Western music is based entirely on the major scale. This means that almost all the songs you have listened to will relate back to the major scale in some way.
The major scale is a series of intervals. This means that whatever note you start on, you will get the same sounding melody. If you play and E major Scale and a B major Scale, one will sound higher or lower than the other, but the sound of the major scale can still be heard. Take a listen to them below:
E major scale ascending:
B major scale ascending:
Notice how they both sound the same but in a different pitch?
The intervals/pattern we use is the following:
W W H W W W H - Whole and Half-tones
T T S T T T S - Tones and Semi-tones
When we use this pattern, we will always get the major scale, no matter what note we start on. Let’s try it on the note “D”:
D (+W) E (+W) F# (+H) G (+W) A (+W) B (+W) C# (+H) D
D - E - F# - G - A - B - C# - D
And that is the D major scale! Every note we see there is called a scale degree and it basically tells you which note is which. For instance, G would be the 4th scale degree, C# would be the 7th scale degree etc.
All the notes in this scale are also in the key of D. This is because whenever we play any of these notes together, they all belong to the major scale of D. If we play any of these notes and then play D, they will always sound good together. This is what we call resolving and we are resolving to the root note here.
This pattern is also special as we can use all the notes in the major scale to make chords that work together. You can read more here, but just to re-cap, you pick a root note for your chord, let’s say D, then we add 3 scale degrees on to it; so we count up 3 scale degrees and land on F#. We do this again starting from F# and we get 3 notes, D - F# - A which is a D major chord!
One more thing we can do is get a minor scale from a major scale by starting from the 6th scale degree and we have a minor scale too! Using our D major scale, we go to the 6th scale degree which is B and use the same notes:
B - C# - D - E - F# - G - A - B
And that is a B minor scale! If we do this method we get the relative minor scale to the major scale we started with.
So there are a lot of uses for the scale, so it is really important to learn the pattern of a major scale because it has so many uses, knowing it better means your entire musical journey will be a lot easier and more fun!