Scales

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

A scale is a combination of notes whose intervals provide a harmonic structure relative to a specific type of scale. There are numerous scales available that pertain to various genres, geographic location and emotion. Major and minor scales are the primary constituents of most modern-day, western music and although options are seemingly limited when presented with these two scale types, you may create thousands upon thousands of unique melodies, chord progressions and harmonic structures.



For all intents and purposes, only the Major and Minor scales will be used to introduce concepts of music theory.




C Major Scale


Also represented as; C






C Minor Scale


Also represented as; Cm




These specific combinations of notes pertain to that particular scale (major or minor)


This creates a map, dictating the notes that are able to be used and the notes that are unable to be used eliminating notes that would not harmonically fit within a scale. These notes should be avoided to keep things dedicated to a selected scale.


Intervals

The intervals (distance between 2 notes) are the gatekeeper to various emotion and feeling. A single note does not hold much emotion until another note is introduced, creating an interval relationship which in turn delivers the emotion. The combination, reflection and interval of singular notes or multiple notes at the same time will be the key to generating specific emotions with the listener. Studying such intervals will help you determine which notes to follow with depending on the type of desired emotion.


Numbering all 12 notes within an octave allows us to interpret tones and semitones in music theory.


Each consecutive number that you reach, either positively or negatively, is considered a semitone.



For example, to get from 1 to 2 you will need to add a semitone. In other words to get from C to C# you will need to add a semitone.


Every 2 consecutive numbers that you reach, either up or down, is considered a TONE.


For example, to get from 1 to 3 you will need to add two semi-tones, also known as a tone. In other words, to get from C to D, you will need to add a tone.

Looking at the C Major scale, you see the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

From the root note of the scale, in terms of tones and semitones, the intervals are as follows; Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone - this is considered the skeleton of the major scale!

Looking at the C Minor scale you see the notes C, D, D#, F, G, G#, A#

From the root note of the scale, in terms of tones and semitones, the intervals are as follows

Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone - this is considered the skeleton of the minor scale!


Relative Minor


Major and Minor scales also have a relative in the opposite scale type too. This means you are able to flow from a Major scale into a Minor scale without any harmonic complications.


Observe the C Major scale and the A Minor scale. Notice they both use the same collection of 7 notes for both their scales.


Albeit the scale starts from the corresponding note of that scale, the combinations of notes are identical and therefore compatible with one another within a composition.


Become familiar with the relative minor of major scales and get creative with blending scales creating a combined variation of emotions with the chart below!



Keep this image as a reference whenever experimenting with cross-scale harmonies!