Major Scales

In this music theory for beginners lesson, we’ll take a look at the major scale and the pattern that it follows.

What Is A Musical Scale?

A scale is a series of pitches or notes going up (ascending) and going down (descending). These pitches or notes are also identified in alphabetical order, they are written and played in a sequence.

The notes of a scale are numbered with Roman numerals:

For each one of the scale notes or pitches we'll be assigning a scale degree.
Roman Numerals Are Used For Scale Degrees

These are also called scale degrees. Each degree has a specific name related to the musical scale.

Names of scale degrees are: Tonic = I, Supertonic = II. Mediant = III, Subdominant = IV, Dominant = V, Submediant = VI, Leading Tone = VII and back to Tonic = VIII or I.

In any major or minor scale these eight degree names will be used. They are, Tonic or first degree, Supertonic or second degree, Mediant or third degree, Subdominant or fourth degree, Dominant or fifth degree, Submediant or sixth degree, Leading Tone or seventh degree and back to Tonic or eighth or first degree.
Degrees Of a Major and Minor Scales in Roman Numerals

Major Scale Pattern

All of the major scales have a specific pattern of whole tones and semitones.

This is the order of whole tones and semitones in which they occur for the major scale:

Major scale pattern consists of whole tone, whole tone, semitone, whole tone, whole tone, whole tone and semitone
Major Scale Pattern

If you look at the image above there is a semitone between degrees (notes) III and IV, and a semitone between degrees (notes) VII and VIII. And there are whole tones between each of the other degrees of the scale.

Any major scale can start on any note in the musical alphabet (including the flat and sharp notes), but in order to be a major scale it must follow the pattern of whole tones and semitones above.

More to come...


Sanel Busuladzic is an award-winning guitar teacher. He has been playing guitar since 1998 (22 yrs) and has been teaching guitar since 2007.


Sanel began teaching guitar lessons at a local music school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Soon after, he started his own small business to offer in-home and remote (online) guitar lessons.


Since 2012, Sanel has been offering Skype guitar lessons online and, now, Zoom meeting.

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