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
The Step Method can be used to determine all Major Scales... here's some examples using 3 variations.
|Whole / Half Steps||W||W||H||W||W||W||H|
|Tones / Semitones||T||T||S||T||T||T||S|
|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|
Minor Scales consist of 3 scale patterns:
- Natural Minor Scale - also referred to as the Aeolian mode
- Harmonic Minor Scale
- Melodic Minor Scale
In each of the Minor Scale patterns, the 1st, 3rd and 5th scale degrees form a minor triad, whereas in a major scale they form a major triad.
The first essential step is to learn the Natural Minor Scale. This will give you a solid foundation with a natural progression to understanding harmonic and melodic minor scales.
The Minor Scales page will give you a comprehensive look at each of these scales including different methods for calculating them along with examples. The following is simply an entree... the main-course and dessert are much more exciting!
The differences between the 3 minor scales:
- 1. Natural Minor Scale - Formula: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 (ascending and descending)
D Natural Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
Step Method for Natural Minor Scales:
W - H - W - W - H - W - W
D - E - F - G - A - Bb - C - D
- 2. Harmonic Minor Scale - Formula: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 7 8 (ascending and descending)
G Harmonic Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
Step Method for Harmonic Minor Scales: (WH = Whole + Half = 3 semitones)
W - H - W - W - H - WH - H
G - A - Bb - C - D - Eb - F# - G
- 3. Melodic Minor Scale - Formula: 1 2 ♭3 4 5 6 7 8 ascending, and 1 2 ♭3 4 5 ♭6 ♭7 8 descending.
A Melodic Minor Scale - Ascending & Descending
Because the Melodic Minor Scale has a different ascending/descending order we need 2 step-methods:
Step Method for Ascending:
W - H - W - W - W - W - H
A - B - C - D - E - F# - G#
Step Method for Descending: same as Natural Minor Scale ascending and descending
W - H - W - W - H - W - W
A - B - C - D - E - F - G - A
Please Note: The easiest way to write the notes for ascending and descending scales:
- Ascending: First Tonic to center Tonic (one octave higher)
- Descending: Last Tonic to center
- Low to high both ways is less confusing
- Firstly - Write the scale notes ascending and descending then add the accidentals according to each step method - low to high... neat sweet and complete!
Rules for Music Scales
- 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.
- 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