In music a Scale is a set of rules that the notes follow. It tells you what the relationship between the notes are.
Jumping from one note to the one right next to it is called a half-step. It means that two notes are right next to eachother.
A whole-step means you are jumping over one note, so if youre on a note, and going a wholestep up, that means that there is a note inbetween the two you played.
So a scale tells us how far apart from eachother all the notes in that scale are. Theyre the rules. How many Half-Steps, and Whole-Steps there are.
I will mark Whole-Step as “W” and Half-Step as “H”.
So the rules in a Major Scale are: W, W, H, W, W, W, H
And the rules in our Minor Scale are: W, H, W, W, H, W, W
So now we know how the notes in our two scales relate to eachother. But we still gotta know which notes we should play!.
So we pick one note, that we want to be our “Root”. This is the very first note in our order, and if we know what the first note is, we know what all the other notes are since we know how far apart they need to be from eachother.
So picking a root note is called choosing a Key, the Key is what the first note played is, and the Scale is how far from the first note all the other notes are.
So G-Major and C-Major are both Major scales, but their first note is different, and so the following notes are different from eachother. But the distance between them is the same. Going from G to A is the same as going from C to D. Its a Whole-Step. They sound the same, one is just brighter than the other. What key you use depends on which one is the most fun to play, a piano will use more or less black keys depending. Other instruments will be tuned differently, and require different techniques. And a singer will have a specific range of notes they can comfortably sing, which will influence the key that the instruments play in.
The difference between Major and Minor is how far the notes are from the root, and generally Major is seen as “Happy” and Minor as “Sad”.
So the notes being played in music dont matter, its the relationship between the notes. As long as the distance between all the notes are the same, the song sound the same. Minor and Major are different **Scales**, not **Keys**, so the distance between the notes are different, and so they sound different.
As to which keys get sharpened and flattened it doesnt matter, but there is a system. When reading out the notes you want to keep the alphabetic order as good as possible. The notes we play with are A, B, C, D, E, F and G.
Ill represent a sharp as “#” and flat as “b”
So if im counting my notes in C-Minor, i can do it like:
“C, D, D#, F, G, G#, Bb”. But it gets messy, i have two D’s and two G’s, and im missing an E and an A. Hard to memorise.
If i choose to flatten those notes instead though i get:
“C, D, Eb, F, G Ab, Bb”. And now its all alphabetical, and no repeat letters. Ab and G# sound the same, which one is used just depends on the alphabet. Makes it much easier to memorize.
Think of the notes on a piano. The shortest distance between two notes, for example from a white note to the black note immediately above or below it, is called a semitone. So C – C# or B – Bb is a semitone, and so is E – F and B – C, because there are no black notes in between these white notes. A tone is made up of two semitones e.g. C – D (two white notes with a black note in between) F# – G# (two black notes with a white note in between) or even B – C# (white, white, black).
Every major scale has the same pattern of tones and semitones between the notes of the scale, regardless of the starting note. That pattern is tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.
The easiest scale to visualise this is C major – it’s played using only the white notes of the piano, because the pattern of white notes on the piano from C up to the next C follows that same pattern of T T S T T T S (T=tone, S=semitone). This scale has no sharps or flats because no notes need to be raised or lowered to follow the tone/semitone pattern.
The next most common scales are G major and F major. If we play all white notes starting on G or F the tone/semitone pattern doesn’t work so G major needs the 7th note to be F# to follow the pattern and in F major the 4th note is lowered to Bb. From then on subsequent major scales will add more sharps or flats (but not both) depending on the starting note to continue following the major scale pattern.
For minor scales, the pattern is T S T T S A S (where A=augmented 2nd which is an interval of 3 semitones). This is for a harmonic minor scale, which is usually what people refer to when they talk about minor scales. Again the patterns of tones and semitones in each harmonic minor scale will remain the same regardless of which note you start on.
Because major and minor keys have different patterns of tones and semitones for the scales they use, this gives them a different sound, or colour, to the listener even if both scales begin and end on the same note. It’s why you hear people refer to major keys as ‘happy’ and minor keys as ‘sad’.
This is also western music only. I figured that was assumed in major and minor scales. If anyone is familiar with other tradition’s music, I’d love to read about it in a comment.
(If you look at a picture of a piano keyboard, this will make a lot more sense
Notes repeat themselves in divisions called octaves which go from a note to the same note at either twice or half the frequency. This is what going up or down an octave means. It’s also what you’re doing in the “Do a deer…” song where you start at Do and end at a higher Do.
Inside each octave there are twelve notes. If you look at a piano keyboard, you’ll see the keys are arranged in groups of twelve–7 white and 5 black keys. On a guitar, that’s what the frets are, and the 12th fret is one octave higher than the natural string note. The two different keys are how we pick out which of the 12 notes are part of our progression through the octave.
It does this by starting at the root note. This is what the C in Cmaj means. It’s telling you to start at a C note. (On a piano, this is the white key to the left of the group of two black keys). From there we either go a “whole step” and skip a note to get to the next one in the scale, or we go a “half step” and use the next one. Conveniently, the piano keyboard is set up for the white keys to be the C major scale. We can now see that to get from one C to the next higher C takes a whole step-whole step-half step-whole step-whole step-whole step-half step, and takes us through CDEFGABC.
Let’s say we want to work out the E major key instead. We start at E (white key to the right of the two black keys) and follow the whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half pattern. This covers an absolute TON of black keys. These black keys are what the flats and sharps are and we only call it a flat or sharp depending on which letter we call it. If it’s a half step up, it’s a sharp, and it’s a flat when it’s a half step down. The other rule is that we don’t reuse or skip letters.
Our E scale started as E??AB??E since we didn’t know what the black keys were. Knowing what we know now, the next note is F. Except it’s the black key a half step past the “regular” F so it’s an F# (or F sharp). The same is true for all the other ones and the full E major scale is EF#G#ABC#D#E.
For a minor scale, all the same rules apply other than the different pattern. Minor scales go whole-half-whole-whole-half-whole-whole. It’s the same number of steps. It just has different “stopping points” for the notes.
To see if you get it try the following:
* What notes are in the C minor scale?
* (Hard mode question) What minor scale has the same notes as the C major scale?
thank you for all your explanations… it all makes sense now
So different approach here to understand the physics behind it. Notes are just different frequencies. There are certain frequencies that sound good together. For example if you take a base (root) frequency and multiply it by 2 you get a nice sound (the same note just an “octave” higher). If you take a frequency and multiply it by 1.5 it sounds nice (perfect fifth). In western music we usually stick to eight of these ratios that we’ve decided sound good and call this group of ratios a scale. What’s with those annoying sharps and flats? Well it turns out that our brains are annoying and the ratios we like don’t follow a perfect pattern, so we had to add some sharps, flats, and nudge some other frequencies around a little bit so we could make instruments that are actually playable. Luckily for us our brains don’t really mind the slight deviations.