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Major Scales on the Violin

Updated on February 25, 2013

The Major Scale

In music terminology, the major scale, made out of 8 distinct notes, is set within the Ionian mode. It is one of the most common musical scale type used in Western music, and was featured prominently in the Common Practice Period. The notes of every major scale are separated by the following intervals in the sequence: whole - whole - half - whole - whole - whole - half.

As with the minor scales, any note of a given major scale can be identified through either the fixed-do/movable-do solfege (do - re - mi - fa - so - la - ti - do), or through their scale degrees as given below:

Scale Degrees

Degree
Name
1
Tonic
2
Supertonic
3
Mediant
4
Subdominant
5
Dominant
6
Submediant
7
Leading Note

Major Scales

Below is a comprehensive chart of all 3 octave major scales for the violin. Fingering patterns are not yet included, but they generally all start in first position, and involve a shift to 3rd position on the A string, followed by a shift to 5th/6th position on the E string. More shifts may be required to hit the full 3 octaves.

G Major Scale

With only a single sharp note, the G major scale is one of the most popular keys used in compositions for classical and contemporary music. This is due partly because the note composition of the key allows for ease of playing for both keyboard and string instruments.

The relative minor of G major is E minor.

G Major Scale 3 Octaves
G Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

Ab Major Scale

The Ab major scale has 4 flats, and is often described as possessing a tone that is almost meditative in nature. It was a particularly popular choice for Chopin and Schubert.

The relative minor of Ab major is F minor.

Ab Major Scale (A Flat) 3 Octaves
Ab Major Scale (A Flat) 3 Octaves | Source

A Major Scale

The A major scale has 3 sharps, and was described by Peter Cropper as the "fullest sounding key for the violin." It is often utilized in chamber music, and there are quite a few symphonies written in this key, such as Mozart's works for the clarinet.

The relative minor of A major is F# minor.

A Major Scale 3 Octaves
A Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

Bb Major Scale

The Bb major scale has 2 flats, and is a particular favorite for wind instruments.

The relative minor of Bb major is G minor.

Bb Major Scale (B Flat) 3 Octaves
Bb Major Scale (B Flat) 3 Octaves | Source

B Major Scale

The B major scale has 5 sharps.

The relative minor of B major is G# minor.

B Major Scale 3 Octaves
B Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

C Major Scale

The C major scale has no sharps or flats. It is generally considered to be the easiest key to play for pianists, and hence is usually the key that beginners play with. However, there are notable composers who have felt otherwise. Chopin had his students study the B major scale first, and left the C major scale to the last. He believed that the keys of the C major scale did not conform easily to the fingers.

The relative minor of C major is A minor.

C Major Scale 3 Octaves
C Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

Db Major Scale

The Db major scale has 5 flats. It is said to be among the easier keys to play for a harp, because of ease of modulation, and resonance of sound. It is considered as the best key for flute music by Charles-Marie Widor.

The relative minor of the Db major is Bb minor.

Db Major Scale (D Flat) 3 Octaves
Db Major Scale (D Flat) 3 Octaves | Source

D Major Scale

The D major scale has 2 sharps, and is particularly well-suited for violin music, due to the tuning of the violin (G D A E). Two open strings (G and A) are perfect 4ths/5ths from the D string, allowing for excellent resonance. Hence, many classical compositions for the violin are in D major.

The relative minor of D major is B minor.

D Major Scale 3 Octaves
D Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

Eb Major Scale

With 3 flats, the Eb major scale is culturally linked to rather bold, majestic and powerful music.

The relative minor of Eb major is C minor.

Eb Major Scale (E Flat) 3 Octaves
Eb Major Scale (E Flat) 3 Octaves | Source

E Major Scale

The E major scale has 4 sharps. It is rather unpopular amongst wind instruments due to its difficulty, but it poses no issue for string instruments. Bruckner postulated that the key was used for "music of contemplation."

The relative minor of E major is C# minor.

E Major Scale 3 Octaves
E Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

F Major Scale

The F major scale has only 1 flat.

The relative minor of F major is D minor.

F Major Scale 3 Octaves
F Major Scale 3 Octaves | Source

F# Major Scale

The F# major scale has 6 sharps, and as a result is comparatively difficult to compose for. It is not often used in orchestral music.

The relative minor of F# major is D# minor.

F# Major Scale (F Sharp) 3 Octaves
F# Major Scale (F Sharp) 3 Octaves | Source

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