What does this chart mean? (+ a bunch of basic music questions that will take 2 mins to answer)

I took music lessons for 2 or 3 years about 10 years ago and I can't remember what the numbers above all of the notes mean in this chart.


The chart I'm talking about is in that link^^^

Also, what does it mean when they say the Phrygian Dominant Scale is 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7

Thank you!
Last edited by ZachDro at Aug 2, 2016,
Also, how do you derive the notes in a scale, or can you? Like how do you know that Gmaj is GABCDEF#G without someone just telling you?
Last edited by ZachDro at Aug 2, 2016,
The numbers are the intervals of the major scale.

The intervals are determined by the formula of the major scale.

The formula for the major scale is; T T S T T T S

Apply that formula starting from G, and tell me what notes you get.

The formula for the Phrygian Dominant scale is S 3S S T S T T
Last edited by mdc at Aug 2, 2016,
It's all about intervals.

In 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7

1 is the root - the home note of the scale. If you want to build C Phrygian dominant, then C is your root.

When talking about scale degrees, 2, 3, 6 and 7 are assumed to be major. If they have a flat sign in front of them, they become minor intervals. 1, 4 and 5 are assumed to be perfect. If they have a flat sign in front of them, they become diminished. Augmented intervals have a sharp sign in front of them.

So, 1, b2, 3, 4, 5, b6, b7 means that the Phrygian dominant scale has a root, minor 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, minor 6th and minor 7th (the intervals are counted upwards from the root). By using this formula, you can build the Phrygian dominant scale starting from any note.

Let's build C Phrygian dominant. It is good to remember that in major scale all the intervals are either major or perfect (the formula of the major scale is simply 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) so we can use C major as our starting point and just flatten the notes that need to be flattened.

C D E F G A B is the C major scale. Now we just need to flatten the 2nd, 6th and 7th notes and we get C Db E F G Ab Bb. You could also just think about intervals when building the scale. A minor 2nd from C is Db. A major 3rd from C is E. A perfect 4th from C is F. A perfect 5th from C is G. A minor 6th from C is Ab. A minor 7th from C is Bb.

You also asked how we can know that G major is G A B C D E F#. Again, it's all about intervals. Use the major scale formula and start from G. When I want to build the major scale, I always think where the half steps are. The half steps in major scale are between the 3rd and 4th, and 7th and 8th (same as root) scale degrees. Between all the other notes there is a whole step. If we just use naturals (G A B C D E F), you notice that between the 6th and 7th (E and F) there is a half step, even though it should be a whole step, and there's also a whole step between the 7th and the root (F and G), even though it should be a half step. Otherwise the notes are correct so we just need to sharpen the F. But I think it's good to memorize the sharps and flats of all the different keys, because when you are playing you really have no time to think.

This explanation makes more sense if you try it on guitar or piano.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 2, 2016,
Those are just the major scales in order of sharps/flats (circle of 5ths). Read each line horizontally.

Also ignore the scribblings on the side of the chart. There is no such thing as an A# major scale.
Last edited by cdgraves at Aug 3, 2016,
Quote by cdgraves
Those are just the major scales in order of sharps/flats (circle of 5ths). Read each line horizontally.

Also ignore the scribblings on the side of the chart. There is no such thing as an A# major scale.
Theoretically speaking, there is always room for different scales.

However, if you don't want to deal with double sharps (and I don't think you do), I don't think A# major is a thing you want to look at. Bb is much more popular.

A# is enharmonic to Bb - they sound the same, at least in modern 12-TET systems - however, their functions are very different. The first time the note A# appears in any scale is in B major.
Quote by ZachDro
Also, how do you derive the notes in a scale, or can you? Like how do you know that Gmaj is GABCDEF#G without someone just telling you?
You could just learn the circle of 5ths - which is the order in which the scales appear in that chart, at least in two sections.

I.e., you start from C major - no sharps or flats. The natural notes are already in the major scale formula: C D E F G A B C = W W H W W W H, with the half-steps between the 3rd and 4th and 7th and 8th steps.
Then you move in 5ths from there - which means starting on the 5th note of the previous scale. So, you go to G next, then D and so on. And you need to make the new scale fit the WWHWWWH formula.
So starting C major on G means G A B C D E F G. The F is too low, so has to be raised.
Then when you start G major on D (D E F# G A B C D), the C needs to be raised.
And so on - one sharp gets added each time, by raising the 7th degree of the scale.

That chart stops at F# major, which is 6 sharps, but it could go on to C# major which has 7 sharps (including B#) - and that's where we stop with the sharps, because we don't use double-sharps in key sigs. And we use "B#" and "E#", btw, (not C or F) because we need one of each note letter, and can't double up note letters.

Once we have sharped everything, we go back to C major, and this time we go 5ths in the opposite direction (or up in 4ths if you like). This takes us to F.
For this scale (F G A B C D E F) to fit the formula, we need to flatten the 4th note, so B becomes Bb (not A#, remember, because we need only one of each note). The next scale in the series will then be Bb, and we'll need to add Eb. So in this direction, we're adding a flat each time, and always to the 4th note of the scale.

Again, the chart stops at Gb, but could go on to Cb, where all 7 notes have been flatted (including Fb and Cb).

So, in total we have 15 different major scales (C major, 7 sharp ones and 7 flat ones). But 3 of them are enharmonic pairs, which means they sound the same as other scales, they're just written differently. So - soundwise - there are still only 12 keys. 3 of them just have alternative names (and key sigs):

F# major sounds like Gb major
C# major sounds like Db major
Cb major sounds like B major

With the latter two, normally we'd choose the simpler version (5 flats instead of 7 sharps, or 5 sharps instead of 7 flats), but F# and Gb are equal with 6 of each. But there could be occasions where C# or Cb would make it easier to read (changing from C# minor to C# major is easier to comprehend than C# minor to Db major). Thankfully, however, you rarely find music written in any of these keys, so you rarely have to think about it!

As you might guess, the chart forms a circle, because we move outward in opposite directions from C (top of the circle), and after 6 steps we arrive at two scales which sound the same (F# and Gb) - so they overlap at the bottom of the circle. One more step in each direction, and the keys continue overlapping (C# = Db, Cb = B). And we stop there because we don't want (or need) double sharps or double flats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 6, 2016,
Quote by NeoMvsEu

Piano music: C# minor to Db major for readability.
I can see that Db major is more readable in its own right. I was only thinking of the transition: adding 3 sharps (and keeping staff positions) seeming to make for a better flow than adding 4 naturals and 5 flats and the same notes switching lines/spaces.
Is there a reason why piano would be different from another instrument?
For me personally (as a guitarist) I think I'd be OK either way. C# minor to C# major would be easier to think about, but reading C# major for any length of time might get wearing (dammit, make it Db...).
Well there's a greater chance of chromaticism by using 10 fingers

Otherwise, I don't think it's instrument-dependent; I just have less experience with sheet music for other instruments.
As long as one can read the key signature quickly, I think it'd be pretty clear what's going on. Of course, you really only sight read something once, so if you know the piece, you know the piece, and the score doesn't have any surprises.