Five Minute Mozart ©

Major Scales And Key Signatures

Run time: 4m 51s  |  Release Date: June 18th, 2012

A scale is group of notes arranged in a definite pattern of whole steps and half steps. All of the notes of a scale relate back to one common tone called a keynote. The keynote of a D Major scale for instance is the note D. This simply means that all of the notes in a D Major scale, together as a whole, are in the key of D Major.

As previously mentioned, a scale is constructed of a particular pattern of whole steps and half steps. The arrangement of steps which constructs a Major scale is as follows:

 

whole step - whole step - half step - whole step - whole step - whole step - half step.

 

By knowing this progression of steps, you will be able to construct a Major scale on any given note. Fortunately, there is an easy way to remember this. If we break this pattern up into what is called tetrachords, instead of seeing it as one long progression of steps, we are able to look at this as two smaller ones separated by a whole step:

 

"whole step - whole step - half step" - WHOLE STEP - "whole step - whole step - half step".

Let's take what we have just learned and try to put together a C Major scale. Remember from the last video lesson that B and C, and E and F, are the only two sets of natural notes which are separated by a half step. Starting on C, and following the correct order of whole steps and half steps, a C Major scale would look like this:

 

C, whole step to D, whole step to E,  half step to F, whole step to G, whole step to A, whole step to B, half step to C.

 

As you can see, the C Major scale is made up entirely of natural notes. It is in fact the only Major scale which does not require the use of a single sharp or flat. Every other Major scale will contain at least one accidental. However, if we stick to the correct pattern of whole steps and half steps they will not be hard to figure out.

Let's take the G Major scale for example. Starting on G, and going up one whole step will take you to the note A. Once on A, the next note which is a whole step away is B. We know that B and C are half steps apart, therefore, if we continue to follow the correct pattern of steps the next note should be C. A whole step from C is D. A whole step from D is E. The next note needs to be a whole step from E. Knowing that E and F are half steps apart, a whole step from E would then be F#. Finally, a half step from F# is G.

 

As you can see, the only accidental used in the construction of a G Major scale is F#. Now, to make this easier, if you were to place a sharp symbol on this line, F, at the beginning of the staff before the time signature, this implies that every note that would normally be F would now be F# whether there is a sharp sign directly next to the note or not. This is called the key signature. F#, being the only accidental in the G Major scale is the key signature of the key of G Major. Whenever you see a sharp placed on this line of a staff with a treble clef, or this line of a staff with a bass clef, you will know that you are playing in the key of G.

The easiest way to remember each major scale is just by remembering each key signature. In order to fully understand the key in which each key signature is representing take the last accidental in the key signature and go up one half step. For instance, one half step above C# is D. F# - C# is therefore the key signature of D Major. Likewise, one half step above A# is B. Therefore, F# - C# - G# - D# - A# is the key signature of B Major.

Aside from key signatures with only sharps, there are a number of Major scales whose key signatures are all flats. With the order of flats, the key in which the key signature is representing is always the second to last accidental. The second to last accidental in Bb - Eb - Ab - is Eb. Therefore, Bb - Eb - Ab is the key signature of Eb.

 

The only exception to this rule is the key of F Major. The key signature of F Major, B, does not fall under these guidelines.