Music Theory: Scales #1 → Major & Minor Scale Construction...
Major Scale Intervals
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Whole
Half




Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Minor Scale Intervals
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole




Major Scale Intervals
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Whole
Half




Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Minor Scale Intervals
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole




Major Scale Intervals
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Whole
Half




Chromatic Scale
A
A#
B
C
C#
D
D#
E
F
F#
G
G#



Minor Scale Intervals
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole
Half
Whole
Whole




 
Geeks Note: The information in this page is not necessary for you to be able to play the guitar. However, it WILL help you play the guitar BETTER, especially when you start soloing or freestyling. There is a LOT to understand with scales, however, it is easy to learn because, well, we'd rather just be playing. Right? Don't worry. I've made it easy at the end to bring it all together.


Learning Objectives
By the end of this lesson, here is what you should have learned:
  1. Know the difference between a Chromatic Scale and a Major Scale and a Minor Scale.
  2. Understand the relationship between Major and Minor Scales.
  3. Know what a Tone, Semi-Tone, Whole Step and Half-Step is.
  4. Know how to construct any Major Scale or Minor Scale in your head.


If you remember from the lesson on Notes, these are the Twelve Notes of the Equal Temperment musical scale (the Chromatic Scale):

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#


Now, before we go any further in this lesson, I have something for you to do. You must memorize the following line. It will be with you for as long as you play whatever instrument you are playing. Memorize it now. I'm serious. Do it. Memorize it:

Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step

( W-W-H-W-W-W-H )


Seriously, memorize it. If you prefer, the exact same thing may be expressed like this (memorize either one, it doesn't matter, just memorize at least ONE of them):

Tone - Tone - Semi Tone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semi Tone

( W-W-H-W-W-W-H )


Got it memorized? Good. You now know everything you need to know to create any Major or Minor scale, on the spot, in your head. Voila.

Okay, okay. I'll explain it.

What are "Steps" and "Tones":

A Step is a reference to an Interval. A Tone is a reference to a difference in Pitch. However, for the guitar player, these mean basically the same thing.

For the guitar player, a WHOLE STEP is the distance between the first fret and two frets above it. Therefore moving from the 3rd fret (up two) to the 5th fret, is a Whole Step.

A Tone is the same thing. A full Tone to the guitar player, is two notes (frets) above the first Tone. Therefore, starting at the G note (3rd fret, Low E string) and moving up a full tone would put you on the A note (5th fret, Low E string).

So we can see that moving from G to G# to A is a whole tone difference and is ALSO a Whole Step difference. Got it? Read it twice more if not, have a Coke. It will make sense.

Now you are asking, so what is the difference between a G and a G# then? I'm glad you asked.

Moving from G to G# is moving one Semi Tone or Half Tone or one Fret, to put a fine point on it, a Half Step.

Got it? It's important.

Moving from A to A# is moving one Semi Tone/Half Step
Moving from A# to B is moving one Semi Tone/Half Step
Moving from B to C is moving one Semi Tone/Half Step
Moving from A to B is moving one Tone/Whole Step
Moving from B to C# is moving one Tone/Whole Step
Moving from C# to D# is moving one Tone/Whole Step

Make sure you understand Steps and Tones before you move on to Major scale construction.

Major Scale Construction

That thing I made you memorize above? That is the order you use to find the notes to construct a Major Scale. As our first example we will use the C Major Scale. The reason I am using the C Major Scale is because it is the most commonly used scale used in music in the Western world. It is also the only Major scale that has all whole notes, no sharps or flats.

This is the C Major Scale:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C


Actually, the last C is simply the Octave of the Root note (or more accurately, the Octave of the Unison), it's just included to show how the Scale is circular (well, more spiral shaped than circular, but I digress...).

Constructing the C Major Scale

This is the way we construct the C Major scale. You will use this EXACT SAME METHOD to contruct the other scales, you just use a different starting point.

The first thing we need is the Chromatic Scale (which is a no brainer, right?):

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#


Then we need the thing I made you memorize:

( W-W-H-W-W-W-H )


So to create the C Major Scale we start with the note: C

(W): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one WHOLE step/TONE (or two half steps, two semi-tones or TWO FRETS) and arrive at: D

(W): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one WHOLE step/TONE (or two half steps, two semi-tones or TWO FRETS) and arrive at: E

(H): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one HALF step/SEMI-tone (ONE FRET) and arrive at: F

(W): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one WHOLE step/TONE (or two half steps, two semi-tones or TWO FRETS) and arrive at: G

(W): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one WHOLE step/TONE (or two half steps, two semi-tones or TWO FRETS) and arrive at: A

(W): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one WHOLE step/TONE (or two half steps, two semi-tones or TWO FRETS) and arrive at: B

(H): Now we move up the Chromatic Scale one HALF step/SEMI-tone (ONE FRET) and arrive at: C

Our C Major scale is complete. We applied the Major Scale Construction order of W-W-H-W-W-W-H to the Chromatic Scale from the starting point of the C note.

Let's Creat the E Major Scale Using everything we have above:

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#


( W-W-H-W-W-W-H )


We can see exactly what we must do to create the E Major Scale:

  1. One WHOLE step from E is F#
  2. One WHOLE step from F# is G#
  3. One HALF step from G# is A
  4. One WHOLE step from A is B
  5. One WHOLE step from B is C#
  6. One WHOLE step from C# is D#
  7. One HALF step from D# is E

Capice, paisan?

You turn. Using the instructions above construct the G Major Scale, A Major Scale and D Major Scale. Type them in the boxes below. When you are done, click the link below each test area to check your answers.

G Major Scale:

Show G Major Scale:


Showing the G Major Scale - Don't Cheat! Try it above first!





A Major Scale:

Show A Major Scale:


D Major Scale:

Show D Major Scale:




Minor Scale Construction

I am NOT going to delve deeply into Minor Scale construction right now. There are, however, two relationships between Minor scales and Major scales that I want to bring to your attention at this point as they will become more important down the road.

#1: Relative Minor Scale

The RELATIVE MINOR SCALE to any Major Scale starts at the 6th note of the Major Scale. Always. Period.

#2: Minor Scale Intervals

The Minor Scale Interval pattern is exactly the same as the Major Scale Interval pattern, however, it starts at the 6th position of the Major Scale Interval pattern.

I will give two examples, the E Major Scale and the C Major Scale:

E Major Scale

E - F# - G# - A - B - C# - D# - E

Counting E as the first note, the 6th note of the E Major Scale is C#. Therefore the Relative Minor Scale of the E Major Scale is the C# Minor Scale.

The Interval pattern for the E Major Scale is W-W-H-W-W-W-H. Therefore, the Interval pattern for the Relative Minor scale is exactly the same but starts at the 6th position. Therefore the Interval Pattern for the C# Minor Scale is W-H-W-W-H-W-W.

If we look again at the Chromatic Scale:

A - A# - B - C - C# - D - D# - E - F - F# - G - G#


The E Major Scale is built using the Major Scale Interval pattern (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) as:
E - F# - G# - A - B - C# - D# - E

The C# MInor Scale is built using the Minor Scale Interval pattern (W-H-W-W-H-W-W) as:
C# - D# - E - F# - G# - A - B - C#


Going directly from this example and looking at the C Major Scale then...

The C Major Scale is built using the Major Scale Interval pattern (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) as:
C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

The 6th position is A so the Relative Minor Scale to the C Major Scale is the A Minor Scale.

The A Minor Scale is built using the Minor Scale Interval pattern (W-H-W-W-H-W-W) as:
A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A

So what does that mean to you? Suppose Talky McSaysalot is playing something Bluesy and Sad in the key of D. They would be playing the chords D, G, Bm (another lesson in itself). Suddenly they look up at you and say "Hey, Axe Grinder, Solo with me". No problem. You know they are playing in D so you know the Relative Minor is B (because B is the 6th note of the D Major Scale). So you fret hand falls to 7th position (frets 7, 8, 9, 10 : 7th fret of the Low E string being the note B...) and you start soloing in the B Minor Pentatonic, using Blues Notes (more on Blues notes & the Minor Pentatonic later).


Now THIS is important... and it's why I brought up Minor Scales...

You will note that the E Major Scales relative Minor Scale (C#) has the exact same sharp notes as the E Major Scale.

You will note that the C Major Scale relative Minor Scale (A) has all whole notes, just like the Major Scale (when in fact the A Major scale has C#, F#, G#).

This will be made clearer for you to figure out in our upcoming lesson on the Circle of 5ths...










© Aaron Gallagher