Major and Minor Scales
1. Diatonic Scales - consist of tones and semi-tones. It is a seven note 'octave-repeating' scale consisting of 5 whole-steps (tones) and 2 half-steps (semitones) e.g., The 'C Major' diatonic scale would read as follows:
C Diatonic Scale - Ascending & Descending
2. Chromatic Scales - consist of semi-tones only. It consists of 12 notes, each a semitone apart. For example, the C chromatic scale would read as follows:
C - B - Bb - A - Ab - G - Gb - F - E - Eb - D - Db - (C) descending
C Chromatic Scale - Ascending & Descending
Diatonic Scales are divided into 2 kinds:
- Major Scales
- Minor Scales
Major ScalesA Major Scale is a series of 8 notes in alphabetical order, containing 5 tones and 2 semi-tones. The 8th note is the same as the first note, but is an octave higher.
- The 5 tones occur between the 1st-2nd, 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 5th-6th, 6th-7th notes of the scale.
- The 2 semi-tones occur between the 3rd-4th and 7th-8th notes of the scale
- ie. 1 ( tone) 2 ( tone) 3 (semi- tone) 4 ( tone) 5 ( tone) 6 ( tone) 7 (semi- tone) 8
Pattern of Whole and Half steps in the C major scale... W - W - H - W - W - W - H
The Step Method can be used to determine all Major Scales... here's a few examples.
|Notes of the Scale||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th||6th||7th||8th|
|Whole / Half Steps||W||W||H||W||W||W||H|
|C Major Scale||C||D||E||F||G||A||B||C|
|G Major Scale||G||A||B||C||D||E||F#||G|
|D Major Scale||D||E||F#||G||A||B||C#||D|
|A Major Scale||A||B||C#||D||E||F#||G#||A|
1. Natural or Relative Minor Scale
The Natural Minor Scale is the sixth mode of the major scale. It is sometimes referred to as the Aeolian mode, e.g., if you are in the key of C and move up 6 notes, counting C as number 1, you reach A. Therefore, the relative minor of C Major is A Minor.
The Natural Minor Scale is represented by the formula 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 where each degree of the scale is represented by a number.
If we want to use the formula for calculating our Natural Minor Scales we need to know the notes of the Major keynote scale. Consider the following example...
Natural D Minor Scale = D - E - F - G - A - B♭- C - DEXAMPLE: D NATURAL MINOR
Use Table 1 to determine the notes of the D Major Scale: D - E - F# - G - A - B - C# - D
The formula for the Relative Minor Scale = 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 (ascending and descending)
The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th notes remain unchanged.
Flatten the 3rd note so that F# becomes F
Flatten the 6th note so that B becomes B♭
Flatten the 7th note so that C# becomes C
Presto! We have a D Natural Minor Scale: D - E - F - G - A - B♭ - C - D - C - B♭- A - G - F - E - D (asc. and desc.)
D Natural Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
2. Harmonic Minor Scale
The Harmonic Minor Scale is the same as the Natural Minor Scale but with a chromatically raised seventh degree ascending and descending. (raised by 1 semitone)
The Harmonic Minor Scale is represented by the formula 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 7 8 where each degree of the scale is represented by a number.
If we want to use the formula for calculating our Harmonic Minor Scales we need to know the notes of the Major Keynote Scale. Consider the following example...
G Harmonic Minor Scale = G - A - B♭- C - D - E♭- F# - GEXAMPLE: G HARMONIC MINOR
Use Table 1 (step method) to determine the notes of the G Major Scale: G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G
Harmonic Minor Scale: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 7 8 (ascending and descending)
Substitute the notes of the G Major Scale into the formula and make the necessary adjustments to all accidentals.
G Harmonic Minor: G - A - B♭ - C - D - E♭- F# - G - F# - E♭- D - C - B♭- A - G
If you are confused about 'descending', go to the last note (end) and work backwards towards the middle... you always move from the lowest note to the highest note. The first and last notes (D) are the tonic, while the middle note (D) is an octave above the tonic.
G Harmonic Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
3. Melodic Minor Scale
The Melodic Minor Scale is the same as the natural minor scale but with a chromatically raised sixth and seventh degree ascending and restored to its normal pitch descending (natural minor).
The Melodic Minor Scale is represented by the formula 1 2 ♭3 4 5 6 7 8 ascending, and 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 descending where each degree of the scale is represented by a number.
P.S. The descending Melodic Minor Scale is exactly the same as the Natural Minor Scale.
|2||Major 2nd||2||Major 2nd|
|♭3||Minor 3rd||♭3||Minor 3rd|
|4||Perfect 4th||4||Perfect 4th|
|5||Perfect 5th||5||Perfect 5th|
|6||Major 6th||♭6||Minor 6th|
|7||Major 7th||♭7||Minor 7th|
If we want to use the formula for calculating our Melodic Minor Scales we need to know the notes of the Major Keynote Scale. Consider the following example...
A Melodic Minor = A - B - C - D - E - F# - G# - AEXAMPLE: A MELODIC MINOR
Use Table 1 (step method) to determine the notes of the A Major Scale: A - B - C# - D - E - F# - G# - A
Melodic Minor Scale: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 6 7 8 (ascending) 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 (descending)
Substitute the notes of the A Major Scale into the formula and make the necessary adjustments to all accidentals.
A Melodic Minor = A - B - C - D - E - F# - G# - A - G - F - E - D - C - B - A (ascending and descending)
A Melodic Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
Phew... You're doin' great!
Finding a keynote from accidentals
The TONIC is the keynote or 1st note of every music scale.
Sharps and Flats are used in the formation of scales to fix the correct position of the tones and semi-tones. This is how Key Signatures are formed.
A Key Signature consists of Sharps and Flats which are placed at the beginning of every Stave of Music to fix the correct pitch of the key.
Rules for Music Scales
- Music Scales are related by their key signatures: Major to Minor and Minor to Major.
- Every Major Scale has a relative Natural Minor Scale and every Minor Scale has a relative Major Scale
- The Major scale and its relative Minor Scale share the same Key Signature. This means they share the same notes, but because they start at different places, they have a different step pattern and therefore a different sound.
- To find a Relative Minor from a given Major, descend (count down) 3 semi-tones from the major, e.g., if you are in the key of A Major, count down 3 semitones from A - G# - G - F# ... you are in the key of F#minor.
- To find a Relative Major from a given Minor, ascend (count up) 3 semi-tones from the minor, e.g., if you are in the key of Am, count up 3 semitones from A - A# - B - C ... you are in the key of C Major.
Technical Names of Scale Degrees
Each note in a given music scale is given a technical name: A scale degree is the name given to each note of the scale in relation to the tonic or root note which is the first degree of a diatonic scale. The illustration below shows the names of the scale degrees in C Major.
Each scale degree can be described in several ways:
- First, second, major or minor third, fourth, fifth, major or minor sixth, major or minor seventh
- Roman Numerals, i.e., I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII
- Arabic Numerals, i.e., 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
- Names and their function, i.e., Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Leading Tone, Tonic (Octave / Upper Tonic).
|Degree||Name||Meaning||Notes in C|
|1st||Tonic||Tonal center / note of final resolution||C|
|2nd||Supertonic||One whole step above the tonic||D|
|3rd (Maj/Min)||Mediant||Half-way between the tonic and dominant||E/E♭|
|4th||Subdominant||Lower dominant / same interval below tonic dominant is above tonic||F|
|5th||Dominant||2nd most important note to the tonic||G|
|6th (Maj/Min)||Submediant||Lower mediant / mid-way between the tonic and subdominant||A/A♭|
|7th (Maj/Min)||Leading Tone / Subtonic||Melodically strong affinity for the tonic / leads to the tonic / Subtonic-one whole step below the tonic||B/B♭|
|8th||Octave/Upper Tonic||Octave above the tonic / tonal center / note of final resolution||C|
Subtonic is used when the interval between it and the tonic in the upper octave is a whole step, e.g., 7 or dom7 (B♭)
Leading Tone is used when the interval is a half step, e.g., maj7 (B)
- Supertonic and Subtonic are, one step above and one step below the tonic
- Mediant and Submediant are each a third above and below the tonic
- Dominant and Subdominant are a fifth above and below the tonic