Hello, and welcome to the start of CPDmusic’s Lesson Marathon 2010. Today is September the first, making it day one of this marathon. That means, today’s lesson is going to be on how to classify scales. It is going to be a rather short lesson, but if you enjoy my longer lessons, I’ve got a feeling that the upcoming lessons will need more in-depth explanation. If you don’t like long lessons, you should still read them, because all the lessons in this marathon cover important aspects of both music theory and the guitar itself. Either way, this is “Classifying Scales”, so enjoy!
Introduction to Scale Classification:
First of all, what do I mean by saying “Scale Classification”? Well, I’m talking about determining whether a scale is a major scale, for example, when the name of the scale doesn’t directly say “major scale”. Your second question is probably “how do I do that?” Well, it’s actually extremely simple, especially if you’ve read my series “Basic Chord Theory”. What you do is you take the first, third, and fifth notes of the scale, and make a triad out of them. If the triad is, for example, a major triad, than the scale is a major scale. In that sense, much like how I had numerical sequences expressing chords in relation to the major chord, I will express scales in a numerical sequence in relation to the major scale. All you need to know is that the standard major scale is expressed like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
So, now lets try actually classifying some scales!
Review of Chord Theory:
Now, for anyone who hasn’t read my “Basic Chord Theory” lessons, I suggest doing so for this lesson. For this particular lesson, we will only need the chords focussed on in the first lesson. In case you have read “Basic Chord Theory I”, and forgotten, here you go:
Major = 1 3 5
Minor = 1 b3 5
Diminished = 1 b3 b5
Augmented = 1 3 #5
Starting to Classifying Scales:
Okay, to start, how about we simply prove that major scale is major, while the minor scale is minor. Since we already know that they are major and minor respectively, we will know whether we have come to the right conclusion, so we do it correctly for scales where we don’t know the classification. Lets start with the major scale:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Now, if we take the first, third, and fifth notes of this scale, we get this chord:
1 3 5
If you’ve read my “Basic Chord Theory” series, that should look extremely familiar. This is a major triad, therefore making this scale, as we already know, a major scale. Now, lets look at the standard minor scale, in relation to the major scale:
1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
Now, if we were to take the first, third, and fifth note from that scale, we would get this:
1 b3 5
Does it look familiar? That is a minor chord, meaning that this scale is a minor scale. Now, we’ve really learned nothing new in the two above examples; you probably already knew the major scale was major while the minor scale was minor. So, lets take it up a notch, and look at some scales that aren’t directly stated as “major” or “minor”.
Classifying Unknown Scales:
Okay, lets classify some “unknown” scales now. How about we try and classify the “ancient Chinese” scale (hey! You can use this opportunity to learn more exotic scales!). The ancient Chinese scale, in relation to the major scale, is this:
1 2 3 #4 5 6 8
Yes, there is no 7 in that scale, it is not a typo. Now, where do you go from here? Well, you take the first, third, and fifth notes from that scale to get:
1 3 5
Now, do you know what chord that is? It’s a major chord! Therefore, we could classify the ancient Chinese scale as a major scale! Okay, lets try another. How about we classify “Girvani” scale. The Girvani scale, in relation to the major scale, goes like this:
1 b2 b3 #4 5 b6 6 8
Okay, so lets take the first, third, and fifth notes of this scale:
1 b3 5
And what does that make? Well, that’s a minor chord, therefore making the Girvani scale a minor scale! Getting the hang of it? Okay, how about we try another scale, one that you might be a bit more familiar with. How about the Blues Octatonic, which follows this pattern:
1 2 b3 4 b5 5 6 b7 8
Now, if we were to take the first, third, and fifth note of this scale, we would get this:
1 b3 b5
What chord does this make? Well, that’s the diminished chord, making this scale a diminished scale! That’s right, a scale doesn’t necessarily have to be major or minor, it could be diminished too! How about we look at one more scale, like the whole-tone scale, which follows this pattern:
1 2 3 #4 #5 #6 8
Now, if we took the first, third, and fifth notes of this scale, we would get:
1 3 #5
What chord is this? Well, its an augmented chord, making the whole-tone scale an augmented scale! Pretty simple? Well, I think you get the hang of it by now, so…I guess that brings us to the end of today’s lesson.
Well, that’s all for today lesson, and day one of CPDmusic's lesson writing marathon! I’m sorry that this lesson was so brief; it’s one of those things that needs to be learned, but really isn’t that complicated. But don’t worry, I promise a more…satisfying lesson tomorrow, so be sure to check back! Thank you, and goodbye!
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