Friday, May 13, 2011

Major Scales

In this lesson, we will be learning about scales specifically the major scale. What is a musical scale and why are they so important in music? You are probably wondering about this. Well, the first thing I will do is explain what a musical scale is?

A scale is a term given to a succession of notes placed in alphabetical order from any note to its octave (8 notes). This means that if you start at the C note you end at the C note an octave higher or lower. The notes in a scale are always arranged in patterns of half steps (H also called a semitone), whole steps (W also called a tone), or other intervals.

We will begin with the major scales first. Every major scale consists of 2 equal parts called tetrachords. What is a tetrachord?

Well, a tetrachord of a scale consists of 4 notes which form a tone (W) between the 1st and 2nd notes, a tone or whole step (W) between the 2nd and 3rd notes and a semitone or half step (H also called a diatonic half step) between the 3rd and 4th notes. Remember that a semitone is the smallest distance between one note and the next note above or below it. This means that a tone is the distance equal to 2 semitones.

Let's go back to the major scale again. Just before we stated that the major scale consists of 2 equal parts or 2 tetrachords. When 2 tetrachords are joined together to form the major scale they are linked together by a tone (W). You can now see that every major scale has the following arrangement of half steps (H) and whole steps (W):


The above pattern is what you have to remember when playing the major scales. This pattern is always the same for every major scale possible. Now let's look at a few examples of the major scale.

You can see 2 examples of this arrangement in the images below. The image below is the C major scale. Notice the arrangement of whole steps and half steps. You can also see that in the C major scale there are no accidentals, which means the scale is played completely with white notes. The C major scale goes according to this: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and then C.

Now let's look at the image below. This is the B major scale. Notice the arrangement of whole steps and half steps. You can also see that there are 5 accidentals in this scale. The accidental used in this scale is the sharp and they are placed in front of the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th note. This means that when you play these notes you play the black key on the piano not the white key. The B major scale goes according to this: B, C sharp, D sharp, E, F sharp, G sharp, A sharp, and then B.

The 2 examples above are just a few of the major scales available. Please remember again that all major scales follow the same pattern stated above. The image below shows all the possible major scales. You will notice that the C major scale is the only major scale that does not contain accidentals.

The image below is the major scales as played on the piano keyboard. Practicing the scales is also a good way for you to improve your piano fingering techniques. Piano fingering of scales with your right hand can go like this: thumb, 2nd finger, 3rd finger, thumb, 2nd finger, 3rd finger, 4th finger, then 5th finger. For the left hand, the fingering can go like this: 5th finger, 4th finger, 3rd finger, 2nd finger, thumb, 3rd finger, 2nd finger, then thumb. Try out a few of the major scales for practice.

An interesting fact that you might want to know is that a lot of popular music and most classical music are both built out of scales. I bet you didn't know this. But you are probably wondering how does learning the scales help with learning a piece of music. Well, it means that when you start to learn a new piece of music, you might be able to find your way a lot more quickly if you recognize its scale and then you will become a lot more familiar with the nature of the piece.

Another thing to remember is that chords are made out of scales as well. All the chords in music has a hint of the scale from which it comes from in it. This means that knowing the scale will help you learn what the chord does in the music you are playing. We will be learning about what chords are later on.

In the next lesson, we will be learning about the minor scales.


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