An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

An introduction to music theory

5.3 Semitones and tones, and the scale of G major

We saw in the previous section that if we start at middle C and follow the T T S T T T S pattern we generate the scale of C major. Middle C (and any other C) in the C major scale is called the tonic or key note – it tells you the key. What if we start on a different note, a different tonic? If we begin on G instead and follow the same intervallic structure, we generate the following notes:

Notes of the G major scale

G–A Tone
A–B Tone
B–C Semitone
C–D Tone
D–E Tone
E–F Tone
F–G Semitone

The notes generated are the same as for C major, except for one. There is an F instead of an F. (Example 43).

Example 43

Download this audio clip.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

The qualifying label, ‘sharp’, indicates that the note has been raised a semitone, and this is represented by the symbol, #, placed before the note and on the same line or in the same space as the note head. We needed to raise the F a semitone to F because the interval required at this point in the pattern is a tone. E–F, as we know from our examination of the scale of C major, is only a semitone; we therefore need an additional semitone to make up the tone required by the pattern, T T S T T T S. And a tone above E is not F, but F.

Summary: tones, semitones and scales

  • i.The intervallic structure for all major scales is T T S T T T S.
  • ii.We can therefore use this pattern to generate a major scale starting on any note – after our examination of C major, we tried a G.
  • iii.The major scales generated, apart from C major, will use a mixture of white and black notes on a keyboard.
A224_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus