Let’s learn to play the C major scale on piano (and keyboard). This is the first scale you should learn. Most people start to learn to play the piano with this scale. It is very simple and consists of white keys only.
The C major scale consists of the pitches C, D, E, F, G, A and B. It has no sharp or flat notes and this makes it easy to remember. All you’re playing are white keys, so you can’t get confused by the black ones.
So how do you play the scale? What fingering is used?
Firstly, you need to know the correct numbers for your fingers. For both hands, your thumb is your 1st finger, index finger is 2nd finger, middle finger is 3rd finger, ring finger is 4th finger and pinky finger is 5th finger. This can be seen in the image below.
I made a video showing how to play the C major scale with the right and left hand. Watch it below.
How to Play C Major Scale with Right Hand
Let’s start with the right hand. When going up the Cmaj scale, your thumb plays C, 2nd finger plays D and third finger plays E. Then you continue with the thumb which plays F, 2nd finger plays G, 3rd finger plays A, 4th finger plays B and 5th finger plays C. When going up the scale, to play F with your thumb put your thumb under your 3rd finger.
When going down the scale, the same fingers are used. 5th finger plays C, 4th finger plays B, 3rd finger plays A and 2nd finger plays G. Then you continue with your thumb, where the thumb plays F, 3rd finger plays E, 2nd finger plays D and 1st finger plays C. When going down the scale, the 3rd finger goes over your thumb, giving you enough fingers to finish the scale.
Keep practicing this scale until you are very comfortable with it. The more you play it, the better you will get.
How to Play C Major Scale with Left Hand
Let’s take this one step further and learn to play the Cmaj scale with the left hand.
For the left hand, when going up the scale, the 5th finger plays C, the 4th finger plays D, the 3rd finger plays E, the 2nd finger plays F and the thumb plays G. The 3rd finger then goes over your thumb and plays A, the 2nd finger plays B and the 1st finger (thumb) plays C.
To go down the scale, the same fingers are used. Therefore, the thumb plays C, the 2nd finger plays B and the 3rd finger plays A. The thumb now goes under the 3rd finger and plays G, the 2nd finger plays F, 3rd finger plays E, 2nd finger plays D and 1st finger plays C.
Major scales contain 7 notes and all use the formula W-W-H-W-W-W-H (whole tone, whole tone, half tone, whole tone, whole tone, whole tone, half tone.) To count a whole tone, count up two piano keys, whether white or black. To count a half tone (or semitone), simply move up by one key. So the distance between C and D is a whole tone, while the distance between E and F is a semitone. Learn more about forming C major scale and other major scales here.
Note Names of the Scale
As can be seen above, the first note of the C major scale is C. It is also called the root of the scale. The 2nd note is D, 3rd note is E, 4th note is F, 5th note is G, 6th note is A, 7th note is B, and 8th note is C.
Let’s take things a little further. (The most important thing is to be able to play the scale, but let’s continue with some music theory.) C is the tonic of this scale. D is the supertonic of the scale. E is the mediant. F is the subdominant. G is the dominant. A is the submediant. B is the leading tone and C is the octave of the scale.
Here’s the C Major Scale on the Treble Clef and Bass Clef, ascending and descending.
You can play many songs using the notes of this scale only. Many of the popular songs you hear on the radio make use of this simple scale. The chords and harmony also come from that scale.