• The Natural Major Scale

    in Beginners,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, we’ll be learning about the major scale.

    In most cases, this is the scale that beginners are exposed to and this is because it has a way of familiarizing you with the concept of key or tonality.

    For example, the F major scale:

    …gives you an idea of what the key of F looks like while the Db major scale:

    …tells you what the key of Db looks like.

    We have a lot to cover, ranging from the definition of terms like scale, whole step, half step etc., to the formation of the major scale. But before we get into all that, let’s look at notes.

    Overview Of Notes

    A note is a music sound of a precise pitch. Pitch here refers to the degree of lowness or highness of a musical sound.

    There are several notes of various pitch levels from the lowest to the highest, however, we can classify them into 12 sets. This twelve-tone set can be divided into natural and accidental pitch sets…

    7 natural pitch sets

    5 accidental pitch sets

    The 7 white notes below:

    …are the naturals while the 5 black notes:

    …are the accidentals.

    If you do the math, 7 natural pitch sets + 5 accidental pitch sets = 12 pitch sets. These 12 pitch sets form the octave.

    Naming of Notes

    These pitch sets can be named using alphabets, numbers, and even sound syllables (aka – “solfa”), however, we’ll focus on the use of alphabets in naming notes in this lesson.

    The white notes are named using the first seven alphabets – A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. However, for the sake of simplicity, here are the notes from C to C:

    The black notes on the other hand are named with sharp (#) and flat (b) symbols.

    Sharp symbol accidentals

    C#:

    D#:

    F#:

    G#:

    A#:

    Flat symbol accidentals

    Db:

    Eb:

    Gb:

    Ab:

    Bb:

    Suggested Reading: Naming Notes Correctly (“Musical Spelling Bee”).

    These notes are the genesis of music. According to Jermaine Griggs, “Notes form scales…” and that summarizes our goal in this lesson, which is to form the natural major scale.

    Whole step vs Half step Distances

    One of the most important things you need to know before you get into scale formation is the whole step and half step distance.

    Having established that there are twelve pitch sets in music, we’re going ahead to look at the distance between these pitches.

    The Whole Step

    Attention: At this point, feel free to perceive the whole step as the distance between two white notes that have a black note in-between.

    The distance from C to D:

    …is called a whole step. Note that in a whole step from C to D, you can see a black note in-between C and D…

    D to E:

    …is also a whole step and of course, there’s a black note in-between them.

    Other whole step distances between white notes across the keyboard include…

    F to G:

    …G to A:

    …and A to B:

    The Half Step

    The half step is the distance between two successive white notes that are adjacent to each other.

    The distance from E to F:

    …is a half step because they are adjacent to each other. Between B to C:

    …is also a half step.

    Half Step and Whole Step

    Beyond our basic perception of the half step as the distance between adjacent white notes (with no black note in-between), it is the distance between two adjacent notes, whether white or black.

    Adjacent to C:

    …is C#:

    …which is equivalent to Db.

    Adjacent to C#:

    …is D:

    Here are the remainder half steps…

    D to D#:

    D# to E:

    E to F:

    F to F#:

    F# to G:

    G to G#:

    G# to A:

    A to A#:

    A# to B:

    B to C:

    It takes the distance of two half steps to make one whole step.

    C to D:

    ..is a whole step apart because of the two half-step distances in-between them…

    C to C#

    …and C# to D:

    Let me show you what to do if someone walks up to you and asks, “What note is a whole step above Eb?”

    A whole step is a distance of two half steps. Eb to E:

    …is a half step, then E to F:

    …is another half step. Therefore, from Eb to F:

    …is a whole step.

    Here are the remainder whole steps…

    From C to D:

    …is a whole step.

    From C# to D#:

    …is a whole step.

    From D to E:

    …is a whole step.

    From Eb to F:

    …is a whole step.

    From E to F#:

    …is a whole step.

    From F to G:

    …is a whole step.

    From F# to G#:

    …is a whole step.

    From G to A:

    …is a whole step.

    From G# to A#:

    …is a whole step.

    From A to B:

    …is a whole step.

    From Bb to C:

    …is a whole step.

    From B to C#:

    …is a whole step.

    “What Is A Scale?”

    A scale is a succession of notes in ascending or descending order, usually based on a fixed formula

    Scale comes from the Latin word scala which means ladder or staircase.

    The concept of the scale in music is related to climbing a staircase. A staircase has several steps that you can ascend and descend on.

    The musical scale consists of a collection of notes (think of them as steps in a staircase) that one can ascend or descend on. Forming a scale is as easy as starting on a given note, and moving in steps until its octave.

    Here’s an example…

    Starting from C:

    …we’ll move in steps to D:

    E:

    F:

    G:

    A:

    B:

    …and then to C:

    …the octave.

    All the notes played from C to C:

    …forms a musical scale.

    Conversely, we can also descend from C:

    …to B:

    …to A:

    …to G:

    …to F:

    …to E:

    …to D:

    …and back to C:

    Scale, like we defined in the beginning is a succession of notes that can either ascend or descend. Let me throw more light on this definition.

    In music, a succession of notes like we did, moving from C, to D, to E, etc., creates a melody. Consequently, musical scales are said to be melodic.

    There are two directions in music – the ascending and the descending direction. Musical scales can move in both ascending and descending directions.

    Leaving the part that says “…based on a fixed formula” out is intentional. We’ll cover it as we go deeper into the scale formation of the natural major scale.

    Scale Formation Of The Natural Major Scale

    Attention: If you’ve been around musicians for long, you must have heard someone sing do re mi fa sol la ti do OR do ti la sol fa mi re do. If you have, then the natural major scale is not new to you. If you haven’t, don’t worry, we’re going to explore it in this segment.

    Definition of the Major Scale

    The major scale is a scale of eight degrees having half steps between the third and fourth and the seventh and eighth degrees and whole steps between the other adjacent degrees.

    The major scale is a melodic source of the major key. All melodies played in the major key are derived from the major scale.

    The easiest natural major scale to get started with is the C major scale:

    …having all white notes from C to C – eight degrees in all.

    C is the first degree

    D is the second degree

    E is the third degree

    F is the fourth degree

    G is the fifth degree

    A is the sixth degree

    B is the seventh degree

    C is the eighth degree

    If you can bear it in mind that the distance between adjacent scale degrees is a whole step, save between the 3rd & 4th and 7th & 8th degrees, you can form the major scale in any key of your choice.

    Formation of The Natural Major Scale

    Formation of the major scale depends on whole steps and half steps. Consequently,  it’s easier to form the natural major scale if you know whole steps and half steps.

    Here’s how to form any natural major scale in 5 simple steps…

    Step 1 – Determine the key and make it your first degree.

    Step 2 – Ascend in whole steps to the second and third degrees.

    Step 3 – While on the third degree, this is where you need to observe a half step ascent from the third degree to the fourth degree.

    Step 4 – Ascend in whole steps from the fourth degree through to the seventh degree.

    Step 5 – While on the seventh degree, observe a half step ascent from the seventh to the eighth degree.

    “Let’s put these steps to work in the key of A major”

    Step 1 – Determine the key and make it your first degree.

    The key is A:

    …therefore A is the first degree.

    Step 2 – Ascend in whole steps to the second and third degrees.

    A whole step from A:

    …is B:

    …the second degree, another whole step  from B:

    …is C#:

    Put together we have A, B, and C:

    ..which are the first three degrees of the A natural major scale.

    Step 3 – While on the third degree, this is where you need to observe a half step ascent from the third degree to the fourth degree.

    A half step ascent from the third degree (C#):

    …would take us to D:

    …the fourth degree of the A natural major scale.

    Step 4 – Ascend in whole steps from the fourth degree through to the seventh degree.

    A whole step from D:

    …is E:

    …the fifth degree of the scale. Another whole step  from E:

    …is F#:

    …the sixth degree of the scale. Another whole step from F#:

    …is G#:

    …the seventh degree of the scale.

    Step 5 – While on the seventh degree, observe a half step ascent from the seventh to the eighth degree.

    A half step ascent from the seventh degree (G#):

    …would take us to A:

    …the eighth degree of the A natural major scale.

    If we put everything together, we’ll have the A major scale:

    Following the same procedure, you can form the natural major scale in all twelve keys.

    Attention: Please always remember that while other adjacent scale degrees are a whole step apart, the 3rd & 4th degrees and the 7th & 8th degrees are a half step apart.

    The Natural Major Scale In All Twelve Keys

    Here are the major scales in all twelve keys…

    C major scale:

    Db major scale:


    D major scale:

    Eb major scale:

    E major scale:

    F major scale:

    Gb major scale:

    G major scale:

    Ab major scale:

    A major scale:

    Bb major scale:

    B major scale:

    Final Words

    I highly recommend that you consciously commit all these scales to heart. A knowledge of the major scale in all twelve keys is of the greatest possible importance because a vast number of the melodies or songs come from the natural major scale.

    Thank you for your time.

    P.S.

    If you want to take this study further by exploring the fingering of the major scale, here’s What Charles Barkley Could Teach You About Playing Major Scales Flawlessly. You’ll do well to check it out.

    P.P.S

    We’re introducing a complete guide on how to master scales completely. If you join our mailing list, you’ll be among the first to be notified.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Cristy

    i never new how easy it is

    Reply

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