Keys and scales
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