C Major: A Guide to the Scale and Chords

By Jade Bultitude
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C Major Key Signature, Treble Clef

The C major scale is one of the simplest scales (or keys) you can learn. It is perhaps one of the most common key signatures in western music… precisely because it has no sharps or flats in the key signature!

c major, c major scale, scale, major scale, treble clef

Major scales always follow the same pattern of tones and semitones (steps and half steps)

This is as follows:

Tone, Tone, Semi-tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semi-tone

Whichever note you start on, you will always achieve the major scale starting on this note. 

The C major scale is simply this pattern but starting on the note C

piano, c major scale, major scale pattern, piano keys, c major

As you can see if we were to play this scale on the piano we just use the white keys! 

What does this scale look like on the stave?

The pitches of the scale are as follows:  C D E F G A B 

What do we mean when we say a piece is ‘in the key of C’?

If we say that a piece of music is in the key of C, this means a few things:

  • The key signature will have no sharps or flats
  • The tonic (or home note) of the piece will be C! This note will sound the most stable in the whole piece
  • The piece will use notes only from this scale, these could be in any octave. 
  • The chords used will be those chords that are in C major

What are the chords of C major scale?

When writing out chords we always use Roman Numerals so it is important to make sure you are familiar with the Roman Numerals up to seven! 

Here are the chords of C major:

I – C major, Tonic Chord

ii – D minor, Supertonic Chord

iii – E minor, Mediant Chord

IV – F major, Subdominant chord

V – G major, Dominant chord

vi – A minor, Sub mediant chord

viio – B diminished chord, Leading note chord

What are the notes in these chords of the C major scale?

I – C major chord – C, E, G 

C major chord, tonic chord, chord, treble clef

ii – D minor chord – D, F, A

D minor chord, supertonic chord, chord

iii – E minor chord – E, G, B

e minor chord, chord, Eminor, mediant chord

IV – F major chord – F, A, C

F major chord, F major, subdominant chord, chord

V – G major chord – G, B, D

dominant chord, G major, G major chord, chord

vi – A minor chord – A, C, E

submediant chord, submediant, a minor, a minor chord, chord

viio– B Diminished chord – B, D, F

b diminished chord, leading note chord, chord seven, diminished chord, chord

Why are some these chords labelled in lower case?

Chords are usually written in two different ways

Capital for MAJOR Chords

Lowercase for MINOR/DIMINISHED Chords

I hope that helps your understanding of C major further! Don’t forget to check out my other blog posts here!

Learn More about Scales

Check out our other guides to all major and minor scales.

A Famous Songs in C Major

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

The Beatles – Let it Be

Kansas- Carry on My Wayward Son

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Jade is an experienced musician and teacher as well as being the founder of Music Theory Foundations. She has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.