• These Neighboring Triads Can Help You Remember the Major Scale In All 12 Keys

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano,Scales

    remember the major scale

    Today, I’ll be showing you another approach to the scale formation of the major scale that can guide your left hand.

    I’m very certain that a vast majority of musicians are struggling with their left hand.

    The tons of emails we’ve received in the past from people asking for help on how to guide their left hand, coupled with the challenges I faced in my earlier days, lends credence to this.

    Considering that this approach is chord-based, you’ll appreciate it more if you’re thoroughly acquainted with all the major and minor triads on the keyboard.

    Alright! Let’s get started by reviewing the major scale.

    Review Of The Major Scale

    Music scholars define a scale as a melodic progression of notes in ascending and descending order based on a fixed formula.

    However, it’s easy to understand what a scale means if you know the root word for scale in Latin.

    Scale comes from the Latin word scala, which means ladder. Therefore, it’s easy to define the scale as a ladder of pitches.

    Formation of the C major scale is as easy as starting from C:

    …and moving stepwise from one white note to the other until its octave:

    If you want to know why this scale is called the major scale, you need to check out this post on the difference between major and minor modes.

    Most musicians are familiar with the C major scale because of its simplicity.

    However, considering that there are eleven other major scales apart from C, it is important to share with you another approach to the formation of the major scale using neighboring triads.

    So, what are neighboring triads?

    How To Remember The Major Scale With Neighboring Triads

    Every major scale has seven degrees. Chords are numbered according to the scale degree they are built from, hence the terms chord 1, chord 2, chord 3, etc.

    Triads that are built from adjacent scale degrees are known as neighboring triads.

    Examples of neighboring triads in the key of C major include…

    Chords 1 and 2

    C major:

    …and D minor:

    …whose roots (C and D):

    …are adjacent to each other.

    Chords 3 and 4

    E minor:

    …and F major:

    …whose roots (E and F):

    …are adjacent to each other.

    Chords 5 and 6

    G major:

    …and A minor:

    …whose roots (G and A):

    …are adjacent to each other.

    Chords 7 and 1

    B diminished:

    …and C major:

    …whose roots (B and C):

    …are adjacent to each other.

    These neighboring triads form what music scholars call the neighboring chord couple.

    Notwithstanding that there are several neighboring chord couples:

    • Chords 1 and 2
    • Chords 2 and 3
    • Chords 3 and 4
    • Chords 4 and 5
    • Chords 5 and 6
    • Chords 6 and 7
    • Chords 7 and 1

    …we’ll only be using neighboring chords 1 and 2 for our study today.

    Suggested reading: Harmonization 201: The Neighboring Chord Couple Concept.

    Major vs Minor Triads

    Scale degree chords have their various chord qualities. The couple that we’re focusing on (chords 1 and 2) also differ in quality.

    Considering that in the key of C major, chords 1:

    …and 2:

    …are the C major and D minor triads, we can understand the neighboring triad concept as a pair of triads consisting of one major and one minor triad.

    Let’s evaluate these triads closely.

    Chord 1 – The Major Triad

    Chord 1 of any given major key is always a major triad.

    In the key of C, chord 1 is the C major triad:

    In the key of G, chord 1 is the G major triad:

    In the key of Eb, the Eb major triad:

    …is chord 1.

    If you’re familiar with chord 1 of any given key, then you’ve easily put the first, third, and fifth tones of that scale within your grasp. Here’s what I mean…

    Chord 1 in the key of C (C major triad):

    …has the first:

    …third:

    …and fifth:

    …tones of the C major scale:

    The same thing is applicable in other keys. Here are two examples…

    Example #1 – Key of D

    The tones of the D major triad:

    …are exactly the first, third, and fifth tones of the D major scale:

    Example #2 – Key of Bb

    Likewise, the tones of the Bb major triad:

    …are the first, third, and fifth tones of the Bb major scale:

    Take note…

    The major triad (chord 1) is always available to help you quickly remember the first, third, and fifth tones of the major scale.

    Chord 2 – The Minor Triad

    In any given major key, chord 2 will always have a minor quality by default.

    In the key of Eb, the F minor triad:

    …is chord 2.

    In the key of C, chord 2 is the D minor triad:

    In the key of F, chord 2 is the G minor triad:

    Knowledge of chord 2 in any given key gives you an idea of the second, fourth, and sixth tones of that key.

    Chord 2 in the key of C (D minor triad):

    …has the second:

    …fourth:

    …and sixth:

    …tones of the C major scale:

    The same thing is applicable in other keys.

    Also note that…

    The minor triad (chord 2) is always available to help you quickly remember the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the major scale.

    Breakdown of ALL Major Scales Into Neighboring Triads

    The goal of this lesson is to get you acquainted with another concept that can keep your left hand familiar with the notes of the major scale in all the keys.

    Pursuant to that, we’ll be breaking all the major scales on the keyboard into neighboring triads.

    Check them out:

    C Major Scale

    The C major scale:

    …can be broken down into the C major and D minor triads.

    C major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale.

    D minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the C major scale.

    Db Major Scale

    The Db major scale:

    …can be broken down into the Db major and Eb minor triads.

    Db major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the Db major scale.

    Eb minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the Db major scale.

    Check out the rest of them…

    D Major Scale

    The D major scale:

    …can be broken down into the D major and E minor triads.

    D major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the D major scale.

    E minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the D major scale.

    Eb Major Scale

    The Eb major scale:

    …can be broken down into the Eb major and F minor triads.

    Eb major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the Eb major scale.

    F minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the Eb major scale.

    E Major Scale

    The E major scale:

    …can be broken down into the E major and F# minor triads.

    E major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the E major scale.

    F# minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the E major scale.

    F Major Scale

    The F major scale:

    …can be broken down into the F major and G minor triads.

    F major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the F major scale.

    G minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the F major scale.

    Gb Major Scale

    The Gb major scale:

    …can be broken down into the Gb major and Ab minor triads.

    Gb major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the Gb major scale.

    Ab minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the Gb major scale.

    G Major Scale

    The G major scale:

    …can be broken down into the G major and A minor triads.

    G major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the G major scale.

    A minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the G major scale.

    Ab Major Scale

    The Ab major scale:

    …can be broken down into the Ab major and Bb minor triads.

    Ab major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the Ab major scale.

    Bb minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the Ab major scale.

    A major

    The A major scale:

    …can be broken down into the A major and B minor triads.

    A major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the A major scale.

    B minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the A major scale.

    Bb Major Scale

    The Bb major scale:

    …can be broken down into the Bb major and C minor triads.

    Bb major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the Bb major scale.

    C minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the Bb major scale.

    B major

    The B major scale:

    …can be broken down into the B major and C# minor triads.

    B major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones of the B major scale.

    C# minor:

    …the second, fourth, and sixth tones of the B major scale.

    Final Words

    By now, it’s only obvious for you to be asking, “what about the seventh tone of the scale?”

    The seventh tone of the major scale is called the leading note or leading tone and it is always a half step below the first tone of the major scale or its octave.

    After you’ve fixed the first, third, and fifth tones with chord 1, and after you’ve fixed the second, fourth, and sixth tones with chord 2, here’s how to determine the seventh tone…

    In the key of C major, the first tone of the scale is C:

    …therefore its seventh tone (aka – “leading note”) is a half step below C, which is B:

    We can also think in terms of the octave.

    The octave of C:

    is C:

    A half step below the octave of C is B:

    …and that’s the seventh tone.

    So, the distance of a half step between the first and seventh tone makes the seventh tone one the easiest scale tones to determine.

    Chord of the Day Quiz


    What major chord would produce a neighboring triad couple with the B minor triad?

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Nathaniel

    thanks a lot

    Reply

    2 Vikk

    A Major.

    Reply

    3 nathan

    I’m highly impressed with the simplicity explanation you gave

    Reply

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