Understanding Music Scales and the 12 Major Scales. part one

An understanding of music scales and the major scale in particular is one of the most important single concepts to understand as we continue to study the basic music theory required to get the most out of your experience playing piano or electronic keyboards.

This piano lesson will cover how to construct all of the 12 major scales.


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Don't get hung up on memorizing all twelve scales. That will come over time.

If you know how to use the whole steps and half step formula you will learn, and be able to visually see a few of them, that is enough for now.

Before completing this lesson it is recommended that you can identify and locate visually the notes on the Piano keyboard and that you can name all the white and black keys. See the lesson on piano keyboard layout. Piano Keyboard Layout

As we move forward toward an understanding of music scales and major scales it is important for you to get familiar with the concept of whole steps sometimes called whole tones and half steps on the piano.

Q? What is a Half Step?

Answer: The smallest distance or musical interval between two notes.

If you were to start with middle C, and play each adjacent note, either up (to the right) or down (to the left), without skipping any notes, would would be moving up or down the keyboard in HALF STEPS.

Going up C, C# , D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A , A# B.

Notice there are a total of 12 notes that make up the basis of all western musical scales.

Going down from middle C it would be C, B, Bb, A, Ab, G, Gb, F, E, Eb, D, Db

Notice I gave the black notes their sharp names going up and their flat names going down.

Also notice that between E and F and between B and C there are no black notes.

Thank God or we would never know visually how to find any note.

This diagram below visually represents all the half notes and introduces the concept of an OCTAVE.

Simply put, the distance from any note, in this case C, to the same note either up or down the keyboard is called an OCTAVE.

Remember octave is a distance, or musical interval.

Q? What is a whole step?

Answer: Why two half steps of course! That was easy.

Pretty easy answer huh?

A whole step is just two half steps in distance, like taking every other stair on a staircase or every other wrung on a ladder.

Notice in the diagram below that a whole step can be from a white note to another white note, ie. C to D, D to E, F to G, G to A.

Black note to Black note: C# to D #, F# to G#, G# to A# , or white to black ie. E to F# or B to C#.

The diagram below illustrates this concept visually.

Watch this lesson video on whole and half steps.

Knowing the concept of whole and half steps on the keyboard unlocks the next part of our music scales lesson so make sure you have it

Great Job! You now know how to name all the keys on the piano and the concept of whole and half steps! Time to put this knowledge to use as we get further into music scales and chords


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If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future lessons feel free to Contact Me.


You are now ready to move on to music scales part two. Just click on the link below.

music scales part two


from major scales to PIANO THEORY
from music scales to Free Piano Lessons for life HOME

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