Major Scales And Arpeggios

In music theory, a major scale (also known as ionian scale) is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first one an octave higher. These notes are assigned different names:

Degree nameSolfege syllableExample (C major)
7thLeading toneSi/TiB

The major scale is one of the diatonic scales, meaning that it is made up of five whole steps and two half steps. The sequence is the same for all major scales: two whole steps, one half step, three whole steps, one half step (W, W, H, W, W, W, H). For example, consider the C major scale:

C C# D Eb E F F# G G# A Bb B C

Here you can see all the notes in the modern twelve-tone equal temperament (explaining what this is and where it comes from is far beyond our scopes — just be content to know that all western music is based on this twelve-note system). The highlighted notes form the C major scale. You'll immediately notice that there are no notes between E and F: that's what we meant by “half step”. The same thing happens between B and C. On the other hand, if you take F and G, there's F# in between: they are separated by a “whole step”. So there's a total of five whole steps (you can count them). By the way, these notes that fall in between the notes of a scale without belonging to it are called chromatic notes.

The simplest major scale to write or play is C major, since it's the only major scale that requires no sharps or flats.

To play a major scale, start on the note it is named for, then go up and down the scale respecting the right key signature (look below for reference). As you practice, you will eventually learn all the key signatures by heart.

Two-octave major scales can be found here:

Two-octave Major Scales

Arpeggios (or arpeggi, which is the correct plural of the Italian term arpeggio) are like scales, but only made up of the first, third and fifth notes of a scale.

Two-octave Major Arpeggios

One-octave major scales follow.

C majorC major scale
F majorF major scale
Bb majorBb major scale
Eb majorEb major scale
Ab majorAb major scale
Db majorDb major scale
Gb majorGb major scale
Cb majorCb major scale
C# majorC# major scale
F# majorF# major scale
B majorB major scale
E majorE major scale
A majorA major scale
D majorD major scale
G majorG major scale