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"Secrets of Exciting Chords & Chord Progressions!"


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" Secrets of Exciting Piano Chords & Piano Chord Progressions!"

All The Major Scales & Their Minor Relatives

      The word "scale" comes from the Latin word "la scala" which means "ladder".

     So a scale is a ladder of notes that start on the bottom rung and works it's way up 8 notes to the octave note -- from the word "octavo" -- which means 8, like octagon, octopus, October (I know -- October is the 10th month for us, but  Caesar shifted the start of the year from March 1 to January 1, so October became the 10th month instead of the 8th),etc.

      Scale notes are named by the distance from the root of the scale. For example, in the C major scale C is the root (home base), D is the 2nd degree, E is the 3rd degree, and so on up to the octave note.

      Look at your piano keyboard and you'll see half steps (the closest possible keys, like C and C#) and whole steps (2 half steps, like C and D). The distance between a while key and it's neighboring black key is always a half step, because you can squeeze nothing between them except dust. The distance between two white keys is almost always a whole step, because you are skipping a black key. But not always: the distance between E and F is a half step, because nothing lies between them. Same with B and C -- nothing lies between them. The distance between two black keys is almost always a whole step, except between Eb and Gb which is a step-and-a-half, and also between Bb and Db, which is likewise a step-and-a-half.

      The formula for a major scale is:

Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step.

      Once you know the formula for a major scale you can move on to minor scales.

       Every major scale has a kissing cousin -- a relative minor scale. What makes it relative? It uses the very same notes as the major scale -- it just starts on a different place in the scale; the 6th degree instead of the root.

        Look at the a minor scale (in case you're wondering, a capital letter means major, while a lower case letter means minor). The a minor scale uses exactly the same notes as the C major scale -- that's why they are related -- they have common blood, like you and your cousin.

       So the relative minor scale for any major scale is easy to find -- just locate the 6th degree of the major scale, and start the minor scale there.

       But now the plot thickens: There are 3 varieties of minor scales:

Natural minor (pure minor), Harmonic minor, and Melodic Minor.

      Natural minor scale: Uses the same notes as it's relative major scale

      Harmonic minor scale: Uses the same notes as it's relative major scale, except the 7th scale degree is raised 1/2 step as the scale ascends.

       Melodic minor scale: Uses the same notes as it's relative major scale, except the 6th and 7th scale degrees are raised 1/2 step, but revert to the natural minor scale as it descends.

        Do you really need to know all this?

        Not really. Zillions of good piano players don't know all this, but at the same time, the more understanding you have in any area, the more comfortable you feel as as you play.

        If you want to pick one variety of minor scale to concentrate on, I would choose the harmonic minor scale (the one with the raised 7th scale degree).

        Why? Because so much of the familiar music you know and play is based on that form. You probably don't what to know why the harmonic minor scale is used more in modern music, but it's because the raised 7th provides a major 3rd for the V7 chord. (I told you that you really didn't want to know.)

         Here are a few of the major scales and their relative minors:



     By the way, what is true of scales is also true of keys. When you hear people say "I'm playing in the key of C", they mean (consciously or unconsciously) that they are basing their playing on the C scale. When a musician says "I'm playing in the key of A minor", you know now that they are basing their playing on the A minor scale, which is related by "blood" to the C major scale.

      Here is a Google video so you can get the idea:

Piano Scales Video



      For more information on relative minor scales go to Wikipedia.

      For a DVD covering all the major and minor scales, click here or on the icon below:

Scales - major, minor, the modes

For a complete listing of all helpful piano courses, please click here.

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