Let’s look at how to build a C 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 are groups of notes used to write songs.
The notes of the C major scale are the notes used to write songs in the key of C major.
How to Build a Major Scale
To build a major scale, we need to understand half-steps and whole-steps.
A half- step on the piano is the distance from one note to the very next, whether black or white.
A whole step is two half-steps (or the distance from one note to two away, whether black or white).
A major scale is named after the note it starts with, so a C major scale will start on C.
The pattern for building a major scale is:
W – W – H – W – W – W – H
You may notice the pattern for building a major scale starts with W – W – H and ends with W – W – H. The W – W – H pattern is called a “tetrachord”. So another way to think of building a major scale is to join two tetrachords with a whole step.
How to Build a C Major Scale
To build a C major scale, we’ll start on a C and then use the pattern of whole and half-steps to build the major scale. If you’re not sure how to label the notes of the piano, start here.
Starting on C, we’ll play the note one whole step up, which is D. Then we’ll play the note one whole step up from D, which is E. Next we’ll play the note one half-step up from E, an F. We can continue the pattern until we reach the next C and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes of the C Major Scale?
The notes of the C major scale are:
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
Other Major Scales
You can use this pattern to build any other major scale on the piano. Choose the starting note, and then build a major scale using this pattern of whole and half-steps: W – W – H – W – W – W – H.
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 a C major scale on the piano, and you can use that knowledge to build any other major scale!
Knowing how to build a major scale will serve you well in many ways, including helping you build different types of chords using the matching major scale as a reference.