Let’s look at how to build a D 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 in the D major scale are the notes used to write songs in the key of D major.
How to Build a Major Scale
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 two half-steps, or the distance from one note to two away, whether black or white.
Major scales are named after the starting note, so a D major scale will start on a D note.
The pattern of whole and half-steps used to build a major scale looks like this (W = whole step, and H = half-step):
W – W – H – W – W – W – H
You may notice there are two sets of W – W – H, joined by a whole step. It can be easier to remember the pattern when you think of it like this.
Major Scales Printable
This 23-page PDF will help you learn and visualize the notes for different major scales, laying the perfect foundation for learning the piano with chords!
How to Build a D Major Scale
To build a D major scale, we’ll start on a D note and follow the pattern of half and whole steps to build the scale. If you’re not sure how to label the notes of the piano, start here.
Starting on D, we’ll play the note one whole step up, which is E. Then we’ll play the note one whole step up from E, which is F♯. Then we’ll play the note one half-step up from F♯, which is G. We can continue this pattern until we reach the next D, and the scale is complete.
What Are the Notes of the D Major Scale?
The notes of the D major scale are:
D – E – F♯ – G – A – B – C♯ – D
Labeling the Notes
You may be wondering why we label the black key as an F♯ and not a G♭, or the other black key as C♯ instead of D♭ (sharp indicates the note one half-step up, flat indicates the note one half-step down).
The reason is the notes of a major scale must be in alphabetical order. Since we are building a D major scale, the second note of the scale will be an E, and the third note will be an F, and so on, to continue our alphabetical pattern.
Other Major Scales
You can use this pattern of whole and half-steps to build any major scale. Find your starting note, then build the scale using the W – W – H – W – W – W – H pattern.
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 D major scale on the piano, and you can use that knowledge to build any major scale!
Scales may seem tedious at first, but once you become familiar with the pattern and can build any major scale, it will be much easier to build different types of chords at the piano.
Julie, thank you for these emails. At 79 I am trying to move from guitar to piano. (Hands no longer have. the ability to hold chords). Would you be willing to point me in the direction to start. I would like to be able to use my garage sale Yahama keyboard to play rhythm during worship again. Does a keyboard play rhythm or fill?
I really miss worshipping the Lord through music. It was one of my favorite ways to worship God and without music it feels like a loss or incomplete worship. So any direction you can point me would be great
Lord bless Julie for her work here, Continue to meet her needs and fill her heart and mind with songs of worship. Amen
Thank you so much for this encouraging message! I’m so glad to hear you’d like to use your Yamaha for worship!
If you’re playing along with drums and guitar, then you would play more of a fill style. If you’re the primary instrument, you can try to provide both rhythm and fill. I would start by learning to play along with the worship songs using root position, block chords, as this is the simplest form of chord accompaniment. After that, I would start using inversions, and playing the inversions in both block and broken chord patterns. From there, I would try adding non-chord notes (notes from the key but not the chord), and experimenting with chord substitutions to fill out the music.
I have chord charts for “Amazing Grace” available along with some explanations here if you’d like more info: https://www.julieswihart.com/amazing-grace-chords/