The C# major scale is one of the most interesting musical scales because it has 7 sharps! That’s right. The key of C# is one of the hardest to read music in because of all those dang sharps. But it’s still important to learn about, so let’s dive right in!
What is the C# scale in piano?
The C# scale, simply put, is a major scale that both starts and ends on the note “C#.” It follows the typical pattern of half steps and whole steps that builds a major scale. C# is not the most common spelling of the scale, with good reason—it has 7 sharps!
The more common spelling of this scale is the Db spelling. If you are learning how to play this scale for the first time, I highly recommend using the Db version.
However, if you want to learn about the music theory behind the C# major scale, then by all means keep reading!
What are the notes in a C# major scale?
The notes in a C# scale are as follows: C#, D#, E#, F#, G#, A#, and finally B#. Yes, C# is the only scale that uses 7 sharps! If that sounds scary right now, don’t worry. I’ll show you diagrams and sheet music with these notes soon.
BEFORE You Begin
Like I mentioned before, it is much easier to learn this scale using the Db spelling. C# major is an advanced scale, so I highly recommend learning all your other major scales first before reading about this one. Here’s a list you can refer to:
White Key Scales:
Black Key Scales Group #1:
Black Key Scales Group #2:
C# Scale Piano Notes & Fingerings
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right into the details about the C# scale! Below you can start looking at the notes in the scale on a piano diagram.
About Those 7 Sharps
Now you’ve really seen all those sharps in action, right?!
But one thing you might be wondering is “why are the white notes also called sharps?”
The truth is, there are only 5 black notes in the C# scale, but there are still 7 sharps. C# major has to be spelled with two white notes as sharps.
The reason for this is because you can’t have 2 notes with the same letter name. If, for example, we called E# by its more common name—F—then we would have both a regular F and an F# in this scale. That is a big no-no. The notes must go in sequential order with different letter names.
And thus, that is why we end up with an E# and a B#. That is also why C# can be a hard key to learn songs in!
C# Major Scale On The Staff
Here is what the C# major scale looks like on the staff. Every single one of those notes has a sharp next to it, in both treble clef and bass clef.
All major scales follow a formula as far as intervals go. Here is this formula: W-W-H-W-W-W-H. The W’s stand for “whole step” and the H’s stand for “half step.
So written out the long way, the formula is: whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step.
You can use this formula any time to figure out a major scale!
When you use this formula, it also creates a relationship between the tonic (the very first note) and all the other notes. An interval can be formed between the tonic and each note of the scale. Here’s what that looks like for C# major:
- Tonic: C#
- Major 2nd: D#
- Major 3rd: E#
- Perfect 4th: F#
- Perfect 5th: G#
- Major 6th: A#
- Major 7th: B#
- Perfect 8th: C#
Another way to look at a scale is by “degrees.” Here are the scale degrees for the key of C#:
- Tonic: C#
- Supertonic: D#
- Mediant: E#
- Subdominant: F#
- Dominant: G#
- Submediant: A#
- Leading tone: B#
- Octave: C#
Triad Chords In The Key Of C#
Did you know a chord can also be built off of EVERY note in the C# scale? That’s right! It is a great exercise to practice finding these chords in each key.
For C# you will have a LOT of sharps to pay attention to, but it’s worth it! If you ever want to play a song in C# major, you will be glad you looked at these chords.
Chord I: C# major (notes are C# – E# – G#)
Chord ii: D# minor (notes are D# – F# – A#)
Chord iii: E# minor (notes are E# – G# – B#)
Chord IV: F# major (notes are F# – A# – C#)
Chord V: G# major (notes are G# – B# – D#)
Chord vi: A# minor (notes are A# – C# – E#)
Chord vii: B# diminished (notes are B# – D# – F#)
C# Major Scale FAQ
Because this scale can tend to be a little confusing with the extra sharps, let’s talk about some common questions people have about C# major.
Are C# major and Db major the same?
Yes, C# major and Db major have the same exact notes. However, they are spelled differently. C# major is more difficult spelling, since white note have to be called sharps.
Is C# in D major?
Yes, the note C# is in the key of D major. It is the leading tone (7th note) of the scale. However, it is only in the key of D as a diminished chord, not as major chord or scale.
Is C# major or minor?
The C# scale can be either major OR minor, depending on the notes. In this post we have only been referring to the C# major version of the scale.
Is C# Major commonly used?
Yes, the C# major key and scale is pretty common in advanced music (but definitely not beginner music!) This key is on the circle of 5ths, and though difficult, it remains a perfectly valid major key to play in.
Why is C major different from C# Major?
C major has zero sharps and flats, while C# major has ALL sharps. The note spelling actually sounds similar because they both use the letters C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. However, in C#, all those letters have sharps next to them. This makes them very different overall.
What are the notes in C-sharp major chord?
The C# major chord is made up of 3 notes: C#, E#, and G#. You can learn more about this chord right here.
More Music Theory
Now that you’ve learned about the C# major chord, don’t stop! There’s plenty of other music theory principles to learn. Here are some topics you might want to tackle next:
- Learn About the Unique Gb Scale
- What is Rubato in Music?
- Beginner’s Guide to Pedal Point
- Guide to the Order of Flats & Sharps
- All About Augmented Chords
- All About Diminished Chords
So there you have it—lots of information regarding the unique scale of C# major! I hope you enjoyed learning more about this scale with 7 sharps in it. A good exercise now would be to sit down at the piano and play this scale, while practicing saying the 2 different spellings (the flat spelling and the sharp spelling!) You got this!