> Step by step
2. Defining a musical scale with a set of notes
1 Getting all the notes in your project to conform to the same musical key is one of the most useful skills you can learn when creating music, We start by defining the C major scale – that’s all the white notes played from C to C, ie, C DE F GA BC. This run of notes will probably sound very familiar to almost anybody with even a smattering of musical knowledge. 2 If we move the same pattern up the keyboard and play it from F instead of C, we land on the F major scale – so
Bb that’s F GA C DE F. We’ re no longer sticking to the white notes, as this rule applies only to C major, and no other major scale. What matters here is the pattern created between each step of the scale. For these major scales, the pattern between the notes is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1. 3 Now we’ll construct a minor scale. Similarly, if we use all the white notes from A to A, we end up with the A minor scale–A BC DE F GA. Again, it’s the pattern of jumps between the notes that makes the scale minor, and in this case that pattern is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2 – the ‘all white notes for A minor’ rule is just a handy way of remembering how to formulate it. 4 Let’s get our heads back into C major again, drawing the scale in for the Low Synth part. So the point of the music ‘being in C major’ is that every instrument only uses notes from this scale. In Ableton Live, we can use the Fold function to make all unused notes disappear, which can make working with scales easier. 5 So we can program any pattern of those white notes into the Low Synth, and it’ll be playing in C major. Above, we’ve set up some chords to play. As long as every note played is in the same scale, things will tend to sound pretty good together. Notice how our chords are spaced out between scale notes and don’t use adjacent notes at the same time. 6 We move to the High Synth part and Fold the piano roll to the C major scale again. Once more, we can draw in practically any notes from those available, and when played together with the Low Synth chords, the instruments will be in key. Anything you program will sound reasonable… maybe not perfect, but it’ll at least be in key.