D major scale

Interested in learning the D major scale? You’re in luck! This guide contains everything you need to know about this key’s scale, chords, and progressions.

The D major scale is one of music’s most commonly used scales. It has a bright, cheerful sound, making it perfect for pop and rock songs.

Once you learn the chords and progressions in this key, you can play along with your favorite songs. We’ve included some popular chord progressions and a list of songs written in D major.

Scroll down to start learning about the D major scale today!

Introduction to D Major Scale

As you may already know, D major belongs to the category of fundamental seven-note diatonic scale known as the natural major scale. A major scale is a scale that results when you sing the familiar solfege. They are recognized as a happy and uplifting scale that produces highly consonant melodies and are the foundation of all diatonic harmony.

Major D scale has been conferred many names and adjectives like Miss Congeniality, persistent, sunny, energetic, and key of glory by many famous musicians. With Drop D tuning in guitar, two D’s are available as the open strings.

D major scale is a commonly used scale popular with many beginners due to its frequent use in many genres and popular songs and ease of learning. These songs bring up a feeling of confidence, winning, or triumph.

Major Scale Structure

Being a diatonic scale, any major scale has an even distribution of notes, with any half-step interval separated by two or more notes between them. The structure can be represented as

R – T – M2 – T – M3 – S – P4 – T – P5 – T – M6 – T – M7 – S – R

This structure gives you a scale formula as {W W H W W W H} in terms of the whole step and half step and {T T S T T T S} in terms of whole tone and semitone.

Intervals of D Major

As you can see from the detailed structure representation of any major scale above, the intervals from the root note are R – M2 – M3 – P4 – P5 – M6 – M7 – R(O), where R(O) is the root note octave above.

What Do We Mean When We Say A Piece Is ‘In The Key Of D’?

In The Key Of D Major” or “In The Key Of D” or simply “In D” means you will use D as the root on the first note and apply the major scale structure to get the D major scale.

Notes of D Major

You can derive the note names of any major scale using the scale formula {T T S T T T S}. Applying the formula with D as the root note leads us to the seven notes [D E F# G A B C#] that form the D major scale. The key signature of the scale has two sharps. The structural representation with notes of D major scale is

D – T – E – T – F# – S – G – T – A – T – B – T – C# – S – D(O)

Scale Degrees

You can describe a scale by a numerical method using the scale degrees. To do so, arrange all the notes in the scale in ascending order and assign them a scale degree or scale step, as shown in the table below. The scale degree defines the relation between that note or the interval to the root.

IntervalsRoot M2M3P4P5M6M7
Scale Degrees1234567
NotesDEF#GABC#

Diagram of this scale on the treble and bass clef:

The notes of the D major scale are shown on the treble clef and the bass clef below.

Treble Clef

D Major on Treble Clef

Bass Clef

D Major on Bass Clef

D Major Scale Guitar Positions

The diagram below shows how the D major scale is laid out with all its notes across the fretboard. Learning the scales and scale positions on the guitar allows you to be more creative, improvise and make melodies much more easily by yourself.

The diagram shows the D note in orange while the other notes are in pink. All these notes repeat after the 12th fret, which has all the same notes as the open strings.

Any major scale layout is divided into five distinct patterns on guitar, commonly referred to as the boxes. Each box is in a different position on the fingerboard and has a different note order. You will frequently find an overlap of notes between these five boxes or shapes.

You need to learn the individual boxes starting with the first. Once you are comfortable with the first and second boxes, you should start practicing linking the two shapes together. Let us introduce you to these five boxes and also suggest easy fingerings to play with these shapes.

1st Shape or Box (C shape)

The first D major scale shape is shown below. Similar to the full-scale diagram, the root is shown in orange, and the lowest root note lies on the fifth fret of the fifth string. You must carefully observe and remember the position of all root notes, particularly the lowest root. This particular shape is known as the C shape in the CAGED system on the guitar.

D Major Scale P1 (C shape)

Playing this shape is easier as it is spread over only four frets from 2nd to 5th, using one finger for one fret. Use your index finger for the second fret, middle finger for the third, ring finger for the fourth, and pinky finger for the fifth.

While practicing scales, remember to always start from the lowest root note, the fifth string in this case. Go all the way down to A on the high e string, then back to F# on the sixth string, and then back to D on the fifth string.

2nd Shape or Box (A shape)

Carefully observe the second shape, known as the A shape, in the CAGED system. This shape extends from the fourth to the eighth fret for D major scale. It has the root note on the fifth fret of the A string. To play this shape, use the index for the fourth fret, the middle for the fifth, the ring for the sixth, and the pinky for the seventh fret.

D Major Scale P2 (A shape)

You must switch while moving from the G to B string. This includes moving your left hand by one fret horizontally (towards the bridge side) and playing the E note on the fifth fret with your index finger, and continuing till the B note on the first string and back to the E note fifth string. Here, again switch back your fretting hand to the originally suggested fingerings and go all the way up A on the sixth string and then back to the root on the fifth.

3rd Shape or Box (G shape)

The third shape is also known as the G shape. Observe that this shape extends from the 6th to the 10th fret. The lowest root lies on the 10th fret on the sixth string, and there are a total of three root notes in this shape. The sequence is the same as the previous shapes. Start with D on the sixth string, go down to D on the first string, up to B on the sixth string, before returning to the lowest root note.

D Major Scale P3(G shape)

To play this shape, use the index to play the 7th, middle 8th, ring 9th, and little finger the 10th fret from the sixth to fourth strings. Make a switch at the third string with the index finger playing the sixth fret, and so on. Switch back on the second string to the original position. Do these changes in reverse while going back to the sixth string.

4th Shape or Box (E shape)

D Major Scale P4(E shape)

By now, you would have guessed that the fourth shape is known as the E shape. It starts with the ninth fret and lasts on the 12th, with the 10th fret on the sixth string carrying the lowest root note. As this shape is spread over only four frets, it is much easier to play without the need to switch your fingers.

5th Shape or Box (D shape)

The last or the fifth shape is the D shape, spanning from the 11th to the 15th fret, with the lowest root note on the 12th fret of the D string. If you have followed the logic in the previous four shapes, you will know the sequence, fingering, and switching required.

D Major Scale P5(D shape)

As we suggested, you can do the fingerings and the switching with minimal hand movement. Things will be a little harder for the fifth shape as the frets get closer to the neck, especially if you have large hands. Secondly, if you are playing an acoustic guitar without a cutaway body, your fretting hand may not remain parallel to the fretboard and require a rounded hand and finger stretching.

With practice, you will slowly learn to do so.

What Are The Chords Of D Major?

You would have heard many times that chords are derived from scales and made up of the notes of their parent scale. The derivation process is often called harmonizing the scale or building chords from the scale. Let us show you this exercise for D Major Scale.

Each major scale key (D in the present case) has its own set of seven diatonic chords. Each of these chords begins on a different scale note or scale degrees. Chords are mostly built in thirds. So, all we need to do is to list down all the scale degrees and stack thirds (major or minor thirds) on them, with each scale degree as the root. This will give you seven sets of triad chords (chords made with three notes). Let us analyze these triads in the next section.

Chords in the key of D Major

What Are The Notes In These Chords?

You may already know from the knowledge of triad chords that the intervals

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

The seven sets of triads are shown in the table below. You may apply the above combination of intervals to find the chord type for all the D scale root notes.

Scale DegreeDetailed Intervals & NotesNotesChord Name
1R - D - M3 - F# - m3 - AD F# AD Major
2R - E - m3 - G - M3 - BE G B E minor
3R - F# - m3 - A - M3 - C#F# A C# F# minor
4R - G - M3 - B - m3 - DG B DG Major
5R - A - M3 - C# - m3 - EA C# EA Major
6R - B - m3 - D - M3 - F#B D F#B minor
7R - C# - m3 - E - m3 - GC# E GC#dim

Why Are Some of These Chords Labelled In Lower Cases?

If you analyze the seven chords that every major scale key produces, you will observe that the chord qualities remain the same for any particular scale degree, as shown in the table below:

Scale Degree1234567
Chord DesignationIiiiiiIVVvivii°
Chord QualityMajorminorminorMajorMajorminordiminished

We use Roman numerals to denote the chords by scale degree. For example, in the table, vi represents that chord with scale degree 6 is a minor. Minor chords are denoted in lowercase, while the major chords are represented in capital numerals.

Every major scale key results in 3 major chords (I, IV, V), three minor chords (ii, iii, vi), and one diminished chord (vii)

Popular Chord Progressions In The Key Of D Major

D major chord progression

Relative Minor of D Major

The relative minor of any major scale carries the same notes and chords as that of the major scale. There are three easy methods to find the relative minor of any major scale.

  1. The root note of the relative minor scale is the sixth scale degree of the corresponding major scale. The sixth note in the D major scale is note B, hence the relative minor of the major is the B minor scale.
  2. Using the method highlighted in Section 5 of our article on the Circle of Fifths.
  3. Descend by an interval of a minor third or three semitones, in the present case {C#, C. B}. This gives Bm as the relative minor.

Songs in the Key of D Major

Some of the common songs in the key of D Major are

  • Dead Flowers (Rolling Stones),
  • Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival), and
  • Used to Love Her (Guns N’ Roses).

Conclusion

In this article, we explored the D major scale – what it is, how to play it, and some of the possible chords and chord progressions in this key. We also looked at the relative minor of D major and some songs that are commonly played in this key. Please let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions or want clarification on anything mentioned in this article. I hope you enjoyed exploring this versatile scale as much as I enjoyed writing about it!

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