D major – A Guide to the Scale and Chords

By Jade Bultitude
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D Major, Key Signature, Treble Clef

In our last scale page, we investigated the scale of G major. Remember, G major had one sharp in its key signature, F sharp! Today I would like to visit the scale of D major! Why?

Let’s think about the circle of fifths. Make sure you check out all the information and exercises on the circle of fifths if you are not sure!

The next scale on the circle of fifths after G major is D major! D major is five tones up from G major, making this the second sharp scale on the circle!  

D major, D major scale, F sharp, C sharp, scale

As mentioned in our C major blog, 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 D major scale is simply this pattern but starting on the note D

D major scale, tone, semitone, scale pattern, D major

As you can see, if we were to play this scale on the piano we make use of two black keys.   

What does this scale look like on the stave?

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

D major scale, treble clef, alto clef, bass clef, tenor clef, scale

Rather than writing the sharp signs on the individual notes, we can now make use of the key signature. Because every single F and every single C in D major is sharp, we can simply write this at the start of the piece! 

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

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

  • The key signature will have two sharps, these being F sharp and C sharp!
  • The tonic (or home note) of the piece will be D! 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 D major

What are the chords of D major?

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 D major:

I – D major, Tonic Chord

II – E minor, Supertonic Chord

III – F# minor, Mediant Chord

IV – G major, Subdominant chord

V – A major, Dominant chord

Vi – B minor, Sub median chord

Vii – C# diminished chord, leading note chord

What are the notes in these chords?

I – D major chord – D, F#, A

D major chord, Chord I, D major chord, tonic triad, triad

ii – E minor chord – E, G, B

E minor chord, Chord II, supertonic, supertonic triad, triad

iii – F# minor chord – F#, A, C#

F sharp minor, F sharp minor chord, triad, mediant, mediant triad

IV – G major chord – G, B, D

G major scale, G major chord, Subdominant, subdominant triad

V – A major chord – A, C#, E

A major chord, A major triad, triad, chord, dominant chord, dominant

vi – B minor chord – B, D, F#

submediant chord, B minor chord, B minor, triad, B minor triad

Viio – C# Diminished chord – C#, E, G

diminished chord, C sharp triad, Chord VII, leading note, leading note 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 Chords

A Famous Song in D Major

Hotel California by The Eagles is in D Major.

Learn More about Scales

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

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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.