Lots of new piano players dread learning to play scales. But each time you learn a scale, you’re gaining some familiarity with a key and the specific character it brings to a piece of music. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at the F major scale and the music theory behind it.
About the F Major Scale
The key of an F major is a beautiful one. Music experts have characterized it as a key of peace, joy, and a little melancholy. Some people even assert that the key of F major gives the listener the sense of being outdoors.
It’s a relatively emotionally balanced key, so it can often be found in rock and pop. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major is one of the most famous pieces in the key, as is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1. You can listen to the concerto in this video.
Structure, Formula, and Key Signature of the F Major Scale
To figure out the note names of this scale, you just need to apply a formula of whole and half steps. Every major scale follows the same formula. Start with the root note and then move a whole step-whole step-half step-whole step-whole step-whole step-half step or W-W-H-W-W-W-H. If we start with F and follow the formula, we get this seven-note scale:
F G A Bb C D E
As you can see, there’s only one flat in the scale. That means that on an F major key signature, you will see a single flat symbol on the staff where B is located. This is true for all clefs, including the treble clef, bass clef, and alto clef.
Each of the seven notes also has its own name. Here are the scale degree names and note names of this major scale:
- Tonic (F)
- Supertonic (G)
- Mediant (A)
- Subdominant (Bb)
- Dominant (C)
- Submediant (D)
- Leading tone (E)
Diagram Of This Scale On The Treble And Bass Clef:
The notation diagrams of the F Major scale descending and ascending are placed below, showing its notes on the treble and bass clef.
How to Play and Learn the F Major Scale
Now you know the F major scale is F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E. But the next step is learning to play it on the piano. We’ll go through how to play it with both your right hand and your left hand.
With your right hand:
- Start at F (the white key, three keys to C’s right). Play it with your thumb (1).
- Then play G (the white key to the right of F) with your index finger (2).
- Next, play A (the white key to the right of G) with your middle finger (3).
- Then play Bb (the black key to the right of B, which is the white key to the right of A) with your ring finger (4).
- Now cross your thumb (1) under your fingers to play C (the white key to the right of B).
- Then, use your index finger (2) to play D (the white key to the right of C).
- Now use your middle finger (3) to play E (the white key to the right of D).
- Lastly, finish the scale by playing F (the white key to the right of E) with your ring finger (4).
Playing the scale with your left hand is a little more straightforward:
- Play F with your pinky finger (5).
- Play G with your ring finger (4).
- Play A with your middle finger (3).
- Play Bb with your index finger (2).
- Play C with your thumb (1).
- Cross your middle finger (3) over your thumb to play D.
- Play E with your index finger (2).
- Lastly, play F with your thumb (1).
Start playing one octave at a time. As you get more confident and muscle memory starts to kick in, start adding an octave higher (or lower) at a time. If you’d prefer a visual guide, this lesson takes you through how to play the F major scale on the piano keyboard.
Relative and Parallel Scales
You might recall that every major key has a relative minor key. The relative minor scale has the same notes as its relative major, but the notes are in a different order. The relative minor of F major is D minor, as the D minor scale has the same notes as the F major scale.
Parallel scales have the same root note. Since the F major scale and the F minor scale both start with F, F minor is the parallel scale of F major.
Chords of the Scale and Their Scale Degrees
You might recall that to get the chords of any major scale; you simply apply the formula I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii(dim). Uppercase Roman numerals indicate major chords, while lowercase ones indicate minor chords. The final chord is a diminished chord.
Here’s a quick rundown of the chords that correspond to each of the degrees of the F scale:
- I. F major (tonic)
- ii. G minor (supertonic)
- iii. A minor (mediant)
- IV. Bb major (subdominant)
- V. C major (dominant)
- vi. D minor (submediant)
- vii. E diminished (subtonic)
Songs in The Key of F Major
One of the best ways to get a feel for a key’s unique sound is to listen to songs in that key. Here are some famous songs in F major:
- “We Are Young” by Fun
- “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
- “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty
- “The Scientist” by Coldplay
- “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor
- “Hey Porter” by Johnny Cash
- “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne
- “The Wind Cries Mary” by Jimi Hendrix
- “Foolish Games” by Jewel
- “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
Common Chord Progressions in F Major
Making your own chord progressions can be a great way to explore the key. Here are a few common chord progressions in the key of F:
- I-IV-V (F-Bb-C)
- I-vi-IV-V (F-Dm-Bb-C)
- ii-V-I (Gm7-C7-Fmaj7)
You might also try playing the progressions of some of the songs above. “We Are Young” by Fun has an interesting progression: in the chorus, it is I-v-vi-IV-I-V. However, the song uses slight variations on the scale degrees, so the progression is F-C/E-Dm7-Bb-F/C-C.
Johnny Cash’s “Hey Porter” has a somewhat more typical progression, also with some variations. It’s I-v-V-I-IV-I-V. It includes some dominant seventh chords, so the progression is F-G7-C7-F-Bb-F-C7.
Hopefully, you now feel a little more confident playing and mastering the F major scale. What are your favorite songs in the key? Do you have any favorite F major chord progressions to suggest? Let us know in the comments, and please like and share if you found the list useful!