Let’s look at how to build a C 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, played 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 C flat major used the notes of the C 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 key to the very next, whether black or white.
A whole step is the distance from one key to two away, whether black or white. A whole step is two half-steps.
Scales are named by their starting note, so a C flat major scale will start on a C flat.
To build a major scale, find your starting note, then play through this pattern of whole and half-steps (where W = whole step, and H = half-step):
W – W – H – W – W – W – H
This pattern is easier to remember if you think of it as two sets of W – W – H, joined by a whole step.
How to Build a C Flat Major Scale
Now let’s use this pattern to build a C flat major scale on the piano!
First, find C♭ (if you’re unsure about labeling the notes of the piano, start here).
Starting with C♭, we’ll play the note one whole step up from that, which is D♭. Then we’ll play the note one whole step up from D♭, which is E♭. Then we’ll play the note one half-step up from E♭, which we’ll call F♭ (I’ll explain why we call it that soon).
We can continue following this pattern of whole and half-steps until we reach the next C♭ and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes of the C Flat Major Scale?
The notes of the C flat major scale are:
C♭ – D♭ – E♭ – F♭ – G♭ – A♭ – B♭ – C♭
Labeling the Notes of the C Flat Major Scale
You’ve probably noticed all the notes of this scale are flat. And you may be wondering why we would label the F♭ as F♭, instead of E (flat indicates the note 1/2 step down, sharp indicates the note 1/2 step up). Good question!
The reason comes back to our definition of a major scale. The notes of a major scale must progress in alphabetical order. Since this is a C flat major scale, the second note will be some kind of D, the third note some kind of E, the fourth note some kind of F, and so on.
Other Major Scales
The nice thing about knowing the pattern for building a major scale is that you can apply that pattern starting on any key, to build the corresponding major scale.
You don’t have to memorize the notes of each scale, you just need to memorize the pattern W – W – H – W – W – W – H. Then you can build all the major scales!
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
Some scales are considered “enharmonic”. This means they use the same keys on the piano, but are labeled differently.
The C flat major scale is an enharmonic scale because it can be labeled as C flat major, or as B major. The keys on the piano used to play these two scales are the same, but they can go by two different names.
There are six total enharmonic major scales:
Take a look at the circle of fifths to understand these patterns and see how the major scales relate to one another.
Now you know how to build a C flat major scale on the piano, and you can use that knowledge to build any other major scale!