Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is a Major Scale?

Understand the properties of the most important music scale.

In this video, Robert teaches you about the major scale and its most notable characteristics.

Released on January 8, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to and I'm Robert Estrin, your host, with a subject today, what is a major scale? Boy, this is a really important subject. You may have seen my previous video about intervals, the smallest intervals, half steps and whole steps. Half steps: two keys together, no keys between. Whole step: two keys together, one key between. Now why am I refreshing your memory on this? Because a major scale is simply a series of half steps and whole steps. As a matter of fact, a major scale is eight notes, where the first and last note are the same. All major scales by the way contain all the letter names in order without repeating any. So if you had an A major scale, it's going to have the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A. Or a C major scale is going to have the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Well, all major scales have sharps or flats, never both, except for one, which is the C major scale and I'm gonna start with that because it's a beautiful, graphical representation of what a scale is.

Basically a major scale, as I said, is a series of half steps and whole steps. It's all whole steps except between the third and fourth note and the seventh and eighth notes, which are half steps. And all major scales are that same series. Now why is C major so visual? Because the piano keyboard has no black keys between the E and F and no black keys between B and C. So if you start playing all the white keys, they're all whole steps except between the third and fourth and seventh and eighth. Three four, seven eight. So you have your half steps at three and four and seven and eight.

So then if you try to build a major scale on any other note, you're going to have to put in sharps or flats. We're going to discuss key signatures, which is a way of understanding scales in a way that is much more intuitive, but you can actually figure out all your major scales simply by going through and building whole steps and half steps between three and four and seven to eight. So for example if I started on D, I'd go whole step on whole step, that's why you have to go up to the F sharp here. And there's your half step between three and four, five, six, seven...because this is still a whole step...and finally eight. That's all there really is to major scales. It's hard to believe the wealth of music based upon those eight notes. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin. Next time we're gonna discuss relative minor scales. We're gonna get into all sorts of interesting theory for you. Thanks for joining me. See you next time here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Maria Davis on September 28, 2016 @8:13 pm PST
Thanks for the lesson. I always wonder how you would teach about major and minor scales if you don't play the piano. I use to Learn piano years ago but now I play the flute. When I was learning music theory I'd always visualise a piano to help me understand things like a D flat is the same as a C sharp etc. I wonder how people who play instruments other than the piano visual these things?
Robert Estrin - host, on December 9, 2016 @11:44 am PST
String instruments utilize the concept of a "tetrachord" to understand the relationship of tones in a scale. This is a subject for a future video!
Don * VSM MEMBER * on January 9, 2014 @10:29 am PST
Very illuminating both to me, with 6 years professional training on the piano and to my wife, just learning the violin.
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