The major scale is the basis for all other scales, and because it has seven notes it is used to derivate the seven modes.

The major 3rd (3rd note) and the major 7 ( 7th note) give the major scale a happy and cheerful characteristic. Most children’s songs, a big part of folk music, but also classical compositions and modern pop tunes make use of the major scale.


  • Parallel major and minor scales have the same key signatures. In place of the natural A minor scale you can also play the C major scale.
  • Be cautious with the 4th note. The perfect fourth in a major scale sounds dissonant when played to a major 7 chord (Cmaj7) and should be denoted as „avoid note“
  • You can use the C major scale also with a major 7 chord that is a whole note above or three half notes below the root (Amaj7, VI degree or Dmaj7, IX degree).
    The major scale fits all chords in the major scale that are constructed with 3rd’s.
  • The major scale can also be used as a substitution for other scales.



The 7 Modes

In ancient Greece musicians used a notation system that had a scale of four notes (tetrachord = 4 successive notes spanning a perfect fourth). Those scales had euphonious names and were named after Greek landscapes: Ionia, Dorian and Phrygian scale. In western music, from the 9th to 16th century, the notation system of the modes (modus, lat. = rule, way), later named church keys, were used. Analogous to the major and minor scales, every mode can be transposed in to the 12 keys. After centuries of domination of the major and minor scales the modes regained significance in the 19th and 20th century and are an important part of modern music today. The jazz harmony is mostly based on the major scale and their modes.


Construction of modes

From the existing scale take away the first note (root). Hence the current seconde note is the new root. Now you can build the note series by completing the sequence in ascending order.
The first degree is the major scale and on the VI degree you find the natural, pure minor scale (Aeolian mode = pure or natural minor). The scales of the I, IV and V degree have a major scale characteristic. The four remaining scales have a minor scale characteristic.

The major scale as substitute

Major scales can be played over chords to which normally totaly different scales are used

Major scale substitutes with a major progression
Major scale substitutes with a minor progression