Scales and Chords – Some Music Theory Basics

Presented below are some fundamental music theories. Your Namta teacher can provide more information on this and other music theory subjects.

A scale is a set of musical notes arranged with a specific order and interval (space between the notes). An example of a musical scale is do-re-rni-fa-sol-la-ti-do (this is an example of a “major” scale). Note that in a scale, notes are typically played individually rather than simultaneously as in a “chord”.

Scale Types:

There are many scale types such as major, minor, diminished, augmented and many more. In order to understand these it is first necessary to learn the concepts behind the construction of the most fundamental scale, the “Major” scale.

Major Scale:

This is the most fundamental scale. This scale is constructed by selecting 7 notes from the 12 possible notes used in western music. By selecting a starting note (or “tonic”) and using the interval formula (space between the notes) “whole — whole — half — whole — whole — whole – half a major scale can be constructed.

For example, look at this set of possible notes to select a scale from:

C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B

The space between any two adjacent notes is a half step (e.g., C to C#, C# to D, etc), and two half steps back to back make up a whole step (e.g., C to D, D to E, etc).

Following our interval formula for the major scale, if we start from the root note C and apply our “whole —whole — half — whole — whole — whole – half” formula we have the following notes:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B. This represents a major scale with a root note of C — also known as a C major scale.

Other Scales:

Other scales such as minor, diminished, augmented and so forth are constructed from the 12 possible notes using different whole-half… formulas. More details of this can be found elsewhere in a number of online resources and books.


A chord is a set of three or more notes being played simultaneously. There are many chord types, such as major, minor, diminished, augmented and so forth. The name and construction of a chord, as with scales, is derived by looking at the root note of the chord and selecting notes based upon their interval in the parent scale (in this case, the intervals are typically referred to as the note number in the parent scale).

For example, a major chord is made up of the root, third and fifth notes from the major scale. Looking at our major scale C, D, E, F, G, A, B, if we select the root, third and fifth notes from the scale we have a C major chord C-E-G.


The information above provides a simplistic introduction to the concepts of scales and chords, with a focus on the major scale and major chord. It is intended to provide some basic definitions for those new to music theory. Other topics within music theory, such as other scale and chord types (minor, augmented, etc), key signatures, time signatures, dynamics are beyond the scope of this introduction and information on these can be provided by your Namta teacher.