterate the importance of understanding and knowing the Major Scale.

The Major Scale is important because it sets the names of the notes and how we refer to them. It gives us a common language and helps us understand other scales and chords. It also helps us converse with other musicians so that we have a common language.

The Major Scale is made up of a certain sequence of intervals, Tones (T), also known as whole steps, and Semitones (ST), known as half steps. This sequence is the same for any Major Scale, regardless of the key it is in.


If we now want to describe a different scale, we can refer to the notes in relation to the notes within the Major Scale. For example:


So, if you know how to spell a scale you can work out what notes are in it by comparing it to the Major Scale.

Let’s change keys and use a scale I haven’t used in these articles before. The very wonderful Minor Pentatonic Scale.

The spelling of this scale is 1, b3, 4, 5, b7.

If we want to know what notes to play in the key of A, we must first know the A Major Scale:


For A Minor Penatonic we therefore start on the 1st – an A. Then we need a b3, that would make it a C; then the 4th and 5th are the same – D and E, and then finally a b7, which is a G.

Therefore we come up with:


As you can see, knowing the Major Scale makes learning and working out other scales relatively straightforward. It’s also vital to helping work out chords that you’ve never played or new voicings of chords.

Chords have a similar way of being spelt:


If you know the chord spelling you can work out the notes in any key by reference to the Major scale.

So get those intervals learnt!! Spending time on the Major Scale will help you more than you ever imagined!!



-Duncan Richardson - MU Columnist


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