An Introduction to the B Major Scale

Few concepts are as central to piano music as the scales, whether you’re playing the most basic piece or a Mozart sonata.

But a common scale you may not have worked with yet is B major, which is a slightly more complex major scale.

Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the B major scale, and a few popular songs you could learn to play in B major. You can also check the A major scale in another article.

What are the Major Scales?

First, as a starting point, let’s talk about the major scales.

Major scales are fundamental to your understanding of piano keys, which is useful because they’re among the most common types of scales.

Along with minor scales, major scales are a variety of diatonic scale, which is made of five whole steps and two half-steps[1].

Constructing the Major Scales

Once you know this about the major scales, it’s easier to make sense of the pattern that all major scales follow.

In its simplest form, all major scales follow this pattern: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.

Whole and half steps are part of intervals[2]. They refer to the distance between keys. For example, the distance between B and C is a half step because no other notes fall between them, as is the distance between C and C sharp.

However, the distance between C and D is a whole step, because there is a key between them (C sharp/D flat).

What is the B Major Scale?

With this in mind, let’s talk about the B major scale.

Like other scales, B major is a group of seven notes grouped together for a musical reason. It provides a basis for orienting yourself in music, and if you wanted to improvise, you can always rely on the scales because each individual scale contains a group of notes that always sound good when played together.

B major contains the following notes: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B. The repeated note is played one octave higher than the original B.

Can you see the major scale pattern in these notes? If you look at a keyboard and play these notes with the major scale pattern in mind, it suddenly makes a lot of sense, because you only have to remember the pattern in order to start on any note and play the scale.

Note for brand new pianists: the # symbol means sharp. B major contains five of them. Not all scales do–it just falls that way based on the scale’s position and the major scale pattern.

Intervals

We mentioned earlier that intervals refer to the distance between notes on the keyboard.

Each scale has its own interval, which describes the distance between the notes in the scale and coincides with the scale pattern. For B major, the intervals are as follows:

  • Tonic: B
  • Major 2nd: C#
  • Major 3rd: D#
  • Perfect 4th: E
  • Perfect 5th: F#
  • Major 6th: G#
  • Major 7th: A#
  • Perfect 8th: B

Which makes a lot of sense when you superimpose the major scale pattern onto the B major notes.

Don’t worry too much about the titles of the intervals–that’s a bit of music theory that has to do with consonance or dissonance in intervals¬†[3]. Basically, it refers to how pleasing the sound is to the ear, and has no effect on how you play the note.

Fingering

For fingering of this scale, you need to first take a look at your hands.

Hold them straight out in front of you with your fingers spread apart. Your pinky finger is your fifth finger, and your thumb is your first finger. This will help you orient yourself in the scale.

It’s also important because your fingering for the scale is different depending on which hand you’re playing with.

Recall that the notes of the scale are, in order: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B.

So, if you play with your right hand, starting with your thumb resting on B, you would play the scale as 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. So your thumb plays B, your pointer (2nd) finger plays C#, your middle (3rd) finger plays D#, and so on.

Now, recall that your left hand is reversed–the thumb of your right hand is your leftmost finger, but your pinky is the leftmost finger of your left hand.

So if you look at your hands as numbered from left to right, the left hand counts down from five starting at the pinky and the right hand counts up starting at the thumb.

With this in mind, you would play B major with your left hand as 4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1. Your ring (4th) finger plays B, your middle (3rd) finger plays C#, and so on.

If it seems complicated, try it on a piano. It’s actually not difficult at all–it’s simply a matter of how your hands are oriented on the keys and how you move them to move up the scale.

Triad Chords

Now that you understand how the scale works and how to play it with each hand, let’s talk briefly about the triad chords in B major.

Don’t get spooked by the name–it’s actually quite simple. A chord is any combination of three or more pitches that sound simultaneously. So, a triad chord is simply a group of three keys you play at the same time[4].

You can identify triads by their pitch classes because the pitch classes of each note in a triad always sit next to each other.

In B major, there are seven triad chords:

  • Chord I: B major. Its notes are B – D# – F#.
  • Chord ii: C# minor. Its notes are C# – E – G#.
  • Chord iii: D# minor. Its notes are D# – F# – A#.
  • Chord IV: E major. Its notes are E – G# – B.
  • Chord V: F# major. Its notes are F# – A# – C#.
  • Chord vi: G# minor. Its notes are G# – B – D#.
  • Chord vii: A# diminished. Its notes are A# – C# – E.

Don’t be confused by the notation. The Roman numerals signify each chord’s position in relation to the scale. As you can see, numerals of a major chord are capitalized, and numerals of a minor chord or diminished chord are lowercase[5].

Music in B Major

Now that you understand a few technical details about B major and what it looks like on the keyboard, you’re probably wondering: what songs are in B major?

Actually, more songs are in B major than you think. In fact, there are two songs in B major you’re likely familiar with: “Purple Rain” by Prince and “Roxanne” by the Police.

Who knew that you could take your piano knowledge and apply it to your favorite songs?

Master the Full Keyboard

Of course, once you understand the B major scale and how to play it, you’re bound to get curious about other aspects of the piano.

We can’t blame you–it’s a fascinating instrument with so much to offer a dedicated student.

That’s why we’re here to help you figure it out. Check out our blog for more tips and tricks on other piano scales, learning tools to try, and reviews of piano brands.

And for you to fully understand other chords check out C major chords.

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