The Major Scale
The major scale is the Rosetta stone of music. In other words, it holds the key that unlocks the mysteries of music theory. After this lesson you will be able to sing the major scale and identify its intervals.
Everyone at one time or another has sung the melody “do re mi fa so la ti do”. That melody was written to demonstrate the sound of the major scale. By assigning a specific syllable to each note of the major scale we are using a technique called solfège,
Go ahead and sing it now.
Did you notice that your voice started low in pitch on the “do” and it gradually rose in pitch with each note until you reached do again? The distance in pitch between those notes is called an interval.
The major scale consists of 8 notes, with the first and last notes being technically the same pitch “do” (so it is more correct to say that that major scale consists of 7 notes since do is included twice).
The “Second” Interval (do- re)
Sing the first two notes of the scale: “do re”.
When you sang “do” and then “re” you sang what is called an interval of a “second” that is, one note to the next adjacent note in the scale. This distance between each consecutive note in the major scale is called a “major second”.
Since a “second” interval means simply to sing an adjacent note of the scale, each time you moved from one note to the next you sang an ascending (going higher in pitch) “major second” interval. You could say that singing the major scale from low to high is a series of ascending major second intervals.
The “Third” Interval (do-me)
To create melodies, musicians don’t just sing the scale in linear order. They skip around using various notes from the scale.
The third interval is our first example of skipping around in the major scale.
Now sing “do” and then “mi”.
You have skipped the second note of the scale and sung the first note and the third note of the scale. This is called singing a “major third” interval.
The “Fourth” Interval (do-fa)
Sing “do” and then “fa” skipping the two pitches in-between.
You have now sung a “major fourth” interval because you have sung the first and the fourth note of the scale.
The “Fifth” Interval (do-so)
Now sing “do” and then “so”, skipping three pitches in- between.
You have now sung a “major fifth” interval because you have sung the first and the fifth note of the scale.
The “Sixth” Interval (do-la)
Now sing “do” and then “la”, skipping four pitches in-between.
You have now sung a “major sixth” interval because you have sung the first and the sixth note of the scale.
The “Seventh” Interval (do-ti)
Now sing “do” and then “ti”, skipping five pitches in- between.
You have now sung a “major seventh” interval because you have sung the first and the seventh note of the scale.
The “Octave” Interval (do-do)
Now sing “do” and then “do”, skipping 6 pitches in-between.
You have just sung the first note and the last note of the scale. These two notes are considered the same pitch but an “octave” apart. Octave means “eight”. So you could call this interval an “eighth”. It is common however to refer to this interval as simply an octave.
As you know, music theory has lots of terminology that can be really confusing for a beginner. If you can play or sing already, much of music theory is simply learning the names for things you already know how to do.
For example, in this lesson, we practiced the intervals of the major scale with no other than our voice. This is called acapella (which means without accompaniment).
We also used a technique called solfège, which means to assign a specific syllable to each note of the major scale. We did this by using “do re mi fa so la ti do”.
Finally, we learned that going higher in pitch is called “ascending” and lower in pitch is called “descending”.
So to prove how much music theory you just learned, you can now go tell your friends: “Sorry I was late. I was just rehearsing the ascending major scale intervals acapella using solfège.”