Major Scale Formula Definition (Guitar)

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Understanding the Major Scale Formula

Understanding the major scale formula boils down to knowing the degrees and steps that make up a major scale.

What are the 7 notes of a major scale?

The 7 notes/scale degrees of a major scale are: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7

Each of these degrees represents a distance from the root note. These distances are called intervals.

For example, if we take the major scale formula and apply it to the C Note we’ll get:


What are the steps in a major scale?

The major scale, like any scale, can be visualized using a series of whole and half steps.

There are 7 total steps in the major scale. They are, starting from the root note:


This can also be abbreviated as: W-W-H-W-W-W-H

Using this series of Whole and Half steps, pick a root note on a single string and follow the steps.

For example, if you start on the 1st fret of the Low E string, which is an F note, you’ll end up with an F major scale.

Major Scale Formula Starting at the F Note (intervals on low E, steps on high E)
Major scale starting from F. Intervals are shown on low E, and Whole/Half steps are shown on high E.

Practicing and applying the major scale

Your next step in learning the major scale formula is learning the positions and theory.

Here you can learn the 5 major CAGED shapes, which are built around the open chords C, A, G, E, and D.

Check out this post to learn about 3-notes-per-string scale positions.