C major scale

The Solution below shows the C major scale notes, intervals and scale degrees on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.

The Lesson steps then explain how to identify the C major scale note interval positions, choose the note names and scale degree names.

For a quick summary of this topic, have a look at Major scale.

Keys in the major scale
Key[C]C#DbDD#EbEE#FbFF#GbGG#AbAA#BbBB#CbAll On 1 page

Solution - 2 parts

1. C major scale

This step shows the ascending C major scale on the piano, treble clef and bass clef. It also shows the scale degree chart for all 8 notes.

The C major scale has no sharp or flat notes.

This major scale key is on the Circle of 5ths - C major on circle of 5ths, which means that it is a commonly used major scale key.

C major scale note names
Note no.Note intervalNote name
1tonicThe 1st note of the C major scale is C
2C-maj-2ndThe 2nd note of the C major scale is D
3C-maj-3rdThe 3rd note of the C major scale is E
4C-perf-4thThe 4th note of the C major scale is F
5C-perf-5thThe 5th note of the C major scale is G
6C-maj-6thThe 6th note of the C major scale is A
7C-maj-7thThe 7th note of the C major scale is B
8C-perf-8thThe 8th note of the C major scale is C

C major scale

Middle C (midi note 60) is shown with an orange line under the 2nd note on the piano diagram.

These note names are shown below on the treble clef followed by the bass clef.

On the treble clef, Middle C is shown with an orange ledger line below the main 5 staff lines.

On the bass clef, Middle C is shown with an orange ledger line above the main 5 staff lines.

C major scale

C major scale

For all other major scale keys, the staff diagrams above would show the scale notes with the sharp and flat symbols shown before each note on the staff, and then the key signature page eg. C major key signature, would show those symbols as a key signature next to the bass or treble clef symbol.

However, since the C major scale has no sharps or flats, the diagrams above are identical to that shown at C major key signature, as there are no accidentals that sharpen or flatten the notes.

C major scale degrees
Note no.Degree name
1C is the tonic of the C major scale
2D is the supertonic of the C major scale
3E is the mediant of the C major scale
4F is the subdominant of the C major scale
5G is the dominant of the C major scale
6A is the submediant of the C major scale
7B is the leading tone of the C major scale
8C is the octave of the C major scale
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. C major scale descending

This step shows the descending C major scale on the piano, treble clef and bass clef.
C major scale descending
No.1234567
NoteBAGFEDC

C major scale descending

C major scale descending

C major scale descending

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

Lesson steps

1. Piano key note names

This step shows the white and black note names on a piano keyboard so that the note names are familiar for later steps, and to show that the note names start repeating themselves after 12 notes.

The white keys are named using the alphabetic letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, which is a pattern that repeats up the piano keyboard.

Every white or black key could have a flat(b) or sharp(#) accidental name, depending on how that note is used. In a later step, if sharp or flat notes are used, the exact accidental names will be chosen.

Sharp and flat note names

The audio files below play every note shown on the piano above, so middle C (marked with an orange line at the bottom) is the 2nd note heard.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

2. C tonic note and one octave of notes

This step shows an octave of notes in the key of C, to identify the start and end notes of the scale.

The numbered notes are those that might be used when building this note scale.

But since this is a scale in the key of C, it is certain that notes 1 and 13 will be used in the scale.

Note 1 is the tonic note - the starting note - C, and note 13 is the same note name but one octave higher.

C chromatic scale-1 octave of notes

C chromatic scale-1 octave of notes
No.12345678910111213
NoteCC# / DbDD# / EbEFF# / GbGG# / AbAA# / BbBC
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

3. C major scale note interval positions

This step applies the major scale note interval pattern starting from C, so that the correct piano keys and note pitches can be identified.

The major scale uses the  W-W-H-W-W-W-H  note counting rule to identify the scale note positions.

To count up a Whole tone, count up by two physical piano keys, either white or black.

To count up a Half-tone (semitone), count up from the last note up by one physical piano key, either white or black.

The tonic note (shown as *) is the starting point and is always the 1st note in the major scale.

C major scale note positions

Again, the final 8th note is the octave note, having the same name as the tonic note.
C major scale
No.12345678
NoteCDEFGABC

So why does the C major scale have no sharps or flats, and why is it the only major scale with no sharps or flats ?

It is because the Whole tone-Half-tone note interval positions are selected to fall on white keys, and never on black keys.

This is because the C major scale historically comes from the ionian mode, and all modes in their simplest form only use white / natural notes.

A natural minor scale is the relative minor key of C major, and since it contains the same note names (ordered differently), it too has no sharps or flats.

The Mode topic introduction section shows a table of all modes.

These are the only common scales in music theory having no sharps or flats. All other major and minor scales (harmonic, melodic) have at least one sharp or flat.

Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

4. C major scale descending

This step shows the notes when descending the C major scale, going from the highest note sound back to the starting note.

For major scales, the notes names when descending are just the reverse of the ascending names.

So assuming octave note 8 has been played in the step above, the notes now descend back to the tonic.

C major scale descending

C major scale descending
No.1234567
NoteBAGFEDC
Audio downloads
bass clef iconBass Clef:MidiMP3treble clef iconTreble Clef:MidiMP3

5. C major scale degrees

This step shows the C major scale degrees - tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, leading note / tone, and octave.
In music theory, each note in this scale has what is called a scale degree name, which describes the relationship of that note to the tonic(1st) note.

Scale degree names 1,2,3,4,5,6, and 8 below are always the same for all major and minor scales (ie. 1st note is always tonic, 2nd is supertonic etc.) , but obviously the note names will be different for each scale / key combination.

In the major scale, the 7th note is called the leading note or leading tone because the sound of the 7th note feels like it wants to resolve and finish at the octave note, when all scale notes are played in sequence.

It does this because in this scale, the 7th note is only 1 semitone away from the 8th note - the octave note. The C harmonic minor scale and C melodic minor scale scales share the same property - they both have only one half-tone / semitone between the 7th and 8th notes.

In contrast, the C natural minor scale has a whole tone (two half-tones / semitones, two notes on the piano keyboard) between the 7th and 8th notes, and the 7th note does not lean towards the 8th note in the same way. In this case, the 7th note is called the subtonic.

C major scale degrees
Note no.Degree name
1C is the tonic of the C major scale
2D is the supertonic of the C major scale
3E is the mediant of the C major scale
4F is the subdominant of the C major scale
5G is the dominant of the C major scale
6A is the submediant of the C major scale
7B is the leading tone of the C major scale
8C is the octave of the C major scale