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Thread: Ch 1-2: Major Scales - Amusing Music Theory

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    Amusing Music Theory - Written by @Yan_Dura

    Chapter 1-2: Major Scales


    • 2.1 - Major Scale
    • 2.2 - Whole Steps & Half Steps
    • 2.3 - Tetrachords
    • 2.4 - Accidentals
    • 2.5 - Key Signatures
    • 2.6 - Circle of Fifths

    2.1 - Major Scale Overview

    The Major Scale (or Ionian Mode) is a collection of 7 pitches, with a specific pattern of Whole Steps and Half Steps. It utilizes all the letters of the musical alphabet (A through G) in alphabetical order. The beginning note of the scale, as well as Accidentals determine the Key, or scale used.

    2.2 - Whole Steps & Half Steps

    Whole Steps and Half Steps are terms to describe the distance between adjacent notes. This is simpler to comprehend when relating it to the keyboard.

    Whole Steps

    A Whole Step skips the adjacent note, either black or white, and moves to the next. For example, the distance between C and D is a Whole Step.

    Half Steps

    A Half Step is the distance between two adjacent notes. For example, the notes E and F are a half step apart.

    2.3 - Tetrachords

    If the Major Scale, with an upper octave note accounted for, is divided down themiddle, it leaves a four note pattern on each side. The pattern is that of W-W-H, referring to whole steps and half steps. These two sections are separated by a Whole Step. In it's entirety the pattern of whole steps and half steps is as follows: (W-W-H)-W-(W-W-H), with the tetrachords in parenthesis.

    2.4 - Accidentals

    Accidentals is the name given to sharp (#) and flat (b) symbols. A Sharp symbolizes that a note is to be raise a half step. For example, C# is the the first black key to the right of the note C.

    In addition, aFlat symbol signals that a pitch should be lowered one half step. An example of this would be Cb which is one half step below the note C.

    There is also another type of accidental referred to as a natural (). This is used to return a note, that previously affected by an accidental, back to its natural form. This is only necessary when notes are altered in the same measure. This is due to the fact that once a new measure arrives, all notes refer to the original state, as determined by the key signature.

    2.5 - Key Signatures

    A Key Signature is a collection of accidentals at the beginning of each stave, determining the Key of the piece. These can be either collections Sharps, Flats, or none in the case of C Major. Accidentals can be used to employ pitches that are outside of the key. Below, will show the Key Signatures of all the Major Scales

    One thing to note is the order in which each of the key signatures progresses. Referring to the sharp scales, the order of sharps is as follows: F# - C# - G# - D# - A# - E# - B#, which does not change.It may be beneficial for students to create a phrase or acronym to remember this order. It can also be noted that the order of sharps is built on fifths, which will be expanded upon in the next lesson. As for the key signature itself, the pattern of the order is as follows: up a fifth, and down a fourth. These increments are measured by the amount of lines and spaces between two points on a staff. This distance is called an interval, which will be the topic of the next lesson.

    Flat-based key signatures also have an order of accidentals. This order is as follows: Bb - Eb - Ab - Db - Gb - Cb - Fb. Again, this order does not change. The difference between the flat key signatures and the sharp key signatures lies in the pattern. In the case of the flat key signatures, the pattern is "up a fourth, and down a fifth". This is the inverse of that of the sharp key signatures.

    NOTE: Key Signatures will never be on a ledger line. With this being said, an accidental must be displaced an octave if it were to end up on a ledger line.

    2.6 - Circle of Fifths

    The Circle of Fifths is a diagram that depicts the common key signatures in a systematic way. Its name is derived from the fact that if you travel from one adjacent to key to next (left or right), the distance between them will be a fifth. For Example, starting on A Major (3#'s) if we travel up five (A - B - C - D - E) we will end up on E. It is also the same distance from A to D (A - G - F - E - D)

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