Let’s learn how to build an A flat major scale on the piano. We’ll also learn the pattern for building any major scale.
What Are Major Scales?
Major scales are groups of eight notes, in alphabetical order, starting and ending on the same note.
They’re groups of notes used to write songs. Songs written in the key of A flat major used the notes of the A flat major scale to write the song.
How to Build a Major Scale
Major scales are built using a pattern of half-steps and whole steps.
A half-step is the distance from one note to the very next, whether black or white.
A whole step is the distance from one note to two away, whether black or white. A whole step is two half-steps.
Major scales are named after their starting note, so an A flat major scale will start on an A♭.
To build a major scale, find your starting note, and play through this pattern of whole and half-steps (where W = whole step and H = half-step):
W – W – H – W – W – W – H
It might help to think of this pattern as two sets of W – W – H, joined by a half-step.
How to Build an A Flat Major Scale
To build an A flat major scale, we’ll start on A♭ (if you’re not sure how to label the notes of the piano, start here).
Then we’ll play the note one whole step up from A♭, which is B♭. Next we’ll play the note one whole step up from B♭, which is C. Then we’ll play the note one half-step up from C, which is D♭.
We can continue following this pattern of half-steps and whole steps until we reach the next A♭, and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes of an A Flat Major Scale?
The notes of an A flat major scale are:
A♭ – B♭ – C – D♭ – E♭ – F – G – A♭
Labeling the Notes of an A Flat Major Scale
You may be wondering why the B♭ is labeled as a B♭ instead of an A♯, or why the D♭ and E♭ are labeled as flats instead of as C♯ and D♯ (sharps indicate the note 1/2 step up, flats indicate the note 1/2 step down). That’s a good question!
The reason is because our definition of a major scale tells us the notes must progress in alphabetical order. Since this is an A flat major scale, the second note of the scale must be some sort of B, and the third note some sort of C, and so on.
Other Major Scales
You can use this pattern to build any major scale on the piano. Instead of memorizing the notes for each major scale, you can memorize the pattern of half and whole steps, and then apply that pattern starting on any note!
Here are all the major scales:
C major scale
G major scale
D major scale
A major scale
E major scale
B major scale
F sharp major scale
C sharp major scale
F major scale
B flat major scale
E flat major scale
A flat major scale
D flat major scale
G flat major scale
C flat major scale
If you’d like to see how the scales are related to each other, take a look at the circle of fifths. It’s a really neat pattern demonstrating the relationships between the major scales!
Now you know how to build an A flat major scale on the piano, and you can use that pattern to build any major scale!
The patterns on the piano can be used again and again, starting on different notes, to build both scales and chords!