Find the right notes and create any major and minor scale!

How to find the right notes within a scale?

An important element is that you can find all the right notes within a certain major or minor scale using the circle of fifths. The first step is to determine what the ‘root note’ will be. I will explain this with an example.

When you are looking for the right notes within the family of C-major, all you have to do is move back one step (to F). Afterwards, the seven notes will be easy to read. You can see some other examples of this below.

In C-major (black line) we end up with the notes: F, C, G, D, A, E, B;

In F-major (orange line), we end up with the notes: Bb, F, C, G, D, A, E;

In Bb-major (blue line), we get the tones: Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A.


This way, you not only know the different notes for the C, F and Bb-major families. You immediately know that these are also the same notes for the families A, D and G-minor. We will learn more about this in a moment.

Still a bit unclear? No worries; later we'll discuss this in more detail. First, we'll learn how to use the circle of fifths to find any chord within a major scale.

Forming a musical family in major

The steps below are a basic guide to forming a musical family in major. Using the example of the family of C (read: C-major), we’ll discover how to find the other notes and corresponding chords. This is the same example as the previous section, but we will use the circle of fifths this time!

Afterwards, we can simply extend this principle to any given family in major. Important: You do not always have to apply this method in the same order. It only serves as a guideline for you to get started. I’m sure you’ll soon understand the logic behind this principle.

Step 1: The first chord

Let's start with the key of C-major, which we can find at the twelve o'clock position. Logically, C-major is the first chord to form this family.


Step 2: The second and third chords

Remember that both the second and third chords are minor within a major scale? It's those chords we're looking for.

Again, we start at the twelve o'clock position. The second chord is on the bottom left compared to our first. We start from C and arrive at ‘d’. This is a minor chord because it’s placed in the inner circle.

To find the third chord, we start again from the first position. At the bottom right, you can then see the third chord: from C you arrive at ‘e’ (again, a minor chord).

Step 3: The fourth and fifth chord

At the beginning of this section, we discovered that the circle of fifths is a succession of fifths as well as fourths (in the opposite direction). This is why the fourth, as well as the fifth, are quite easy to find on both circles. The fifth chord is always on the right and the fourth is always on the left in relation to the first chord or the tonic.


So, if we start from our first note in our example (C), we see the fourth (F) and fifth (G). Now we have the three major chords within the scale of C-major: the chords C, F and G. Did you notice that they are written in capital letters? This is the same principle for using Roman numerals! ;-)

Step 4: The sixth chord

The sixth position is one of the first things we can read from the circle. It’s one of a kind, as it represents the correlation between a major and (a relative) minor scale. We find the sixth position by looking at the letter below the first. For example, if you look at the position of twelve o'clock, you will notice that the letter ‘a’ is below C.

In other words, the letter you find below the root note (position one) represents the relation between a major and minor scale. For every family in major, there is a family in minor consisting of the same notes and chords. This is also called the 'relative' minor scale and can be formed starting at the sixth position of a major scale. Using the circle of fifths makes it child’s play to find the relative minor within any given major scale.

Let me show you an example. If we want to know which minor scale has the same notes and chords as the family of G (read: G-major), we look at which letter is underneath. We end up with ‘e’ (read: E-minor). We thus know that the family of ‘e’ shares all the same notes/chords as the family of G.

You are probably wondering what the difference is between these families. After all, they share the same notes and chords. However, the first chord will always play as a 'home position'. This is why the majority of songs start and end with our first chord. Together with the intervals, those are the main differences between these two related families.

Later on, we'll compare the chords within a C-major scale to an A-minor scale. If the above correlation is not quite clear at this time, it will be soon!

Step 5: The seventh chord

To recap, each musical family consists of seven different notes that bring seven chords. So far, we have learned how to find the right chords within a particular family.

All well and good, but there is one chord whose position we have not yet unravelled. Starting with the tonic, we looked for the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth positions. Last but not least, how do we connect that seventh position to a chord?

Have a good look at the picture above. Notice that you can find the diminished chord by moving two positions to the right, starting from the tonic or the first chord. The letter you‘ll find in the minor circle is a diminished chord. Within the key of C-major, we end up with Bdim or B°.

Important: this is a diminished chord and not a minor or a major chord. This means that you do not have to take major or minor (written in capital or not) into account.