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Turning Intervals into a Scale


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Music Theory: a Brief Overview

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In order to build a scale from intervals we need a formula. The major scale formula is:

1st note, whole step, 2nd note, whole step, 3rd note, half step, 4th note, whole step, 5th note, whole step, 6th note, whole step, 7th note, half step, 8th note (which is one octave higher than the first note).

Let's use this idea to play a C major scale. We start with the note C on the A string, 3rd fret. Therefore the note C is the 1st note of the scale (the "1st scale degree"). We move up a whole step (or two half steps) to the 5th fret and this will be the 2nd note of the C major scale (the "2nd scale degree"). This note happens to be a D. Follow the scale formula and we wind up with this:


Label them all with normal numbers:

  • C = 1 (1st scale degree)
  • D = 2 (2nd scale degree)
  • E = 3 (3rd scale degree)
  • F = 4 (4th scale degree)
  • G = 5 (5th scale degree)
  • A = 6 (6th scale degree)
  • B = 7 (7th scale degree)
  • C = 8 (1st scale degree again one octave higher)

    This is similar to how the notes of a scale are arranged on a piano: all in a straight line from the left to the right. But on the guitar we can play these same notes in different physical locations.




    Now that we have taken the concept major scale and applied it to the guitar in a physical form. We have literally taken an aspect of music theory and put it into practice. Let's take a closer look at the major scale we can now play.

    First let's assign all the notes numbers, the term "scale degree" and a unique name:

  • C = 1 (1st scale degree) - root note
  • D = 2 (2nd scale degree) - second
  • E = 3 (3rd scale degree) - major third
  • F = 4 (4th scale degree) - fourth
  • G = 5 (5th scale degree) - fifth
  • A = 6 (6th scale degree) - major sixth
  • B = 7 (7th scale degree) - major seventh
  • c = 8 (8th scale degree) - octave of root

    This is how we identify the notes of the major scale in music theory. Notice that this is how we also identified them when we were first thinking about intervals. But instead of labeling all 12 notes of the octave, we are only interested in the notes that make up the major scale at this time.

    I also did this tutorial with videos that explains a bit more about the C Major Scale:
    C Major Scale for Beginners

    For future reference here are tutorials about minor scales:
    A Minor Scale for Beginners
    C Minor Scale for Beginners

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