C Major Scale

Interested in learning about the C Major Scale?

The C Major Scale is one of the most basic scales that all musicians should learn. It’s a great scale to start with because it has no sharps or flats, and it’s used in various music styles.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the C Major Scale. You’ll learn the notes of the scale, as well as how to play it on guitar and piano. Plus, we’ll show you some popular chord progressions in C Major.

Read the complete article below on the C Major Scale!

Introduction To C Major Scale

The C major scale is usually considered the popular scale for beginners as it does not have any sharps or flats, as you will see in the sections below. The complete absence of accidentals eases a lot of pressure in learning the music theory, such as memorizing the notes, intervals, chords, inversions, reading the sheet music, etc.

While every scale provides a specific feeling, the C major is classified by some as the “key of strength and the key of regret.”

You can find the complete list of symphonies in the C major here.

Major Scale Structure

As per the basic music theory, any major scale falls under the category of the diatonic scales and has a near-uniform spacing of notes with only whole steps and half steps intervals between the notes. In fact, a major or minor scale with 12 semitones between the tonic and its octave has 5 whole tones and 2 semitone intervals (5 x 2 + 2 = 12 semitones).

The scale formulas of major scales are

{T T S T T T S} when defined in terms of whole and semitones, and

{W W H W W W H} in terms of whole steps and half steps.

It is always better to remember the detailed structural representation of any scale to better understand it. This includes the actual intervals of each note from the root.

R – T – M2 – T – M3 – S – P4 – T – P5 – T – M6 – T – M7 – S – R(O), where R(O) is the root note an octave higher.

Intervals Of A Major Scale

A major scale consists of the intervals already shown to you in the structural representation we spoke about earlier and are presented below:

R – M2 – M3 – P4 – P5 – M6 – M7 – R(O),

Any Major scale has four major intervals, M2, M3, M6, & M7, represented by Capital M, and

Four Perfect Intervals – P1, P4, P5, and P8, known as Perfect Unison, Perfect 4th, Perfect 5th, and Perfect Octave.

Notes Of C Major

Using the scale formulas or the detailed representation, or the circle of fifths, you can find out the notes of any major scale. The C major scale notes are:

R – C – T- D – T – E – S – F – T – G – T – A – T – B – S – C(O).

This gives the notes of the C scale as {C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C(O)}, where C(O) is the C note, one octave above the root.

As you can see, there is no accidental note (a note with a sharp or a flat) in the key signature of the C major scale. It is the only major scale that contains all the natural notes. Hence, you can play it using only the white keys on a piano.

No doubt, you would have heard about the middle C key on the piano keyboard and its significance. Also, the C note is considered to be the beginning of all the octaves, as shown in the below piano diagram.

88 Keyboard Middle C

The last note, the M7, is only a half step below the octave and is known as the leading tone, as it has a very strong tendency to resolve upwards to a tonic note at the octave position, being a very dissonant interval.

Scale Degrees

The table below shows all the intervals, scale degrees, and all the notes of the C Major scale.

Intervals Root M2 M3 P4 P5 M6 M7P8
Scale Degrees12345671(8)
Notes C D EF G ABC

Diagram Of This Scale On The Treble And Bass Clef:

The below diagrams show the seven notes of the C major scale on the bass and the treble clef in ascending and descending order.

Treble Clef

C Major Scale Ascending and Descending - Treble Clef

Bass Clef

C Major Scale Ascending and Descending - Bass Clef

C Major Scale Guitar Positions

Let us now look at the guitar neck scale diagrams for the C major scale in this section. You will do a much better job in learning and playing scales if you are familiar with and have memorized all the notes on the fretboard and are familiar with the CAGED guitar system.

The complete C Major scale pattern over the entire fretboard is shown in the diagram below. You can see the complete scale in a single line on the A string.

C Major Scale upto 15th fret

The five major scale positions based on the C, A, G, E, and D open-position chords are shown below. While going through these patterns, you must note and remember the lowest root note positions. You will play the pattern of the major scale starting with this lowest root position to the highest note on the 1st string, back to the lowest note on the 6th string, and finish back at the lowest root. This is followed for all the patterns.

Pattern 1

C Major Scale P1

Pattern 2

C Major Scale P2

Pattern 3

C Major Scale P3

Pattern 4

C Major Scale P4

Pattern 5

C Major Scale P5

1st pattern

The first pattern (E shape) lies between frets 7 and 10. It has 3 root notes, with the lowest one on the 8th fret of the low e string. Since it spans 4 frets, you can play it with the four fingers with the index finger on the 7th fret, the middle finger on the 8th, the ring finger on the 9th, and the little finger on the 10th fret.

2nd pattern

The 2nd pattern spans five frets from the 9th to the 13th. It has two roots, with the lowest one on the 10th fret of the D string. When you start playing it at the lowest root with the four fingers, as in pattern 1, you must switch all your fingers down towards the neck when you reach the B string from G and back in the reverse direction.

3rd pattern

The 3rd pattern spans four frets from the 12th to the 15th fret. It has two roots, with the lowest on the 15th fret on the A string.

4th pattern

The 4th pattern spreads across five frets from the 2nd to the 6th fret. It has two roots, with the lowest on the third fret on the A string.

5th pattern

The 5th pattern, as you can see from the diagram, also spans over five frets with three root notes. The lowest of them is at the 8th fret of the 6th string.

Practicing To Play the C Major Scale

To learn and practice playing a scale correctly, it is recommended to start with one position, preferably the one which spans four frets. Familiarize yourself with all the note names in the selected scale position. Use a metronome if you want. Practice one pattern thoroughly till you are well versed with it before moving on to the next one.

Always move on to the adjacent pattern and learn to connect the patterns after you have mastered both patterns.

What Are The Chords Of C Major?

The scale degrees, scale degree names, chord designation, chord quality, and chord names in the key of C major are given in the table below.

Scale Degrees1234567
Chord DesignationIiiiiiIVVviviidim
Scale Degree NamesTonicSuper-TonicMediantSub-DominantDominantSub-MediantLeading Tone
Chord NamesCDmEmFGAmBdim
Chord QualityMajorminorminorMajorMajorminordim

As you know, harmonizing any Major scale results in the following triad chords.

  1. Three major chords from scale degrees 1, 4, and 5, designated as I, IV, and V. Out of these, the V chord is known as the dominant chord. In C, these chords are C, F, and G Major chords.
  2. Three minor chords from scale degrees 2, 3, and 6, notated in Roman Numerals as ii, iii, and vi. These are Dm, Em, and Am for the C Major scale.
  3. One diminished chord from scale degree 7, the vii°, Bdim.

What Are The Notes In These Chords?

The triad chords are part of the tertian harmony, i.e., they are built by stacking the intervals of thirds over the root notes.

Formation of the Basic Triads

The basic types of triads and their intervals are:

  1. R – M3 – m3 gives a major chord
  2. R – m3 – M3 gives a minor chord
  3. R – m3 – m3 gives a diminished chord
  4. R – M3 – M3 gives an augmented chord

As per the previous section, no augmented triad is formed in the harmonization of any Major scale. Hence you may use the other three intervals to form the seven triads discussed above.

Scale DegreesIntervalsChord NotesChord Name
1R – C – M3 – E – m3 – GC E GC
2R – D – m3 – F – M3 – AD F ADm
3R – E – m3 – G – M3 – BE G BEm
4R – F – M3 – A – m3 – CF A CF
5R – G – M3 – B – m3 – DG B DG
6R – A – m3 – C – M3 – EA C EAm
7R – B – m3 – D – m3 – FB D FBdim
Chords in the Key of C Major

Popular Chord Progressions In The Key Of C

Relative Minor & Parallel Minor Of C Major

A minor scale is the relative minor of the C major scale. You are undoubtedly aware that the relative major and minor scales carry the same notes. You can easily find the relative minors by the sixth scale degree of the major scale or simply lowering three semitones from the major key (B#, B, A). You can even use the circle of fifths to do so.

Further, the C major scale has C minor as its parallel minor. The difference between any major and its parallel minor scale lies in the 3rd, 6th, and 7th notes, which are flatted in the case of natural minor scales. The use of the minor key brings in complexity, harmonic richness, and mood swing.

Popular Songs In The Key Of C Major

Some of the popular songs in the key of C major are:

  1. Imagine” by John Lennon – The best-selling solo in the career of John Lennon. A very good option to learn on piano.
  2. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley. The song has all the notes within the key only.
  3. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham.
  4. Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.
  5. “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
  6. “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the C major scale is a very important musical tool that every musician should know. By understanding the notes and chords of the key, you’ll be able to play a vast array of songs. And finally, once you’ve memorized the scale, you can use it as a foundation to explore other keys and scales. As always, please provide comments in the section below if you have any questions or clarifications.

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