Talk:Major scale

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Analyzing sharps and flats[edit]

Noticed something strange in the tables listing the number of accidentals in a given key. The notes E# and Cb are mentioned although no such notes exist in music. Siddharth Prabhu 08:38, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

E# and Cb do exist; they are enharmonic spellings of F and B natural. __Just plain Bill 20:07, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


Should this include a reference to the natural scale (of C?) and the representation of it as "doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, te, doh"? This doesn't seem to appear elsewhere in Wikipedia. Chris Wood 22:40, 4 Mar 2004 (UTC) (reposted, logged in)

Solfege? If so, the mention of solfege is only useful for those who already know solfege, in which case they don't need the mention.Hyacinth 23:34, 4 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I think it would be a good idea to at least mention it, since many people are familiar with it. I don't know where to add it, but a sentence like Solfege assigns the syllables "Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, and do" to the notes in the major scale. might be useful. -- Merphant 06:39, 5 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Yes, I'm a bigot.Hyacinth

Major scale fingerings for the keyboard[edit]

Do any of you know the most improved major scale fingerings for 2 octaves?? If you use a piano book that tells you the fingerings, it will probably use the same fingering for F, C, G, D, A, and E major scales for the left hand, but this really isn't a good fingering if you're playing for more than one octave. According to one Internet site at, there will be a "little secret" page if you follow the links correctly, giving you more improved fingerings for the G, D, A, and F major scales, which are certainly better if playing for more than one octave. Here are the fingerings for all 12 major scales, 2 octaves:

C and E major:

  • RH 123-1234-123-1234-5
  • LH 5-4321-321-4321-321

G major:

  • RH 123-1234-123-1234-5
  • LH 321-4321-321-321-32

F major:

  • RH 1234-123-1234-123-4
  • LH 321-4321-321-4321-2

D major:

  • RH 123-1234-123-1234-5
  • LH 21-4321-321-4321-32

B flat major:

  • RH 2-123-1234-123-1234
  • LH 321-4321-321-4321-2

A major:

  • RH 123-1234-123-1234-5
  • LH 21-321-4321-321-432

E flat major:

  • RH 2-1234-123-1234-123
  • LH 321-4321-321-4321-2

A flat major:

  • RH 23-123-1234-123-123
  • LH 321-4231-321-4321-2

B major:

  • RH 123-1234-123-1234-5
  • LH 4-321-4321-321-4321

D flat major:

  • RH 23-1234-123-1234-12
  • LH 321-4321-321-4321-2

F# or G flat major:

  • RH 234-123-1234-123-12
  • LH 4231-321-4321-321-2
If you're learning scales for the first time, you're better off learning mute fingering for all your scales. It'll help you down the track. Dysprosia 23:10, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

I've done a Google search on "mute fingering" and it doesn't appear to tell me what this phrase means. Georgia guy 00:19, 28 November 2005 (UTC)

You use the fingering for C major for all scales. Dysprosia 00:00, 7 December 2005 (UTC)
Well, that can be kind of awkward because of the posture of the thumb and the keyboard layout. Georgia guy 22:50, 13 December 2005 (UTC)

Capital letters?[edit]

Should it be C-major, C Major or C major. I am slightly confused... Fatboy06 21:28, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

Never capitalize "major" for purposes of this encyclopedia. Whether it's hyphenated depends on whether it's being used as an adjective ("C-major scale") or a noun ("The piece is in C major"). See Wikipedia:WikiProject Music terminology. —Wahoofive (talk) 22:56, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

There's something missing from this entry.

There is no explanation of how music in a major key is more grandiose and optomistic, and that in a minor key has a "sad", mournful quality.

So there's plenty of technical detail about sharps and flats, but no explanation of what it all means to the uneducated hearer.

It should be noted that a minor key sounding "sad" as well as any other conotations associated with chords is strictly a western notion. There is nothing inherently emotional about specific chords. A minor key sounds sad because we have been taught that it is sad and we only see it used in sad circumstances. If you tried to introduce this concept to someone trained in indian, asian, or any other non-western music they would have no idea what you were talking about. --Azakreski 16:45, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

Actually, it's the other way around. Musical scales are essentially definitions of tones in specific ratios of frequency. A person could, in theory, make sounds using frequencies that do not fall into any scale relative to each other. For example, playing an out of tune piano would use such frequencies. Since notes played concurrently, or played while overtones from a previous note were still audible, would result in tones that are not multiples of each other, it would cause portions of each tone to "cancel out" portions of other tones. It's hard to explain without drawing sine waves, but the bottom line is that tonal scales evolved because they are inherently appealing. This is not a cultural thing.

People who are not used to music of a certain type, or scales used in a different culture, would certainly not be predisposed to enjoy what they are hearing. But if they were told that a certain aspect of what they are hearing is tied to a certain emotion, such as sadness, it would be done to help them learn because it correlates with what they hear and feel. Students who have never learned about major or minor scales who are taught in terms of sadness or other emotions will be able to use that as a tool because they can associate the emotion they were feeling with what they were taught, not the other way around. A beginning music student might think, "that's the minor key because it's the sad sounding one." The student did not learn that the minor scale sounded sad. The student learned that the sad sounding scale was the minor one. The same general concepts apply when students are learning about music that is completely foreign to them. --Hagrinas (talk) 18:45, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Unicode sharp and flat signs (versus number sign and lowercase b)[edit]

Georgia guy, don't revert just because you don't have a font with sharp and flat signs. Wikipedia policy is to use correct Unicode characters. —Keenan Pepper 21:31, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

  • Where should I go to propose a change to the policy?? They show up as boxes on my computer. Georgia guy 22:32, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
The policy is at Wikipedia:Manual of Style (music)#Flats and sharps. You can bring it up on the talk page there. —Keenan Pepper 23:08, 29 April 2006 (UTC)


How many of the mnemonics added to the article (for the order of sharps and flats) are used in practice, and how many have just been made up (possibly even for the purposes of this article)? The "flat" mnemonics now make a nonsense of the preceding sentence "Luckily (!) the mnemonic can now be reversed ..." Unless there are violent objections, I shall remove all mnemonics apart from "Father Charles ... Ends Battle" (which neatly reverses to "Battle Ends ... Charles's Father"); this, incidentally, is the only mnemonic that is widely used outside kindergartens. 20:26, 20 October 2006 (UTC)

Funny thing about the mnemonics right now... They both show the same patter (FCGDAEB), which doesn't make any sense. The Flats pattern should be reversed, as the text above it states.

Harmonic Properties[edit]

This section strikes me as somewhat meaningless, at least the way in which it's worded.

"The major scale may predominate because of its unique harmonic properties. It allows:

three-part major or minor chords, both stable and consonant, on every scale degree but the seventh"

Every mode allows that. The difference is which degree the diminished (unstable) chord falls on.

"a diminished fifth within the seventh chord built on the fifth degree, the dominant motion by a minor second from the leading tone to the tonic"

The first part of this statement (the V7 chord, and its unmentioned tritone resolution) is the only real vital characteristic, the most distinguishing feature of Major mode. Lydian also features a an identical leading tone to the tonic, as do Phrygian and Locrian from above (scale degree II to I).

"root motion by perfect fifths, the strongest root motion, from nearly every degree in either direction, the two exceptions being up a perfect fifth from the seventh degree, and down a perfect fifth from the fourth degree"

Again, this happens in all modes, the difference being where that one exception occurs.

"the first six notes of the harmonic series provide a consonant major chord, the fourth to sixth of which form a major triad, and seven of the nine notes between the 8th and 16th harmonics (the 7th and 15th overtones) are notes in the major scale in just intonation"

The first ten notes of the harmonic series are all in Mixolydian mode, without having to skip a partial. If using the harmonic series as a determiner for why a particular mode predominates, Mixolydian is the strongest, not Major/Ionian.

And the most important characteristic of Major/Ionian was not mentioned: it is the only mode which has major chords for scale degrees I, IV, and V. (Likewise Minor/Aeolian is the only one with minor chords for scale degrees i, iv, and v. Because in these modes the tonic, dominant, and sub-dominant are all of the same quality, the mood is not affected when shifting between these stable scale degrees.)

I suggest that this section be altered to include only the unique characteristics of Major/Ionian mode and how it functions, and should not include speculations as to why this mode predominates using reasons which point to other modes.

Phoebus 14:14, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

confusion for a layperson[edit]

Sorry to intrude in a technical discussion here, but I'm just a middle-aged guy who played cello in jr. and sr. high school -- never understood anything about music theory -- but have continued to enjoy listening to classical music. Late in life (hopefully, not too late!) I've realized that I would like to understand how music works, how different senses of sound convey different meanings (or not, I realize that these are undoubtedly culture-bound interpreations?), and how the theoretical underpinnings of music become the way in which to apprehend different styles/modes of composition.

But, looking at this article, and other related Wikipedia articles about basic concepts in music, I find myself totally at sea simply reading the first three or four sentences. (See below for a good example of impenetrable introduction, unless one already knows what the topic is about.)

Would it be possible for someone musically talented to provide introductory statements for Wikipedia articles on basic musical concepts that give the interested, but ignorant, layperson a chance to understand what each concept is actually about not in theory but in hearing (perhaps with examples, such "in Beethoven's 5th one can hear the xxxx," of "The Beatles' "Michelle" is a good example of how xxxxx.")

Thanks in advance for any help you all can give to the well-meaning but musically poorly-educated masses.

Uoguma 15:06, 13 March 2007 (UTC)uoguma

In music theory, the major scale (or major mode) is one of the diatonic scales. It is often considered to be made up of seven notes (eight if one includes the octave which is actually the first note of the next octave of the scale). When the octaves are compounded (as they usually are in practice as opposed to the more theoretical concept of the seven-note system), they are considered to be divided into two groups of four, the tetrachords. The pattern of steps in each tetrachord is, in ascending order:

   tone, tone, semitone, (tone)

The major scale has seven notes (plus the inclusion of the tonic of the next scale to complete an octave, in practice), which in solfege are the syllables "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti (or Si) (and Do)." The simplest major scale is C major (see figure 1). It is unique in that it is the only major scale not to use sharps or flats on the musical staff and consequently uses only the white notes on the piano keyboard.

Listen to the C major scale.

The C major scale.

When writing out major (and minor) scales, no line or space on the stave can be skipped, and no note can be repeated with a different accidental. This has the effect of forcing the key signature to feature just sharps or just flats; ordinary major scales never include both.

The major scale is the same as the Ionian mode.

Do the mnemonics really belong here?[edit]

It seems to me that these mnemonics are really about memorizing the order of accidentals in a key signature, and don't have much to do with major scales. I propose having exactly one mnemonic (one each for flats and sharps) in the key signature article, and eliminating them here. If everybody wants to post their favorite (which I oppose, but I know I'll lose on this), they should go in a separate article like Key signature mnemonics. —Wahoofive (talk) 15:30, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Diatonic and chromatic[edit]

The article uses the term "diatonic" without adequate explanation. This term, along with "chromatic", is the cause of serious uncertainties at several other Wikipedia articles, and in the broader literature. Some of us thought that both terms needed special coverage, so we started up a new article: Diatonic and chromatic. Why not have a look, and join the discussion? Be ready to have comfortable assumptions challenged! – Noetica♬♩Talk 22:25, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Major cleanup in progress[edit]

There's a lot of second-person prescriptive language in the article, which I have started to clean up, doing some wikification at the same time.

In the process, I'm taking out "[[Media:Cmaj scale.ogg|Listen]] to the C major scale. " and replacing it with a neater audio link to an ascending-only scale. If someone wants to put that earlier file in a more accessible spot in the commons, we can easily go back to the up-and-down audio clip to match the written scale just below it. __Just plain Bill 22:34, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Enharmonic equivalents[edit]

I found this in the "scales with sharp key signatures section":

"Six sharps, the last one being E# (an enharmonic spelling of F natural) indicate the key of F# major, since F has already been sharped in the key signature."

I believe that this sentence contains irrelevant information. The fact that F is the enharmonic equivalent of E# is irrelevant, since the scale of F# major does not contain F natural. Therefore, the note at the end that F has already been sharpened in the key signature is also irrelevant. I propose this replacement sentence:

"Six sharps, the last one being E#, indicate the key of F# major."

I think this is easier for someone not well versed in music theory to follow.

On a similar topic, I don't see why major scales with flat key signatures are considered so different to similar scales with sharp key signatures.

Cosmicpanda (talk) 10:42, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

"... easier for someone not well versed in music theory to follow." is a very persuasive argument, in my view, at least. I wrote it that way because every now and then someone comes up and says, "but there's no such thing as E#." For the moment I demoted the sentence to a parenthesis; it could just as easily disappear entirely, without losing much relevant info.
On your second point, being more or less a folkie, I pretty much stay between four sharps and three flats when considering paper with lines and spots on it, so I can't really speak to that. I don't consider heavily sharped or flatted key signatures at all :-)
__Just plain Bill (talk) 16:00, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
But there is such a thing as E#, that's the thing. You're completely correct, though, that the whole sentence could be deleted without harming the article at all. Cosmicpanda (talk) 07:17, 13 December 2007 (UTC)
The purpose of an encyclopedia is to explain relevant information. If adding something improves the clarity of an article, it belongs there. If removing it adds confusion, it belongs there. Since somebody made a comment on this very page, six months before this issue came up (see the top of this talk page), it's clear that there are people who were confused without this mentioned, and who would have a better understanding with this mentioned. --Hagrinas (talk) 18:57, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
You may find Wikipedia:Summary style useful. Hyacinth (talk) 23:26, 13 June 2008 (UTC)
I think that this issue could be resolved using a less confusing example - this article, after all, is about the major scale, not about enharmonic equivalents. On that note, I think a lot of this article could be rewritten to aid clarity. I'll take a look at it now.Cosmicpanda (talk) 06:45, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

my proposed changes:[edit]

I will have to dig up some references, but I think I can do that without too much trouble. In the meantime I present these ideas for your inspection (it will need some formatting, but isn't intended to replace the entire article):

To the introduction:

"In music theory, the major scale is one of the diatonic scales. It is made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher. The simplest major scale to write or play on a keyboard is C major, which is the only major scale to not require sharps or flats, and therefore requires only the white notes of the keyboard to be played."

(keep the image of scale and recording, as already existing)

The changes I have made here are to remove the references to the Ionian mode and the Solfege system, both of which I believe would work better further on in the article.

To the Structure section:

"A major scale may be seen as two identical tetrachords, each consisting of two whole tones followed by a semitone, separated by a whole tone. The resulting scale has the same pattern of intervals between scale degrees as the Ionian mode:

whole tone, whole tone, semitone, whole tone, whole tone, whole tone, semitone."

(I like the image showing the pattern of whole tones and semitones, but perhaps it could have the roman numerals underneath the notes to help relate them to the next section?).

The changes I made to this section are fairly large: I rephrased the language to talk about whole tones and semitones rather than whole steps and half steps, but that's just my personal preference and may not be compliant with the general usage on Wikipedia. I liked the explanation of structure using tetrachords, but I'm not an expert on them. After reading the article on tetrachords perhaps it would be easier to call them Lydian tetrachords? This would avoid the involved details about the exact relationships between whole tones and semitones, which is given in the image. I also moved the reference to the Ionian mode from the introduction to here.

To the Named scale degrees section:

I like it the way it is, but perhaps it could also be presented as a table, and which could then easily include the Solfege names as well?

Regarding key signatures:

This section is necessary as the major key article redirects to here, but I propose that the two existing sections regarding major and minor keys be merged into one:

"Key signatures are used to enable a major scale to begin on any note (as opposed to just C) by ensuring that the essential pattern of whole tones and semitones between degrees of the scale is maintained. They consist of sharps or flats placed at the beginning of each line, which raise or lower the pitch of their respective notes by one semitone accordingly. They define the key of a piece.

Accidentals can also be used for this purpose within a score.

Sharp key signatures have between one and seven sharps, applied in this order: F C G D A E B. The key note or tonic is immediately above the last sharp in the signature. For example, one sharp (F♯) in the key signature of a piece in a major key indicates the key of G major, as G is the note following F♯.

(existing code box showing 'sharp' keys - perhaps this could be replaced with an image showing them graphically?)

This table shows that each scale starting on the fifth scale degree of the previous scale has one new sharp, added in the order given above. See Circle of Fifths.

Flat key signatures consist of one to seven flats, applied in this order: B E A D G C F. This, incidentally, is the same as the order of sharps, but reversed. The major scale with one flat is F major. In all other flat major scales, the tonic or key note is indicated by the second to last flat. In the major key with four flats, for example, the penultimate flat is A♭, indicating a key of A♭ major."

(existing code box showing 'flat' keys - perhaps this could be replaced with an image showing them graphically?).

In this case each new scale starts a fifth below (or a fourth above) the previous one."

The Circle of Fifths Section:

This appears to be a summarised version of the circle of fifths page. Is it really needed?

The Harmonic Properties section:

I believe that this may be pretty much original research. Phoebus gives a very thorough analysis of it above. Myself, I think it just happened to catch on, although this isn't very scholarly. If you look at Renaissance polyphony, you can see that they were tending to write in a manner that encouraged the development of tonality - the raising of the leading note at cadences, avoidance of tritones in the lydian mode with the B flat, which effectively created the Ionian mode, and perhaps also the 4-3 cadence foreshadowed the tonal V-I candence. I don't believe that in 1600, some genius hit upon the idea of writing in the Ionian mode because of the harmonic series.

Back to the article, I think that this section can be removed.

And then all that leaves is the referencing, which should be fun.Cosmicpanda (talk) 08:21, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Requested audio[edit]

There is an audio example included in this article. Hyacinth (talk) 21:19, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Some Feedback[edit]

Pretty nice job, editors. I understand most of this, but I'm not good enough to edit the subject, alas. A couple of thoughts: "Structure" talks about tetrachords, but the pic has whole step/half step. And steps are easy enough to understand, too. I don't think starting with steps in scales and then going deeper into tetrachords is such a bad idea. Scale degrees is just dumped on the page with no explanation whatsoever (?). And then there's Harmonic Properties.... I think overall it's a pretty good job, though, as I said. Jjdon (talk) 19:54, 21 February 2009 (UTC)

CarrotSalad comments:

The first section needs to be modified, perhaps by just posting a link to scale degrees. Scale degrees don't just apply to the major scale. The scale degree and their names as given in the first section also apply to the minor, harmonic minor, harmonic major, melodic mionor and most likely all the diatonic scales Aeolian,...,Locrian.

Scale degrees, and their names are part of the modern functional system. My best guess is that the major/minor scales were historically the start of the functional system. That's why this ariticle should be started with a historical origin section -- see my post below on this. —Preceding unsigned comment added by CarrotSalad (talkcontribs) 18:35, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

too simple of an explanation in head paragraph[edit]

The statement in the head paragraph that the simplest major scale to play on the piano is C major seems a bit too unsophisticated and piano-centric.  It's true many western people do play piano, but is it becoming of a encyclopedia article to speak in such simple terms?

Baumgaertner (talk) 21:42, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

To quote the article: "The simplest major scale to write or play on the piano is C major, the only major scale not to require sharps or flats, using only the white keys on the piano keyboard". Are you claiming that it is ethnocentric because it mentions the piano? Hyacinth (talk) 11:27, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
The sentence mentioning the piano comes after other more technical descriptions of the major scale. Why would it not be "becoming of an encyclopedia" to consider various possible readers, with various ways of coming at the subject? __ Just plain Bill (talk) 12:27, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Needs Section on Historical Origin[edit]

There is a difference between the Major Scale and the Ionian mode. They are the same construct but the nomenclature is different for a reason. The reason needs to be told!

What musical period did the Major scale come into being and for what purpose? What other purposes were the major scale adapted for? Why did music gravitate away from the modes to the major and minor scales?

All I know is (1) that the Major scale was probably developed during the common practice period after music had gone somewhat tonal. So the major scale most certainly carried the concept of a tonic. (2) The major/minor scales also found favor because the ternary chords built on them were pretty great systems.

Despite extensive research on the web, information on the Major scale origin is completely lacking without any specific details. It will take a music theory expert who has read off-web to answer the questions above. —Preceding unsigned comment added by CarrotSalad (talkcontribs) 17:54, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

As a matter of fact, there is absolutely no difference whatever between the Major scale and the scale of the Ionian mode. The reason for the difference in nomenclature has more to do with the properties of modes generally. Properly speaking, the Ionian mode is defined by (1) a range limited to one octave above the tonic (or "final"), plus one added note below, (2) a "tenor" or "reciting tone" on the fifth scale degree, which functions as an important center for melodic motion, and (3) a hierarchy of melodic cadencing points amongst the other scale degrees. The major scale, by contrast, is an abstraction of the notes used in a (tonal) composition, whose actual deployment may cover seven octaves or so, depending on the forces employed. The fifth scale degree indeed has an important polar function in relation to the tonic, but it is not particularly important (and certainly not in a fixed octave related to an equally fixed "final") as a structural center for the creation of melodies. This function is a harmonic one, and is independent of actual registral position (for example, in the Ionian mode, the reciting tone is the perfect fifth above the final; in a major key, the dominant is the fifth scale degree, whether it appears above or below an instance of the tonic in any particular place, and since neither tonic nor dominant is fixed to one register, the relationship may as well be expressed by compound intervals as simple ones. This is even more true for the remaining scale degrees. I sum, the scales are identical, but the difference in terminology indicates a difference in the contexts in which they are found.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 21:41, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
It is true that there is no difference between the intervals that make up a major scale and the those of an Ionian mode, but as the elaboration above suggests (at least to me) it is incorrect to say that they are the same thing. The major scale is a construct of tonal music and has harmonic implications. The Ionian mode is a construct of pre-tonal music that lacked polyphony. Modes do not have a harmonic implication. While it is worth noting in the article that a major scale and the Ionian mode contain the same notes, I think the article is incorrect when it says (in the lead sentence no less) that they are the same. They may be effectively the same to (for example) a guitar player learning scales/modes to increase their improvisational vocabulary, but they are different things used for different purposes when used for theoretical analysis (which is where both of these constructs originate). Alas, I feel like I should include citations galore for this. Maybe I'll hunt through some books later today.... SlubGlub (talk) 00:20, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
Since the Ionian mode was cooked up in 1547 by Glareanus, it is incorrect to say that it is "a construct of pre-tonal music that lacked polyphony". We could quibble about what exactly "tonality" is and whether it could be said to have existed already in Glareanus's time, but there is absolutely not question at all that music in the mid-16th-century possessed polyphony. Similarly, modes do in fact have harmonic implications, but again that depends a bit on how we define the word "harmony". I think I made plain three years ago that there are differences, and what those differences are.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:54, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
Furthermore, I'd add that, at least in pre-tonal music, the Ionian mode was never equal tempered and that for probably more than 200 years now, the major scale is almost always equal tempered. Therefore, they aren't usually the same notes even. Additionally, modes could not be transposed both because the tone system was generally not equal tempered and because there was no way to notate what we now think of as black notes on the keyboard (except for Bb). The possibility of transposition into 12 different keys, on the other hand, is central to the concept of a scale in tonal music. SlubGlub (talk) 00:37, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
First, tempering has little or nothing to do with the theory of modes or of tonality. Second, modes can be and were transposed, and this too has nothing to do with the system of tuning in use. The notation of "black notes" besides B dates back to the Ancient Greeks, and where the notation of chant is concerned, this goes as far back as the origins of chant theory. I would not dispute your assertion that transposition into 12 different keys is vital to the concept of a scale in tonal music, but Ptolemy already had a system of transposition into 15 different keys in the second century AD, and that system in turn was based on much older schemes of similar nature. Therefore, if what you are trying to say is that transposability differentiates tonal systems from modal ones, I would say you are going to have to come up with some mighty impressive sources before I will be convinced.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:54, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
All I was trying to get at with any of this (and I guess I should have just created a new section or something) was that the (previous--I've since changed it) lead sentence was not correct when it indicated that a major scale was the exact same thing as an Ionian mode. I sense agreement on that point, even if some of the reasons I presented are historically or theoretically inaccurate. Broken clocks are correct twice a day and all that, I suppose. SlubGlub (talk) 02:02, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
Yes, agreed. It is better to lose that confusion from the lede. It requires (and the discussion above requires) close reading—for example, "there is absolutely no difference whatever between the Major scale and the scale of the Ionian mode" (bolding added)—which will not easily be conveyed to the newcomer, no matter how we might rewrite the lede.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 02:46, 26 January 2013 (UTC)

Question about root motion[edit]

This just removed from the article's "Harmonic Properties" section:

This is wrong. Root motion in fifths is strong when descending, but week in its ascending form. The strongest root movement is up a fourth (the motion from dominant to tonic). When a chord (e.g. C major) moves up a fifth (to G major) the new chord's root has been already heard as the fifth of the previous one, creating a weak movement. A good way to check this is by analysis of repertoire: root movement in ascending fourths (or descending fifths) is by far the most common way to create motion in harmony, accounting, in some cases (like "Les Fouilles Mortes") for almost all movement. Please correct this.

That may be so, but such commentary belongs here on the talk page. I am not familiar with "les Feuilles Mortes" nor well-enough versed in theory to fix it in the main space, if that is what is needed. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 14:46, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Someone was just showing off, similar to the way some smart-alecks try to make other people feel inferior by referring just to "opus 59, no. 3", without identifying the composer as Beethoven, or the work as a string quartet in C major. You almost certainly do know "Les Feuilles mortes" (the wannabe show-off managed to misspell it, not to mention mis-capitalize the French), but most likely by its English title, "Autumn leaves".
"Strength" of harmonic motion has two, almost diametrically opposed senses. First, when referring to tonal function, the strongest progression is (as the commentator says) a root progression of a descending fifth (or the equivalent, an ascending fourth—the academically precise term is "by interval-class 5", but you need two PhDs in music theory and another in academic obfuscation to work out what that means, and you still have to specify direction). Second, however, when speaking of root progressions generally, a "strong" progression is sometimes defined as one which is the most distant from "normal' (similar to the grammatical notion of a "strong verb"). In tonal music, the "strongest" root progression is usually regarded as the interval of a second (as VII-i in minor, or ii-I in major), and all the more so when one root is chromatically altered (as when a "Neapolitan" chord resolves directly to the tonic). However, in my opinion this entire discussion belongs in the article "Tonality", not here, since the employment of the major scale does not necessarily invoke the functional harmonic system. Other systems may arbitrarily decide that third-related root progressions are "strongest" (and indeed there is plenty of literature out there that does just this), or that no one progression is stronger than another ("consonant atonality", if the result is that there is no sense of tonal center).—Jerome Kohl 22:09, 7 February 2010 (UTC)
I suspect natural key signatures are the cancellations of sharps and flats when the key signature changes. I'm not sure though. Lanthanum-138 (talk) 15:38, 11 March 2011 (UTC)(Posted comment on wrong section Lanthanum-138 (talk) 15:40, 11 March 2011 (UTC))

Natural key signatures[edit]

When, where, why are they used? Is it assumed that the natural sign "cancels" a sharp or a flat? For most readers, myself included, this is esoteric stuff, and needs more explanation. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 14:58, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

It appears all notes are assumed to be sharped unless explicitly made natural. What about flat keys? Who uses this, and how long has it been around? I will wait a while before putting a {{fact}} tag in the article, but this really needs a citation. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 15:10, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

It's not esoteric, it's exactly the same as the information in the two sections directly above it. Hyacinth (talk) 16:18, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Not exactly. Most musically literate people are familiar with sharp key signatures or flat key signatures. Where, when, by whom, and why are natural key signatures used? I am familiar with the notation for a key change within a piece, but somehow this looks different. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 17:26, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
It looks like plain old vandalism to me. Whatever next, double-flat signatures? Double-sharp signatures? Quarter-flat/sharp signatures? All of these could be theoretically extrapolated along the same lines, but Just plain Bill's point still applies.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 21:59, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
No, it couldn't. Have you looked at the content of the section and not just its heading? Hyacinth (talk) 22:04, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it could, and yes, I have. More importantly, show me an example of the use of "natural key signatures", and a source describing them.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:08, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Show me an example of the use of "sharp key signatures" and/or "flat key signatures" and a source describing them. Does it describe the system as endless or as closed? How many sharped notes does it say C major has, and how many natural notes? How many sharped notes does it say C major has and how many natural notes? Hyacinth (talk) 22:14, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Just about any exposition of music theory shows key signatures with sharps and flats. The burden of providing a source "lies with the editor who adds or restores material." __ Just plain Bill (talk) 22:33, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Yet when y'all ask rhetorical questions or are ironic you expect everyone to get it. Hyacinth (talk) 22:43, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
Whatever. I have added a source for some of the material on sharp and flat key signatures. Sources for the mnemonics offered may take a little longer. I do not expect to find a source for "natural" signatures, but if someone else can dig something up, I will be suitably impressed.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:58, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
I expect no such thing (that everyone will get it) which is why I keep that part of my style on a short leash here. Sometimes it slips loose, sorry. I don't see what that has to do with this article. Adding, or restoring, all that malarkey about "natural key signatures" looks a lot like making a point by messing with the article space. Hyacinth, the volume of your input here is astounding, and I've said before that I respect that, but here I think you are being silly. How's that for direct? Doesn't change the respect thing, though.
Wikipedia requires citations for material that is challenged or likely to be challenged. If you wish to challenge the order of sharps and flats as used in key signatures for a few hundred years now, there is no need; citations have been found. Still looking for decent cites for the mnemonics, which I see as nice to keep, but trivial. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 23:38, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
I suspect natural key signatures are the cancellations of sharps and flats when the key signature changes. I'm not sure though. Lanthanum-138 (talk) 15:38, 11 March 2011 (UTC)

C major scale diagram[edit]

From the point of view of a music novice. In the text a major is described as a series of eight notes spanning an octave (simplified). However, the diagram 'C major scale' shows 15 notes 8 ascending and 7 descending. I suspect this is a rising followed by a falling major (or whatever the musical terms are). However, it does NOT match the description of a major in the text. Either a diagram showing 8 notes, or some explanatory text/different diagram label would help. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Llynglas (talkcontribs) 16:00, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

The description refers to "seven distinct notes". If a note is repeated, it is no longer "distinct". The text also refers cautiously to "an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher", which is to say that this note, too is not "distinct". Now, although this looks perfectly plain to me, perhaps it could be made clearer for the novice. Do you have a suggestion how this might be done?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:01, 2 August 2011 (UTC)
Just uploaded my simple understanding of a major scale as a diagram,
Based on the SVG image of a dodecagon by László Németh (User:Nl74) and The Raven’s Spiral Guide to Music TheoryVersion 0.3.1 (a later version introduced colours and removed the intervals diagram).
--ilgiz (talk) 21:31, 24 March 2016 (UTC)

Major System[edit]

AFAICT the description of the Major System boils down to: Chord roots are on the notes of the Myxolydian (the major scale with a flatted seventh), almost all of them can be either major or minor, diminished chords are avoided and most songs don't use the full system.

This doesn't seem like a very descriptive system. Given that the Myxolydian isn't the major scale and that the chords may or may not be the same as those built on the major scale, it's also not clear what this is doing here, other than it having the word "major" in its name.

It's certainly true that a lot of songs build chords on the flatted seventh -- e.g., a G-F-C-G progression -- but that seems worth noting on its own, and maybe not here.

Theory, whether musical or otherwise, exists to make predictions. If you hear the leading tone on a dominant chord in classical music, there's a very good chance you'll hear the tonic next, and if not a few other possibilities cover most of the actual usage (with the understanding that composers can and will deviate from the rules when it makes musical sense to them). From the description of the major system, I very little idea what to expect from it. Something like Space Oddity is fairly unusual harmonically (at least for pop/rock music), and probably deserves its own harmonic analysis rather than being lumped into a system that could cover nearly anything that doesn't use the diminished, whether it's Space Oddity or Louie Louie.

--Dmh (talk) 15:36, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

The "major system" stuff is idiosyncratic, relies on one source, and does not warrant an expansive section like this complete with laundry lists of songs. It should be removed entirely. See my comments on the minor scale article at [1]. --it's presence does the article a disservice. SlubGlub (talk) 20:34, 8 January 2013 (UTC)
I notice that this same source has apparently scoured the popular-song repertory and managed to find four examples of songs using the major scale (see the end of the article's lede). What next—a comprehensive list of all popular songs in 4/4 time? As far as the Mixolydian stuff is concerned, it sounds suspiciously like George Russell's Lydian chromatic concept turned upside-down. This is not so much about scales as about harmony, which is another reason to regard its presence here with suspicion. Either way, I agree that this section seems to have little or nothing to do with the major scale, and support its deletion (together with that comment in the lede listing four songs that use the major scale).—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:53, 8 January 2013 (UTC)
The section on the "major system" is now gone, since it seems to have given undue weight to something that may not even belong here. If anyone wants to find a better place for it, the content is still available in the history. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 23:52, 8 January 2013 (UTC)
@Jerome Kohl: Until earlier today, that same source (What To Listen For In Rock by Ken Stephenson) was cited in the Triad article to support this: "Examples of pieces which are based mostly on triads include Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day", The Beatles' "Hey Jude", Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World", and Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy", each from a successive decade beginning with the fifties." A list of songs in 4/4 time can't be far behind. It was also cited in the article for "Here Comes The Sun" to state that the song is in a minor key, which is ludicrous. I suspect whoever included that last one misread the source. It was probably doing some analysis (perhaps solid, perhaps questionable) of the bridge that starts with a C major chord and ends on the tonic A major. But whatever, it might be a good idea to look for other articles that site that source and make sure that it is being used to support something useful and informative, and not an unhelpful laundry list of songs that have some non-notable feature or some unusual analysis of questionable value and correctness. SlubGlub (talk) 05:02, 9 January 2013 (UTC)
I saw your edit summary on the Triad article, but did not realize the same source was at the root of this really stupid example of "sky is blue" documentation. Thanks for pointing this out. It shouldn't be too difficult to hunt out other places where that source is used, though I suppose it is marginally possible that it might actually be used somewhere to support useful observations.… Bwaah-hah-hah-hah-haaah!—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:54, 9 January 2013 (UTC)

Different definition[edit]

The article Diatonic scale, specifically the section saying "Theory", says that a major scale means any scale with a major third above the tonic, as in this sentence:

Using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, twelve of each of the three major scales (those with a major third/triad: Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian),...

This means that all 3 of these scales are major scales. This definitely contradicts what this article says. Georgia guy (talk) 12:07, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, there is a subtle distinction that needs to be clarified in that article. The seven diatonic scale types (Lydian, Ionian, Mixolydian, Dorian, Aeolian, Phrygian, and Locrian) are often divided into two classes, according to whether the third scale degree lies a major or a minor third above the tonic. By analogy to the major/minor tonal system, the former group (Lydian, Ionian, Mixolydian) are designated "major", and the rest "minor". What is not made clear is that the major scale is not the same as a "major" diatonic mode (with scare-quotes). Thanks for pointing this out.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:01, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Too many examples[edit]

I'd say that 60-70% of all the Western music ever composed is in the major mode. Then, why so many examples? Anybody who likes a song can find a reference saying that it is in a major mode and put it as an example... And as usual, the article is crowded with pop/rock music examples (wich is WP:WEIGHT). We could add millions of other examples and never end.--Fauban 15:48, 11 November 2012 (UTC)

Does this include the major scale alone or does it also include the Mixolydian mode?? Georgia guy (talk) 16:47, 11 November 2012 (UTC)
At first I didn't understand either this last question or the original complaint. Now looking a little more closely, I see that there is a "special definition" of major scale, supposedly applicable only to popular music styles, namely: "a chromatic system involving variable qualities (major and minor) of several chords whose roots are built on the notes of the Mixolydian scale." Does this in fact apply to "60-70% of all the Western music ever composed"? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is so, though I notice the explanation fails to include either the diminished triad or the half- and fully diminished seventh chords built on iv, which are at least as common as the I7 (V/IV) in tonal music generally. Is this remarkably anti-Lydian feature in fact a distinctive characteristic of popular music genres? Is the Mixolydian scale (as opposed to the Ionian) actually the dominant scale type underlying the chromatically inflected system describe and, if so, why is this section placed in this article, instead of in the one on the Mixolydian mode?—Jerome Kohl (talk) 22:10, 11 November 2012 (UTC)
That is a different discussion. Hyacinth (talk) 01:05, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
If you look at the article you will see that there are four examples of songs using the simple major scale. Furthermore, by the logic that since something is common we don't need example, articles such as Blue would have to be edited to remove images such as File:Color icon blue.svg.
Could we also conclude that if something is common enough we don't need to provide an explanation? Hyacinth (talk) 01:07, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
Ah, yes. I see. Yes, I agree with this. I keep expecting someone to start a "List of popular songs in major keys", along with a "List of popular-music pieces in 4/4 time". On the other hand, if the term "major scale" refers in popular music to what elsewhere is called the Mixolydian mode, we do have a bit of a conundrum here.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 02:11, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

Harmonic properties/motion[edit]

The section on harmonics and the major scale has been tagged for expert view since 2008 and has been questioned and debated many times here. Not sure I'm the world's expert on the major scale, but I have been a prof in music theory for half a decade and I could not find anything in the section that either helped elucidate knowledge of the major scale or was supported by citations from mainstream texts. I decided to be WP:BOLD and remove the whole section. If it is to be replaced, it should have citations to back it up. -- Michael Scott Cuthbert (talk) 06:06, 1 March 2013 (UTC)

Frankly, it looked like a half-baked attempt to resuscitate the old overtone-series claims for the origin of the major scale, without any sources to back it up. It was long overdue for removal, as it must have been terribly confusing for the novice, and infuriating to the expert. Well done, I say.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:36, 1 March 2013 (UTC)
Agree, although there have been plenty of authors who favored such explanations (especially in the 18th and 19th centuries), at least for major triads (for example) (though most of them had difficulty rationalizing the entire scale from this principle). Too esoteric for this article. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:53, 1 March 2013 (UTC)