The major scale is one of the most important scales in music. This lesson is intended to teach you how to build a major scale in any key.
I used to hate scales. I always felt like I’d rather be playing a tune, or learning something new and musical as opposed to spending time practicing my scales. They always seemed kind of boring and uninteresting.
But, back then I was never told of a purpose, or any kind of future application for that matter. I wasn’t even taught how to build them. I was just given a book with scales already written out and told to practice them. And, when you just play scales over and over again, without purpose, it can get pretty boring.
But, if you learn how to build them, how to change them and how they can be used, you’ll see a purpose. You’ll find you make use of that knowledge on a regular basis. You may even find it gets interesting.
The Major Scale
The major scale is the most important scale you’ll learn. A little knowledge about it is essential, no matter what instrument you might be learning. And that knowledge, along with a little theory, will open up a lot of musical possibilities, such as:
- how to build chords – how to form a triad, how to turn a major chord into a minor, how to build compound chords (major 7ths, dominant 7ths, 9ths, 13ths, etc.)
- how to find different notes and chords most commonly used in any particular key.
- the use of partial scales, different scale sequences and arpeggios as one of your tools for improvisation.
- how to form double stops, learn harmonization
- how to transpose a tune to a different key.
Not only that, but physically practicing scale patterns and sequences on your mandolin (or any instrument) has many advantages as well:
- It can help develop your ear. You’ll learn to recognize the different pitches associated with the individual keys.
- You’ll improve your technique – develop better string attack and improved sound quality and tone from your instrument.
- It can help with relaxation and improve overall control and economy of motion.
- It’ll help develop your hands, correct finger movement, improved coordination and finger strength.
- It’s very good position exercise, and a great way to get better acquainted with your fingerboard.
Learning scales doesn’t have to be an exercise in memorization. Although certain things do have to be committed to memory, you don’t need to memorize every scale.
By learning a simple interval pattern you’ll be able to figure out any major scale. From any major scale, you can build minor and pentatonic scales. Many scales are derived from the major scale, or at least explained and learned in terms of how they differ from that pattern.
So… if I’ve managed to talk you into a little scale study, let’s take a look at how to build a major scale.
You will need to know what “whole tones” and “half tones” are. It’s important to know the names of all the notes and understand their order and position in relationship to each other. You should understand which notes are “enharmonic”, and what an octave is. And, you should be able to figure out the interval (distance) between each note in tones and semitones (half tones). If you need help with any of this, go back and read the article “The Absolute Basics of Music Theory”.
So if you’re good with all that, lets’ move on.