So far in my music learning journey I've been quite happy with the Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half tone construction of major scales. That is until I came across the D Major Scale. D E F# G A B C# Why does D Major Scale end in C#, surely that is a whole tone up from B not a half, why is the last note not C?

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    – Dom
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 16:42

5 Answers 5


T T S T T T S is the pattern for major scale notes. So W W H W W W H, as you state, is another way to describe it. Look at the last part - it's a semitone, or a half step, isn't it? That then is the space between the penultimate note and the root note again. A half step below D has to be C♯.

Maybe the confusion is that TTS etc is the 7 intervals between the 8 notes. Scales start and end on the root.

You're right that B to C# is a tone, but that gap is the one before the S. TTSTTS. Making the major in D D E F♯ G A B C♯ D

  • 36
    Classic off-by-one error. It doesn't happen to just programmers.
    – Arthur
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 11:48
  • 3
    @Arthur - what about unjust programmers..?
    – Tim
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 11:04
  • 3
    Never happens to them. That's what makes it unjust.
    – Arthur
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 11:07
  • 1
    @user45266 And one-indexing is the reason we have 8va and 15va when 7va and 14va (or whatever letters are appropriate) wouldd be much more intuitive.
    – Arthur
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 20:15
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    @jvriesem Tone and Semitone.
    – Arthur
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 22:14

"Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half " takes you from D to the D an octave higher. The last half is the gap between C# and D.


I've been quite happy with the Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half tone construction of major scale ...

How was this with understanding the major scale of G?

C major scale = C - D - EF - G - A - BC =

G major scale = G - A - BC - D - EF - G??? -> EF is a halfstep between the 6th and 7th degree! What we need is a whole step from 6 to 7 and a half from 7 to 8:

We get there by raising the 7th degree a half step by a sharp (#):

F needs a sharp # to become a major 7 and we have a new scale with a lead tone F#.

look at this picture:

enter image description here

If you start with D then the 6th degree is B. We want to have now a step of a whole tone between 6 and seven but B-C is only a halftone: the 7th degree must be C#, (as before F as the 7th degree of G had to be raised to F#.

If you split the C major scale between F and G you get 2 identical half parts (TETRACHORDS) WWH and WWH with a W (whole tone) between these tetrachords.

You can develop all major scales of the circle of fifths by cutting the upper half of a scale (2nd tetrachord) and notate it as the 1st tetrachord as it has they have the same distance (intervals).

You will get now a new scale that begins with the 5th degree of the scale we had before. Then you continue adding (constructing) the 2nd tetrachord of this new scale.

You can continue with all half parts of the scales in the same way and you will discover that you'll always have to raise the seventh degree by adding a sharp # to get a halftone at the last step 7-8 and construct by this a scale with a lead tone to the tonic (root tone of the scale or 1st degree = I).

If you follow this indication you will develope all #-scales and also the circle of 5ths and you will understand what you are doing and where the circle comes from.

The scale with flats below on the other site of the circle of 5ths will be explained another time or you may find it out yourself now. enter image description here

enter image description here

  • Am I crazy or is there something wrong with that G Major scale on the 4th row of scales? Should that be listed as the F# major scale?
    – GHP
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 13:49
  • 1
    you are not crazy, you are the most smartest one here in! Thank you. I was leaving ... but now I've edited the rows in the tabulatura and also the label of the F# scale. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:01
  • Sorry, what are "HC" and "EF"?
    – Hearth
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:40
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    @Hearth - H is German (and some others) for what the rest of the world call B Their B is Bb. The space between B(H) and C and E and F is a semitone, so they're printed together.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:50
  • @Tim Ah, thank you. I'm relatively new to music, so I wasn't aware of this notational convention.
    – Hearth
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:50

C# is in the D major scale, because the ^7 scale degree is a half step below the tonic - the ^1 degree D.

...C#, surely that is a whole tone up from B not a half

Yes, but that is the position of the half step. The half step is between C# and D, between the ^7 and ^1 scale degrees.

...why is the last note not C?

The last note of the D major scale won't be any kind of C. Not C, nor C#. The last note will be D.

I think you should try learning about the scale in terms of:

  • scale degree names where those names can be numeric like ^1, solfege like DO, or named like tonic.
  • the interval between the tonic and the other scale degrees: the dominant is a perfect fifth (P5) above the tonic, or the mediant is a major third above the tonic, etc.
  • the intervals between various scale degrees - in this regard some scale degree relationships are more significant that others: the half steps between MI to FA and TI to DO are very important, the interval between degrees ^4 and ^7 is an augmented fourth (A4.)
  • inversions of intervals in the scale: the ^3 degree is a _major third above ^1 and its inversion is the ^3 a minor sixth below ^1.

When you think of the scale in terms of the exact spelling like D E F# G A B C# D you can call that concrete. It's just the specific tones.

When you think in terms on my bullet list you are dealing with relative relationships.

Eventually, after you learn the scale spellings, key signatures, how to play them on your instruments, you will shift from that concrete thinking to a relative relationship frame of mind. Those relative relationships are what becomes most important in music theory.


I believe you are confusing modes with scales.

Let's take the C Major Scale: C D E F G A B.

  • If we want to know the modes, we keep the same notes, but change the key and structure.
  • If we want to know its transpositions, we keep the same structure, but change the key and notes.


  • D Major Scale has the same structure as C Major Scale, but transposed 2 steps up: D E F# G A B C#.

  • C Major Scale Mode#2 is actually D Dorian Scale, it has the same notes as C Major Scale, but a different structure and key: D E F G A B C.

  • C Major Scale and D Major Scale share the same structure: {0,2,4,5,7,9,11}

  • C Major Scale and D Dorian Scale share the same notes: C D E F G A B

Hope this takes away some confusion.

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