Major Vs Minor

A lesson for people who know nothing or very little about the concept of major and minor keys and scales. Teaches the major and minor keys, as well as how to compose major and minor scales in any key.

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An introduction for beginner musicians Introduction: One day I was looking the selections of lessons on Ultimate Guitar, I realized something that there were no lessons about major and minor keys for people who know NOTHING about music! I will repeat that statement: THIS LESSON IS FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MUSIC. If you have been playing guitar, or any other instrument, and already have knowledge about major and minor keys, I'll be honest in saying this lesson probably won't teach you anything new. It is strictly a pure beginner's lesson. Anyway, this lesson will focus on major and minor keys and scales. Enjoy! What is the Difference? What is the difference between major and minor keys? is probably the first question one will ask. Well, simply put, major keys sound happy, while minor keys sound sad. The sound of major chords and scales can be described as bright, cheery, and happy, while the sound of major chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing. So, in that sense, if you wanted to write a happy sounding song, you would probably write it in the major key, while if you wanted to write a sad sounding song, you would probably write it in the minor key. The Major and Minor Keys: For anyone who doesn't know what a key signature is, it is the sharps or flats drawn between the clef and the time signature. It says hey, if a note is on the same line of space as me, it's sharp/flat (depending on whether it is a sharp of flat sign talking), unless it has a natural sign in front of it! Simply put, it says how many sharps or flats are in the scale of that specific key. Now, the major keys are: Cb-seven flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb) Gb-six flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb) Db-five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb) Ab-four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db) Eb-three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab) Bb-two flats (Bb, Eb) F-one flat (Bb) C-no sharps or flats G-one sharp (F#) D-two sharps (F#, C#) A-three sharps (F#, C#, G#) E-four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#) B-five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#) F#-six sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#) C#-seven sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#) The minor keys are (m means minor): Abm-seven flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb) Ebm-six flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb) Bbm-five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb) Fm-four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db) Cm-three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab) Gm-two flats (Bb, Eb) Dm-one flat (Bb) Am-no sharps or flats Em-one sharp (F#) Bm-two sharps (F#, C#) F#m-three sharps (F#, C#, G#) C#m-four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#) G#m-five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#) D#m-six sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#) A#m-seven sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#) There are a couple things you should notice. First of all, when comparing major and minor keys, you should notice that there are different keys that have not only the same amount of accidentals, but also the same notes are altered. For example, both the G major and E minor scales have F# in them. A second thing you should notice is that accidentals are just added one, with the previous ones staying constant. G major has F#, D major just adds a C# to that, and A major just adds a G# to that. Another thing you should notice is that a major key is 2 tones higher than it's like minor key. C is 2 tones higher than A, G is 2 tones higher than E, etc. The Scales: Now, with knowledge of the key signatures, you can start to compose major and minor scales. First of all let's start with major scales: Major scales all follow the same tonal structure: tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. To put this into guitar terms: 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret. Does it sound complicated? Well guess what! Major scales are super easy to compose! You can compose a major scale in three, you read correctly, THREE steps! Step 1: The root note The first step is to start with your root note. If you want to compose D major scale, for example, you would start with a D. Step 2: The Octave From there, you would put a note on EVERY line and space UNTIL YOU REACH D AGAIN. This should give you a total of 8 notes. Step 3: The Accidentals Now, since we know from the lesson on time signatures that the key of D major has 2 sharps, F# and C#, we will make any F's and C's in this scale sharp. And that's a major scale! Try playing it, and note the feeling the sound has. If you wanted to get rid of the sharps, you could just add the time signature at the beginning of the piece. This is actually mandatory to properly write music, as it tells the musician what key the song is in. It also saves you writing a bunch of sharps! Now, minor scales follow a similar pattern: tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, or 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets. Now, to save time and space, I won't beat around the bush, and just tell you minor scales follow the three steps as major scales, except in a minor key. Notice how it, like the D major scale, has F and C sharp. Play the B minor scale, and compare it to D major. Do you notice how B minor sounds sad, while D major sound happy? Your probably asking how they sound so different when they both have the same notes, A, B, C#, D, E, F# and G. Well, the only answer to that is the placement of the semitone. In the minor scale, the semitone comes a note sooner than in the major scale. Finally, make note of how the B minor is 2 tones lower than the D major, like we noted in the lesson on key signatures. Closing: Well, if you made it to here, you endured a long lesson (3 pages on MS Word!) But, you came out strong, and are now more knowledgeable about the entire concept of music. In fact, you are probably a lot more knowledgeable than you think, because what you just learned is one of the most important things you need to know for understanding and writing music. In fact, it is arguably THE most important thing! Well, I better stop myself now, before I go onto a fourth page. I hope you learned a lot from this lesson; you can rate it, and leave a comment with your opinion or questions. I'll try to respond to them as frequently as possible, and if it's urgent, feel free to send it directly to my profile. Thanks for your time! Upcoming Lesson: Beginners Guide to Barre Chords.

30 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Jhuttun
    I didn't mean it is scale, i meant you can play like that in G major and in E minor scale. if you play it from lowest F# string guitar has, it is same in both scales, like when playing lick anywhere on fretboard. Why we need different minor scale? Or do i always have to start playing from G if lick is in G major?
    CPDmusic
    Jhuttun wrote: I didn't mean it is scale, i meant you can play like that in G major and in E minor scale. if you play it from lowest F# string guitar has, it is same in both scales, like when playing lick anywhere on fretboard. Why we need different minor scale? Or do i always have to start playing from G if lick is in G major?
    Well, what happens is if you were to play a scale starting on a different note, it would then become a mode. In that case, that is an F# Locrian mode, in which case it is neither major nor minor, but diminished. But, to answer your question, usually you would probably start on G if it was G major, or E if it was E minor. If not, it then becomes a mode, in which case it is either major, minor, or diminished, depending on which mode it is. I am actually going to write a lesson on modes for my lesson writing marathon, so you may want to check that out once it's released.
    CPDmusic
    Jhuttun wrote: If i play F#,G,A,B,C,D,E,F# pattern, is that in key of G major or E minor?
    Well, F# G A B C D E F# is not a scale I know of, so I don't really know how to answer your question. Is it supposed to be a scale, and if not, what do mean?
    Jhuttun
    If i play F#,G,A,B,C,D,E,F# pattern, is that in key of G major or E minor? Or are minor scales same as Majors but only played lower? I searched scales from all-guitar-chords.com and there was patterns that were played and also sounded exactly same in both scales. Also what you mean "if you wanted get rid of sharps"? time signature can't change amount of sharps in scale. Really useful lesson and taught me lot about scales, if i just could understand rest of it. PS: Thank You and sorry about my english, it's not my native language. Maybe thats why i just can't understand this, lots of difficult sentences and words.
    Abhinav90
    hey bro was just wondering how "E#" and "B#" came into existence similar with the flats bF and bC, i always learnt those don't exist. m just a beginner so pls help.
    CPDmusic
    Abhinav90 wrote: hey bro was just wondering how "E#" and "B#" came into existence similar with the flats bF and bC, i always learnt those don't exist. m just a beginner so pls help.
    What do you mean how they "came into existence"? They came into existence the same way any other note did. You probably learned they don't exist, because there existence is more..."theoretical" I guess. E# is enharmonic to F the same way G# is enharmonic to Ab, they both sound the same. As far as why the existence of E# B# etc. are only theoretical I am not quite sure of. Maybe it didn't work with music theory and the range of instruments, I don't know, but the main thing is that E#, B#, Fb, and Cb are mainly "theoretical" in a way.
    Jhuttun
    Thank you, that helped a LOT. Modes are part of music theory i've forgot to study. I didn't knew they are that big thing.
    leenux5030
    Hello, I am exactly the kind of person you mentioned( "THIS LESSON IS FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MUSIC"). I couldn't understand the major and minor keys part, can you explain the following in more details , Thank you "For anyone who doesnt know what a key signature is, it is the sharps or flats drawn between the clef and the time signature. It says hey, if a note is on the same line of space as me, its sharp/flat (depending on whether it is a sharp of flat sign talking), unless it has a natural sign in front of it! Simply put, it says how many sharps or flats are in the scale of that specific key. Now, the major keys are"
    bertdebeuckel
    Hallo, i probbley hava a stuppid question and sorry for my bad english, when i'm looking at the guitar tuner you also have the noot "B" buth no B mineur oR majeur. also the noot E has this! why is that?? and What dose that meen. neighther i know if Flat or sharp or mineur and major are thesame thing OMFG please explane! thank you
    createcity
    Great Lesson. I just wanted to kindly inform you that there is a misprint in lesson titled, "Major Vs. Monor. In the second paragraph titled, "What's is the Difference?", you original said, "...while the sound of major chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing. I believe you meant to say, "while the sound of MINOR chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing. Hope this helps. Great lesson and appreciate the time spent to help others.
    CPDmusic
    leenux5030 wrote: Hello, I am exactly the kind of person you mentioned( "THIS LESSON IS FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MUSIC"). I couldn't understand the major and minor keys part, can you explain the following in more details
    Well, I'm not exactly sure what part you don't understand. Basically, if you look at a piece of music (not TAB)there will be a series of sharps or flats at the beginning of each line (if not, it's in the key of C major or A minor.) These accidentals tell you what key the song is in, because that is the number of accidentals in that particular scale. For example, if we were playing in the key of A, the A major scale goes A B C# D E F# G# A, and has three sharps. Therefore, the key signature in this piece would have three sharps, on the F G and C lines/spaces. Hopefully that helps.
    pjuckazz
    Thx man for the lesson, keep it up! I just looked at the tabs for the song Aerials and noticed right away that it was in C minor!
    CPDmusic
    MetalxKing wrote: "From there, you would put a note on EVERY line and space UNTIL YOU REACH D AGAIN. This should give you a total of 8 notes." I'm obviously brain dead because I'm not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean put a note on every fret and string?
    No, sorry for being unclear on that. That refers to the actual music staff. What you would do is write in every natural from D to D on the staff (D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D)and then put in the accidentals. Sorry about that.
    ToolCreedence
    Is this similar to a "relative key?" The point you make about the number of flats in each scale? Because Am is the relative key of C, right?
    CPDmusic
    ToolCreedence wrote: Is this similar to a "relative key?" The point you make about the number of flats in each scale? Because Am is the relative key of C, right?
    Yes, that is correct. In most cases, when you here a song that goes from major to minor smoothly, it uses relative keys, as they have the same number of flats or sharps.
    CPDmusic
    Morqus Samuel wrote: Thank u very much for this useful lesson, it taught me what i've been trying to learn for months !!
    Glad to here it! I have a new lesson on barre chords that I sent today, to should be published tomorrow if you wanna check it out.
    CPDmusic
    HellFury wrote: The written notes are actually quite handy when writing a song and you don't know what key it's in! I didn't find such an easy write down of this, so thank you, because i couldn't have done it myself
    Thanks man, I'm here to help.
    Morqus Samuel
    Thank u very much for this useful lesson, it taught me what i've been trying to learn for months !!
    qaq0
    "The sound of major chords and scales can be described as bright, cheery, and happy, while the sound of major chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing." TYPO
    CPDmusic
    thegeetar12 wrote: so if i played a D major scale and took the same pattern but moved it up a tone it would still be a major scale but in the key of E? and if i moved it down a semi-tone it would be in the key of Db?
    Yes, but if you wanted to make it easier to play, you would probably transpose some notes. That's why all the scales in first position look different at first, but really there all the same notes just raised or lowered in pitch.
    MetalxKing
    "From there, you would put a note on EVERY line and space UNTIL YOU REACH D AGAIN. This should give you a total of 8 notes." I'm obviously brain dead because I'm not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean put a note on every fret and string?
    thegeetar12
    so if i played a D major scale and took the same pattern but moved it up a tone it would still be a major scale but in the key of E? and if i moved it down a semi-tone it would be in the key of Db?
    CPDmusic
    qaq0 wrote: "The sound of major chords and scales can be described as bright, cheery, and happy, while the sound of major chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing." TYPO
    Oh sorry, the 2nd major is supposed to be minor lol
    HellFury
    The written notes are actually quite handy when writing a song and you don't know what key it's in! I didn't find such an easy write down of this, so thank you, because i couldn't have done it myself