Degree-based Formula

A major scale is a seven-note scale that adheres to a specific formula. Before I share the formula, we need to learn about scale degrees.

Scale Degrees

Each note in a scale is referred to as a degree. The first note of a scale is the first degree, the second note of a scale is the second degree, the third note is the third degree, and so on. As a major scale has only seven notes, there are only seven degrees. Let’s look at the notes in a C major scale as an example.

Note C D E F G A B
Degree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Memorize This

  1. A major scale has seven notes, but when played or written out an eighth note is often added at the end so that the scale starts and ends on the same note.
  2. The formula for a major scale is:
    W W H W W W H
  3. A major scale has half-steps between degrees 3-4 and 7-8.

Check Yourself

Answer the following questions.

Indicate if there’s a half-step or a whole step between the indicated degrees: