MAJOR SCALE BASED INTERVALS

by Adam Nitti

This time around we'll look at different ways of playing intervals that are built into the major scale. Before we do that, however, let's talk about the major scale in general, to gain a clearer understanding of the theory behind it.

 

If you have ever taken any music classes or studied any music theory books, chances are you have been introduced to the term, "major scale." A scale, in general, is a series of notes that are used together to create a specific sound or tonality. The MAJOR scale can be thought of as the basic foundation from which most other scales are constructed. The major scale consists of seven different tones, each separated by either a half step or a whole step. (From here on out, we will refer to these seven tones as SCALE TONES.) A half step spans a distance of two frets on your fretboard, while a whole step spans three. The specific order of these intervals is what gives a major scale its distinctive sound.

 

All major scales utilize the same scale-building formula in their construction. In other words, the major scale's sound is specifically created by a set order of half steps and whole steps. In the following diagram, W represents a whole step, and H represents a half:

 

scale degree: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

 

distance: W W H W W W H

 

Every major scale, regardless of what note it starts on, has this same construction.

An INTERVAL is the distance between two notes. They come in all shapes and sizes. The major scale, as we have seen, is composed of intervallic half steps and whole steps. Intervals generally have names that contain a numeric distance, such as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. These distances are based on assigning a number to each scale degree, or member note of a scale.

For example, let's look at the notes in an F major scale:

 

Notice that the number under each scale degree represents its placement in the scale. F is the 1st note of the scale, G is the 2nd, A is the 3rd, and so on:

 

F G A Bb C D E F

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

 

Each interval's name is based on the distance in scale degrees from the lowest pitch to the

highest pitch. For example:

 

 

Just as the major scale can be thought of as our "default" scale, these intervallic shapes can be considered our "default" shapes for 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, and octaves. However, their sounds can be described more specifically with respect to music theory. The following chart gives the names for the default and modified qualities of intervals of the major scale:

 

Notice that the number under each scale degree represents its placement in the scale. F is the 1st note of the scale, G is the 2nd, A is the 3rd, and so on:

 

F G A Bb C D E F

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

 

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