How to Learn Major and Minor Scales: The Half-Step, Whole-Step Solution

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Linus The Jazz Cat Demonstrates: The Best Way To Learn Musical Scales is NOT by Rote Memory!

The Gist

Any scale, such as Major or Minor, is defined by its own unique series of half-steps and whole steps. These intervals, half-step vs. whole step, are both measured in terms of a chosen pair of notes, and the musical parts they play in defining the overall sound of any particular scale.

*Half-steps and whole-steps are covered in-depth here on this website, in more than one video. These intervals come up all the time when discussing scales, chords, and general music theory!

Details – The Universal Formula for Any Major Scale

Today, I have asked Linus (aka #linusthejazzcat on Instagram) to illustrate the locations of the only two HALF-STEPS in our example key, “C Major.”

To repeat: The UNIQUE sound of any scale (the Major Scale, in this case), is always defined by its own special arrangement of HALF-STEPS and WHOLE-STEPS.


Any major scale, (that is, starting from any root note, such as the note “C” of C Major), is defined like this:


W = Whole Step.
h = half step.

The Universal Formula for any Major Scale is:



C Major Scale =
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, (C)

Where, there are exactly two pairs of notes separated by only a half-step: these are E-F (no piano key in-between) and B-C (same deal).

The two half-step related pairs, E-F and B-C, in C Major, are the two pairs being illustrated by Linus today. Not to diminish his skills, but these locations are the easiest place to land his paws in. It’s interesting to note though, the black keys are used as a visual aid by humans too, in finding any note. That is the only reason for the black-and-white pattern–to navigate visually. Musically, there is ZERO difference between any piano key, regardless of black, white, blue, green….just like the world should be, right?

Here is another of my video posts that presents a powerfully simple way to learn all major scales:

How to Learn Major Scales: The Amazing Tetrachord



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