10.Different Keys in the Major Scale

We may start on any note for a Major Scale, but still keep the same sound pattern. Let's learn how:

michaelmcdonald.png (michael mcdonald)
michael mcdonald
Scales are named according to their starting letter. So the C Major Scale starts on the letter or note of C:
C D E F G A B C

Notice there are no sharps or flats.

Next, for the G Major Scale:

G A B C D E F# G
Notice from F# to G is a half step, because it has to fit within our Major Scale step pattern (the steps between notes):
2whole, 1half, 3whole, 1half

Also, E to F# is a whole step.

Both of these Major Scales (C and G Major) have the exact same step pattern, and SOUND the same overall. Let's compare Major Scales and their sharps: (Remember that B to C, and E to F, have no step between them - Bake Cakes, Eat Food).

  • C D E F G A B C
  • G A B C D E F# G
  • D E F# G A B C# D
  • A B C# D E F# G# A
  • E F# G# A B C# D# E
  • B C# D# E F# G# A# B
  • F# G# A# B C# D# E# F#
  • C# D# E# F# G# A# B# C#

Don't be afraid of all those sharps (they won't puncture you). As we proceed through each scale, we sharp an extra note.

  • C Major has no sharps (0#)
  • G Major has 1 sharp (F#)
  • D Major has 2sharps (F#, C#)
  • Then, A Major has 3sharps (F#, C#, G#)

and so it goes until we add 7 sharps:

F# C# G# D# A# E# B#

This pattern, or order, of sharps we'll use later to make scales.


Conversely, we may compare Flats and their scales, successively adding flats. Starting on 'F', here is the F Major Scale:

F G A Bb C D E F

Only one flat is added, Bb. Let's compare this flat scale to others, starting on different first notes (roots):

  • F G A Bb C D E F
  • Bb C D Eb F G A Bb
  • Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
  • Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab
  • Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
  • Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb
  • Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb Cb

Here, doing the same thing as sharp scales, we add 1 more Flat per scale (remember a scale's first and last notes are the same root note, just 8 steps apart).

  • F Major Scale has 1 flat (Bb)
  • Bb Major Scale has 2 flats (Bb, Eb)
  • Eb Major Scale has 3b's (Bb, Eb, Ab)

Continue until 7b's are added:

Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Cb Fb

"If they understood the song's Key, the written music would be only a reminder to play a note sharp, flat, or natural."

This is the order of Flats we'll use later to make scales. Remember Major scales follow a step pattern (whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half). To find the number of sharps or flats in a scale, use the Order of Sharps:

(#) F C G D A E B

or Order of Flats:

(b) B E A D G C F



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11. Now You Have the Keys!

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A Major Scale has a certain number of sharps or flats that make up the Key. You may have seen the 'Key Signature' at the very beginning of a piece of music, with the sharps or flats together on the staff.

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kirk whalum

Musicians play together with different instruments, so everyone must play in the same Key, as the instruments vary widely in sound range. Each musician must have a reference point for their own instruments' range.

Further, remembering the Major Scales that added sharps or flats, the sharp# Major Scales add sharps in this order:

(#) F C G D A E B

The flatb Major Scales add flats in this order:

(b) B E A D G C F

Both flats and sharps must remain in this order, to help us quickly name a song's Key (time to concentrate):

Sharps

In the Major Scale you are playing, add the proper number of Sharps:

D E F# G A B C# D

(F#C#) are the 2 sharps in this D Major scale. In the Order of the Sharps, (FCGDAEB), find these two sharps. Take the last sharp, (C#), and raise it a Half Step, up to 'D'. The Name of the Key becomes 'D Major'.

We raised the last sharp a half step to find the Key's Name. How did we know it was the last sharp? The Order of the Sharps helped us to count.

In the A Major Scale,

A B C# D E F# G# A

you have 3 sharps (F# C# G#). These are the first 3 sharps in the Order of Sharps (FCGDAEB).

Raise the last sharp (G#), a half step, and our Key becomes 'A Major'. Make sure you put the sharps in the proper order before you look for the last sharp.

Furthermore, when playing with other people and different instruments, each person will sharp the same notes (F C and G), since all are in the Key of A Major. This is true while playing a scale, or just playing any melody.

If you don't sharp these notes, you will be playing 1/2 step below where you should be, and you will be out of Key. You will SOUND very bad every time you play an F, C, or G natural.

Again, the D Major Scale added two sharps, (F# C#). These happen to be in the correct order of sharps, so we can take the last sharp, C#, raise it a Half Step, and arriving at D, the name of our Key becomes D Major (or DMaj).

Flats

Add the proper number of Flats in our scale. Order the flats correctly (BEADGCF), then take the 'second to last flat', and that is the name of our Key. This is very different from sharps, and easily confused with the method for finding Sharp's Key:

Bb C D Eb F G A Bb

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lisa loeb

The Bb Major Scale contains 2 flats (Bb Eb). The 'second to last flat' in the order of flats (BEAD-GCF), is Bb. Bb Major becomes the Key's Name. Please remember to stop counting the order at the last flat, (BE...). Take the note before the last one counted, and that's the Name of our Key.

Everyone playing together in Bb Major Key will flat both notes (Bb Eb). If someone plays B or E naturally, without flatting any note, they will be playing 1/2 step above where they should be playing. And they will SOUND horrible every time they hit that natural note.

Quick observation - beginning musicians usually have no idea in what Key they are playing. You'll probably hear many wrong notes in a beginners' band, orchestra, etc. They are failing to flat or sharp some notes in the song's Key.

Likewise, some beginners take literally what is written on the sheet music, and make note errors from what they read. If they understood the song's Key, the written music would be only a reminder to play a note sharp, flat, or natural. Therefore, keep the song's Key in mind while playing. You'll also teach your fingers or voice correct Key positions.

The next page does the reverse, and uses only the key's name to find a scale's sharps and flats. Octaves and Triads also are introduced.

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