Keys and scales

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Music Theory Made Easy -

Pay at­ten­tion now – if you learn one thing about mu­sic the­ory, it should be this.

There are 12 notes on a pi­ano key­board: C to C and re­peat. But in al­most all mu­sic, the point is to not use all of them. Most of­ten in Western mu­sic, seven from those 12 are used.

Put ba­si­cally, if you re­strict all the notes you play to that spe­cific se­lec­tion of seven – that ‘scale’ – ev­ery­thing you play will be in key. It won’t au­to­mat­i­cally sound awe­some, but it’s half the bat­tle.

But here’s the thing: the ques­tion of which seven notes you use is very im­por­tant. You can’t just use any seven, and the seven notes are what de­fine the mu­si­cal scale you’re us­ing.

If you play all the white notes on the key­board( C DE F GA BC) in or­der, then you’ve just played a

C ma­jor scale. If you play the white notes from A to A, you’ve just played an A mi­nor scale.

The pat­tern of the gaps between the notes de­ter­mines what the scale is. Scru­ti­nise that C ma­jor scale and you’ll see the pat­tern of jumps between notes is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 – ie, the first jump C#, goes from C to D, miss­ing out while the third jump goes from E to F, not miss­ing any notes out.

Start­ing from D, you’ll play D ma­jor if you keep that same pat­tern (2-2-1-2-2-2-1). So from D,

D#), jump to E (miss­ing and next to F#

(miss­ing F), then to G (miss­ing noth­ing). F# The C# whole D ma­jor scale is DE GAB D.

Let’s look back at that A mi­nor scale (all the white notes from A to A). The pat­tern for a mi­nor scale is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2.

In the walk­through on the right, we’ll start to take you through this con­cept in con­text, giv­ing you an ex­tra han­dle on chords and scales us­ing a DAW’s pi­ano roll.

The ma­jor scale can be found by play­ing the white notes from C to C, but it’s the pat­tern between notes that mat­ters

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