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The Fundamentals Of The C Major Scale in 5 Minutes

C Major Scale

C Major Sale

The C major scale is a major scale built on a C keynote.

This major scale is a great starting point for every beginner to start learning any musical instrument. It is also a great scale to start learning sight-reading and sight-singing.

The reason for this is that it is natural and contains no sharp or flat notes in its build-up.

The major scale is a succession of seven distinctive notes at a defined interval from one note to the next. Each note is also at a defined degree of the scale to the keynote.

We form an eight-note major scale with the inclusion of a keynote after the major seven notes. The eighth note is the same note as the keynote, and it is referred to as an octave.

The C major scale is the focal point of this post, and we are going to discuss it from different angles.

We will cover the intervals and notes that make up the scale. The relative minor scale to the scale and other aspects of the scale will also be part of our discussion.

What is the C Major Scale?

Circle Of Fifth

A scale is, quite simply, eight successive pitches within a one-octave range.

All scales begin with a single note known as the “keynote”. Also, every scale built with eight notes ends on the same note that it starts, but an octave higher.

Thus, the C major scale is the major scale of the C keynote. It is formed with eight notes at a defined interval and degree. These intervals are peculiar to the major scales.

The C major scale starts on the note C and ends on the same note C, which is an octave higher.
The C major scale is the natural major scale because none of its notes have been sharpened or flattened. They are all natural notes for C to B.

At least one note must be sharpened or flattened in all other major scales, apart from the scale of C.

Absolutely, that is the case for other scales to maintain the correct interval relationship.

The sharpened or flattened notes help those scales maintain the correct tonality of the major scale.

As a result, the C major key signature contains no sharps or flats. Thus, it can be recognized easily with the key signature that uses the clef sign only.

Moreover, if we use the piano to play the C major scale, all the notes will be played only on the white keys. This makes it easy for beginners to play the key of C major with ease on the piano.

Many beginners and students find it easy to learn other scales after they have learned the scale of C major.

It may be because all the other scales are technically derived from the C major scale.

Intervals of the Major Scale

Major Scale note Interval

The major scale’s interval relationship is simply: “W-W-H-W-W-W-H”. From that interval relationship, “W” is for the whole step and “H” is for the half-step.

To learn more about Half Steps and Whole Steps in Music, follow the link and browse the pages.

This interval relationship is applicable to all major scales. Hence, the C major scale is built on that interval relationship.

Remember, the first note (also known as the tonic) of a major scale is the name of the major scale.

In this case, we are dealing with the “C major scale.” Therefore, we are starting with C as the tonic or the keynote.

The Making of the C Major Scale

The scales in music are built with the seven alphabetical notes in ascending or descending order.

Most of the scales are written with eight notes and end with the same note as the keynote of the scale.

The eighth note is called an octave, and it is the same alphabetical note as the keynote.

However, it is an octave higher in pitch than the keynote of the scale.

The C major scale followed the same interval pattern of every major scale.

To make or build a C major scale, we must follow the order of whole steps (tones) and half steps (semitones) of the major scale interval.

Also, we need to use the C note as our tonic or keynote and start with the C (as the first) note.

The Scale Notes in Ascending Order

The C Major Scale
The notes in the C major scale in ascending order

Following the major scale interval relationship discussed previously, we will have the entire C major scale notes. But the major scale will be an octave or comprised of eight notes.

So, if we used the major scale interval “W-W-H-W-W-W-H”, we are going to have C, D, E, F, G, A, and B as our C major scale notes.

How did we come to this? We used the piano keyboard to build the scale with the major scale interval relationship formula and started with note C.

This diagram above shows the movement from C to D and continues till we get to the C’, which is an octave of the C.

At the end, we have the following as the notes of the C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, B, and C’.

Tetrachords on the C Major Scale

The alphabetical names of the notes in the C major scale are (C, D, E, F, G, B, and C’).

This can be broken down into two tetrachords, each with four notes, in ascending or descending order. As a result, we will have a first tetrachord and a second tetrachord.

The First Tetrachord (C, D, E, F)

First Tetrachord

The first tetrachord of the C major scale is C, D, E, and F, with an interval relationship of “W-W-H”.

Thus, from C, we must go up the pitch by a whole step or a tone. The whole step from C up the pitch will take us to D. The second note of the C major scale.

Then the second whole step, or a tone movement up the pitch from D, will land us on E. The E is the third note of the C major scale.

The next step after that is a half-step, which is from E, and that will land us on F. F is the fourth note of the C major scale.

The Second Tetrachord (G, A, B, C’)

Second Tetrachord

The second tetrachord of the C major scale is G, A, B, and C, also with an interval relationship of “W-W-H”.

The G note is the fifth note of the C major scale and the first note of the scale’s second tetrachord.

To continue, we must follow the second tetrachord interval of “W-W-H”.

Then we must move another whole step up the pitch from G to the second note of the tetrachord.

A whole step or a tone movement up the pitch from G will take us to A.

The A note is the sixth note of the C major scale and the second note of the tetrachord.

The next movement is also a whole step, which is from A, the second note of the tetrachord, to the third note.

This movement will take us a whole step up to B, the third note of the tetrachord and the seventh note of the C major scale.

Then we can go from the third note of the tetrachord to the fourth note of the tetrachord by taking a half step upward.

The half step will take us back to C, which is an octave higher than the keynote scale and the fourth note of the tetrachord.

The interval between the First and Second Tetrachord

C Major Scale 1st and 2nd Tetrachord

The interval between the major scale tetrachord is a whole step.

Thus, the movement from F, which is the fourth note on the C major scale, to the fifth note of the scale is a whole step.

As a result, moving a whole step up the pitch from F will land us on G, the fifth note of the scale. G is also the first note of the second tetrachord of the C major scale.

The video below shows the C major scale notation played in ascending and descending order.

The Scale Degree of the C Major Scale

The Scale Degree of the C Major

Every note in a scale has an interval relationship with the tonic or keynote. The tonic, or the keynote, is the first note of every scale.

This relationship is basically known in music as “scale degree.” The scale degree describes the interval of a note to the tonic.

To learn more about scale degree, visit the pages Scale Degree and Scale Degree Names In Music.

The C major scale is not left out and has its own scale degrees as well.

The scale degrees are from 1st degree to 8th degree. The names of the 1st to the 3rd scale degree are tonic, supertonic, and mediant.

The scale degrees from the 4th to 6th degree are subdominant, dominant, and submediant.

The two last scale degrees for the 7th and 8th degrees are the leading note and the octave.

Note that the scale degree names, starting from tonic to octave, of every scale in the major scales are the same. It is also the same for every scale in the minor scales.

But the note names are different for every degree in both major and minor scales for different scales.

Obviously, the tonic notes for every scale are not the same. For instance, the tonic for the C major scale is C, while the tonic for the G major scale is G.

As a result, the names of the notes for other degrees in the scale will not be the same.

The Scale Notes Degree

For the C major scale, we have C as the tonic and D as the supertonic. The E note is the mediant, F is the subdominant, and G is the dominant.

The A note is the 6th-degree note and submediant. The B note is the leading tone, and C above the tonic C is the octave.

Relative Minor of C Major Scale

All the major scales have minor scales that use the same note.

The relative minor scales are the minor scales that use the same note as the major scale.

All major scales have a relative minor at their 6th degree.

And if that is the case, the relative minor for the C major scale, which is “C, D, E, F, G, A, B,” is the A minor scale.

In fact, we can create an A minor scale by simply starting a C major scale on note A.

The result will be the same notes as in the C major, but the playing will be in a different key.

It is true that the C major scale and the A minor scale share the same notes, but the two scales feel differently.

The reason is that the key center of the two scales is not the same.

The C major scale on Piano

The C major scale on Piano

The C major scale on the piano contains only the white keys and makes no use of any black keys.

The piano keyboard is a combination of white and black keys. The black keys are grouped into two and three keys. The C key is the first white key that the group of two black keys follows immediately.

We will play the C major scale on a piano by starting with the note C.

To achieve our aim and play the scale correctly, we will use the major key interval relationship. This is “W-W-H-W-W-W-H” where W is a whole step and H is a half-step.

Observing all these steps one after the other, we will notice that we play the scale of C on white keys only. Yes, all the white keys are used for the key of C, and that forms the C major scale.

This makes the C major scale on the piano the easiest of all the scales.

How to play The C major scale on Piano

How to Play C major scale on Guitar

The C major is very easy to play and remember because it contains natural notes only with no sharps or flats.

The notes of the C major scale are C, D, E, F, G, and B.

These notes can be technically grouped to form five distinct patterns on the fret board. Or place at five different positions on the fret board.

Watch the video below to get a quick overview of how to play the C major scale on the guitar.

The video shows how to play the C major scale on the guitar.

How to play C Major scale on Violin

The C-major scale is generally considered the most popular. It is also known as the easiest scale in Western music.

The reason is that it has no flat notes or sharp notes. As a result, it is normally seen as the “basic scale”. A scale upon which other scales are technically built.

To have a quick overview of how to play the C major scale on the violin, watch the video below.

Frequently Asked Questions About C Major Scale

Let us take our time to answer some questions that are frequently asked about the C major scale. Normally, most of the questions have been practically discussed within the post. But we want to answer them here for quick reference.

What notes are in the C major scale?

The notes that are in C major are all natural and they are C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

What is the pattern of the C major scale?

The pattern of the C major scale is the same pattern that all other major scales follow.

A C major scale is built with the pattern W-W-H-W-W-W-H, where W is for the whole step and H is for the half step.

So, we have a semitone between the 3rd and 4th degrees and the 7th and 8th degrees of the scale.

What note does C major start on?

The C major starts on the note “C.”

This question also answers the question of what the first note of the C major scale is. The answer is the same. The first note of the C major scale is C.

All keys are built on the keynote of the scale. And the scale is named after the keynote, or the root note of the scale.

Thus, the C major scale is technically named after the C keynote. This means the scale starts with C as the keynote, or the root note.

What is the dominant key of C major?

The simple answer to this question is note G.

The dominant is the 5th degree of a scale, and from the C major scale of C, D, E, F, G, A, B, we have G at the 5th degree.

We can also use this answer for “what is the dominant scale degree of c major?”

How many flats are in the C major scale?

The C-major scale has no flat. All the notes in the scale are natural notes without flats or sharps.

How many sharps are in the C major scale?

The answer to this is none. The C major scale has no sharps. It is the only major scale without sharps or flats.

Conclusion

The C major scale is a basic and fundamental scale. It is the only major scale without flats and sharps. That is why it is called the “natural key.”

The C major scale starts on C and ends on C. The C major scale comprises the following notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.

Playing the C major scale on the piano requires only white keys.


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