The Major Scale

Why should you know the different scales?  Because they are the foundation of the melodic and harmonic aspects of music.  Is it more complex than that?  Yes, but we have to start somewhere.

In music theory, the major scale or Ionian scale is one of the most commonly used diatonic scales. It is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher. In solfège these notes correspond to the syllables “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti/Si, (Do)”, the “Do” in the parenthesis at the end being the octave of the tonic starting pitch. The simplest major scale to write is C major, as it is the only major scale not to require sharps or flats:


The sequence of intervals between the notes of a major scale is:

  • whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.  “Whole” stands for whole step (a red u-shaped curve in the figure), and “half” stands for half step (a red broken line in the figure).



Since this is our cursory expedition into the major scale, let’s start slowly and build a foundation that we can work from in the future.  (For those of you who are experienced with these concepts, be sure and check out the video at the bottom of this post.)


Here is a video by Scott Devine from Scott’s Bass Lessons.  A great start to understanding how to build and play the major scale.


A good video from Kris Rodgers (aka Dmanlamius).  His website is here.


Here is Jaco Pastorius destroying the major scale (starts at 2:00).  He replaced his fretless neck with a fretted P Bass neck for this instructional video.  Amazing skill and creativity.