Understanding the G Major Scale

G major is the most popular key for music streamed on Spotify [1]. This isn’t because composers are lazy – as it’s an easy scale to play – but because it works so well with other common chords, too.

This article will help you to understand the fundamentals of the G major scale to help you advance your knowledge of music theory and improve your piano playing. And don’t forget to check out the F Major Scale.

An Introduction to the G Major Scale

Before you look further into the scale, let’s start with the basics.

A major scale consists of eight notes, set at intervals on the twelve chromatic half notes (or semi-tones) in an octave. The intervals for a major scale will always follow the pattern:

Whole – Whole – Half – Whole – Whole – Whole – Half

The notes in the G major are:

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

These notes stay the same whatever octave you’re playing on the piano.

Listen to Music in G Major

You can hear music that starts in G major all over the place: it’s one of the most popular keys to compose in. That’s because it works well in the circle of fifths theory, with many of the notes being core components of other keys [2].

This means it is simple to create a composition that sounds pleasant to the ear, as there are many other chords which work with the G major scale.

If you want to listen to examples of music in G major, head over to YouTube and search for these songs:

  • Gravity by John Mayer
  • Let Her Go by Passenger
  • Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns n Roses
  • Blackbird by the Beatles
  • Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynnrd
  • I Need You by LeAnne Rimes
  • Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
  • Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
  • Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

The list really does go on and on, as so many songs are composed in this key!

Now you know what G major sounds like in a piece of music, let’s take a look at how to play the ascending scale on a piano.

How to Play a G Major Scale on the Piano

This is one of the easiest scales to learn on the piano, as there is only one black key used in the entire scale [3].

Before we look at your hand placement, you need to find the G key. This is the white key after the first black key in a set of three.

Playing with Your Right Hand

Once you’ve found the G key, place your thumb on it. Next, your index finger needs to go on the white key next to it; this is the A key.

Your middle finger should go on the next white key, which is the B note.

Take your thumb and pass it underneath your fingers so that it reaches the white key next to your middle finger. This is the C note.

Your index finger now plays the D, which is the white key next to your new thumb position. Put your middle finger on the next white key to play E.

Now, you introduce your other two fingers to finish the scale.

Use your ring finger to stretch up to the first black key next to the E key. This is the F#. Finally, your little finger should reach to the next white key to play the octave G. This is one octave of the G scale completed.

Playing with Your Left Hand

The principle of playing an ascending scale with your left hand is slightly different, as you use all five fingers in a row and then complete the scale with

Place your little finger on G, then your ring finger on A. Your middle finger is placed on B and your index on C. Bring your thumb up to play the next note, which is D.

The next steps involve placing your third (middle) finger to play E, index to play F#, and use your thumb to complete the scale with the octave G.

Understanding Chords

Now you’ve grasped the notes of the scale, it’s time to discover more about common major chords.

Root Chord

The root triad consists of the first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale. In G, that means the root chord is G, B, and D.

Major Chord Inversions

A root chord can be played in a different order to create an alternative tone to a piece of music.

For example, instead of playing G, B, and D, a player may choose to use B, D, and the octave G.

Diminished Seventh Chord

A diminished seventh is used to create discordance in a composition.

It is played as the root chord plus the flattened seventh note in the scale. In the case of G, the flattened seventh is F (as the seventh note in the scale is F# and we have lowered it half a tone).

Finding the Relative and Parallel Minors

Learning the relative minor of a major key is helpful for your playing – and easy.

The root note of your relative minor is always the same as the seventh note (the submediant) of the corresponding major scale [4]. In this case, the submediant of G is E, so the relative minor is E minor.

This means that the relative minor has the same key signature as your major: in the case of G, it means the only sharp or flat is the F#.

The parallel minor is simply the minor version of the root note of the major. So, G major’s parallel is G minor.

Use Scales to Speed up Your Playing

You can use the techniques you’ve learned about G major scale to play any major scale.

Your fingers should be used in the same order for every major scale on the piano. Remember: right hand is fingers 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – but left hand will be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 3, 4, 5.

It’s tempting to use only a few fingers to play the entire scale, but this could slow your piano playing in the long-term. Take time to learn this piano┬áscale technique as it will help you to learn how to play more quickly, and accurately, in less time.

Stephanie Su

Started learning music when she was four years old, Stephanie is a music teacher and a music therapist who is highly proficient in Piano, Violin, Guitar, and Ukulele. She likes to learn, teach, and share her music playing experiences.

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