The Major Scale Background

Welcome back to's the Major Scale Part Two.

You are now on Page Two of the Music Theory Second Floor section of this site.

If you are on this page it should be because you have found your way here step by step through our journey toward understanding western music theory. If you are a first time visitor or your footing feels unstable on the music theory discussed here you should go back to the early theory pages of this site such as

 Music Theory Ground Floor


Guitar Music Theory Intro

Have a little review of the following below here and see how you feel or

Go Straight to the Major Scale Part Two video

 A little Review

Right then, you have explored this site and others perhaps and gained the grounding of the language and the labeling of some of the components and patterns of western music. You have looked at some videos including the Scheme of Work Video

…and you have a grasp of :

Half and Whole steps

The Accidentals &The natural half steps

The Major Scale Part One

To go to Youtube for all current videos click here

The Major Scale Close Up

As we have seen this scale is really a heptatonic (seven note) scale. It is formed from seven “degrees” of the twelve-tone western music system. The eighth note of the scale is really just a repeat of the first in the form of an octave.  

We name the intervals or distances between notes as their numeric value in series distance plus the tag “major”.

For instance form the first note of the C major scale “C” to the second note “D” we can easily name the distance as a “second”. The terms “first” and “second” are pretty standard ordinal descriptors.  The tag “major” lets us know that the distance being described is within the major scale. That is the scale that we all know is characterised by all whole steps except for between the scale degree 3 to 4 and 7 to 8… remember?  So the written representation can vary but generally it is, when in context, quite straightforward as in variations like:

C to D is a......

Major Second or (major second), Maj 2nd, maj 2nd, M2nd, M2, 2nd or even just 2 as in R 2 3 4 5 6 7 remember that from the Major Scale Part One Video ?

The Major Scale Part Two

What is Perfect about some Intervals?

The “perfect” tag comes in when we reach the numerical distance values of 4, 5 and 8, the perfect fourth (P4), perfect fifth (P5), and perfect octave (P8) respectively. The perfect unison is when you have two “voices” (human or otherwise) generating the same pitch. I separate this idea from the other perfect intervals because even some polyphonic instruments cannot play/generate two equal or same pitches in unison. For example a piano only has one middle C note key. However a guitar can usually produce middle C pitches in at least three places on the fingerboard. Never the less in any case two same pitched notes melodically (played separately) or harmonically (played together) or when written down on paper are Perfect Unisons.

Now as to the “what” is perfect about them the easiest way to explain that at this stage is as follows.

If you hit a note on any instrument, any note, the corresponding doubling or halving the frequency will give you the perfect octave. The perfect octave is a great and clear example of a two note sound that does not change its’ character because of inversion. Inversion, which we will get into at a later stage in more depth, just refers to which notes are played lowest and highest in pairs (or groups).

If you take the pitch A 440Hz as an example, you can play A 440Hz on the bottom as the lower octave and play A 880Hz as the highest note of the pair. This will give you the sound of an “open” “consonant” sounding pair of notes.

Do the same thing with A 440Hz as the highest pitch of two notes with and the A 220Hz as the bottom note and other than the perception of “register” (a lower texture of sound) the character remains the same.

If you take a different pitch to play above or below the A440Hz things do not behave the same way.

Major vs Minor

Let us try A as the lowest pitch (say at the frequency of A220Hz).

Now let us play the C (261.63Hz) above it. We won't get the sound of the A major Scale any more. In fact we label that interval as a minor. It is considered by conventional terms of perception over the years to be a darker or sadder sounding harmony. It is a Major Third that has been lowered by a half step. Here is our first rule of behaviour.

Any major interval lowered by half step becomes a minor interval.

If we play the C note as the lowest note and put the A440Hz above it we will (most of us anyway) perceive it as the major 6th interval from the C major scale. 


We will learn more about Key Signature, major and minor and other intervalic relationships in other lessons, videos and pages.

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