To play a scale, you start at the root note and follow the pattern of intervals for the chosen mode. The following illustration shows one of the simplest one, the C major scale:
The C major scale is not only the simples one, it also visualizes the general pattern of all major scaled on the piano keyboard.
The Major Scale Pattern
The pattern of intervals for all major scales is:
You do not need anything fancy to remember this pattern. If you have a piano keyboard in front of you, just look at the intervals of the white keys, starting from C. This is the major pattern, that you can apply to any key.
All 12 Major Scales
Because there are 12 possible root notes, there are 12 major scales. Each scale starts at a different note, but uses the same pattern.
Each column in the illustration above describes one of the major scales. On top, you see the key and therefore the root note of the scale. Each dot on the column is one of the notes in this scale.
The notes in each scale are numbered from one to eight and have individual names. In the illustration, these notes have different colours.
- ● Tonic
- ● Supertonic
- ● Mediant
- ● Subdominant
- ● Dominant
- ● Submediant
- ● Leading tone (or leading note)
- ● Tonic (the same note, the same as 1)
I will use some of these names when we discuss chords, but you do not have to remember them. These numbers and names let you talk about notes in a scale without knowing the key in which they are played.