Scales: Major and Minor Scales

What are major and minor scales?

Scales: Major and Minor Scales
5

Introduction

I wanna write about musical scales and its uses/significance. But first off, let's define terms.

What is a musical scale? Well, a scale is a selection of notes within an octave, and by "within an octave," I mean for example C to B, or D to C, or A to G. Thus you can say the scale degrees from I to VII.

The degree number and its respective degree name are as follows:

I = Tonic
II = Supertonic
III = Mediant
IV = Subdominant
V = Dominant
VI = Submediant
VII = Leading Tone (if VII to VIII are a half step away from each other)
= Subtonic (if VII to VIII are a whole step away from each other)
VIII = Tonic

And there are a lot of scales used all around the world: the major scale, the minor scale, the harmonic minor scale, the pentatonic scale, the Egyptian scale, and many more. But here I will be talking about the 2 most common ones - the major scale and the minor scale.

Major Scale

You can tell the notes of the major scale by where the sharps and flats will fall on a staff (key signatures are another topic).

Why the sharps and flats in the key signature? Because of the spaces in between the notes in the scale. All of them are a whole note away from each other - except III to IV and VII to VIII (VIII is the same note as I, only an octave higher). And just a side note, this is where the number system is based upon. Read my blog all about it.

To memorise easily memorise this: W W H W W W H. I to II is whole step. II to III is whole step. III to IV is half step. etc.

So for a C major scale, you have:

I - C
II - D
III - E
IV - F
V - G
VI - A
VII - B

C major scale is the only major scale with all natural notes.

Let's take D major scale for another example.

I - D
II - E
III - F#/Gb
IV - G
V - A
VI - B
VII - C#/Db

And the canon played in the key of C really makes use of this:

VIII V VI III IV I II V

A major scale can serve as a better substitute of the major pentatonic scale.

Minor Scale

As for the minor scale there are 3 types. The natural minor scale, the harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale.

Natural Minor Scale

The way to determine the notes I to VII on a minor scale are, all of them are a whole step away from each other except II to III and V to VI. So...

W h W W h W W

The relative minor scale of C major scale is the A minor scale:

I - A
II - B
III - C
IV - D
V - E
VI - F
VII- G

Just like C major scale, all the notes of the A natural minor scale are natural notes, no notes with accidentals.

And you know how to make the rest.

Harmonic Minor Scale

To convert a natural minor scale to a harmonic minor scale, raise the 7th note by a half step.

So for A harmonic minor scale, we have:

I - A
II - B
III - C
IV - D
V - E
VI - F
VII- G#/Ab

Melodic Minor Scale

To convert a natural minor scale to a melodic minor scale, raise both the 6th and the 7th notes by a half step. So for an A melodic minor scale we have:

I - A
II - B
III - C
IV - D
V - E
VI - F#/Gb
VII- G#/Ab

Usually the melodic minor scale is used for ascending while the natural minor scale, for descending (as preferred by most composers). Natural minor scales can be a substitute for minor pentatonic scales.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    alonso0808sol
    does anybody know about a web page that you can compare or find similar musical scales...? Or a web page that I can compare for example the minor scale in E key and the same in A key to see the difference
    Jimjambanx
    Interval wise they'd be identical, an e minor scale and a minor scale are the same scale, just they'd be starting on different notes.Both go WHWWHWW, they'd sound the same.