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Piano Staff

Intermediate Studies

Lesson 1 - Section 1

Major Scales

Remember our discussion in the Starter Studies about half steps? At the end of the discussion I asked you to file away the words whole step and natural. Well bring them back out because we are about to talk about them.

In the image for this section there are two measures. In measure 1 is the C scale. This scale is 1 octave (from 1 C to another C). It’s formal name is the C Major scale. A Major scale is a scale that sounds relatively happy when you play it. Play the C Major scale on your keyboard now. Each scale has a formula to use to play it. The formula for a Major scale is:

whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

This formula refers to half steps and whole steps. A whole step is 2 half steps. It is that simple.

Put your right hand thumb (#1 finger) on middle C. To go from C to C sharp is one half step. To go from C sharp to D is another half step. Add them together and you get 1 whole step. Look at measure 1 in the image again. The BLUE areas above the notes show the whole steps. The YELLOW areas above the notes show the half steps.

Play each note up the scale, and as you do, notice how each whole step or half step is determined. Try this until you have a good idea of what we are trying to show for the Major scale formula.

Note: The fingering to play this scale is 1,2,3, curl your thumb under your palm then 1,2,3,4,5.

Now look at measure 2. This is the D major scale. All major scales are constructed in the same way. Put your right hand thumb (#1 finger) on D. To go from D to D sharp is one half step. To go from D sharp to E is another half step. Add them together and you get 1 whole step.

Look at measure 2 again. The BLUE areas above the notes show the whole steps. The YELLOW areas above the notes show the half steps.

Play each note up the scale and as you do, notice how each whole step or half step is determined. Try this until you have a good idea of what we are trying to show for the Major scale formula.

Note: The fingering to play this scale is 1,2,3, curl your thumb under your palm then 1,2,3,4,5.

Piano Staff

Lesson 1 - Section 2

Practicing More Major Scales

Good job. You already have 2 major scales learned. Let’s practice a few more.

Remember the formula for a major scale is:

whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half

Scale Building Exercise

Open to a blank page in your music note book.

Starting on E, build yourself a Major scale (use sharps when showing the black notes on the staff)

Starting on F, build yourself a Major scale (use flats when showing the black notes on the staff)

Starting on G, build yourself a Major scale (use sharps when showing the black notes on the staff)

Starting on A, build yourself a Major scale (use sharps when showing the black notes on the staff)

Starting on B, build yourself a Major scale (use sharps when showing the black notes on the staff)

Now play each of these Major scales you have just written.

The first note that you played in each scale is called the Root note. It is called the Root note because it is the beginning note (the start note or a place to start from . . . the root).

So far you have played the root notes C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Now let’s play some other root notes. Now build more Major scales starting on these notes and using your formula:

C sharp and D flat (use sharps if starting on a sharp root note – use flats if starting on a flat root note)

D sharp and E flat (use sharps if starting on a sharp root note – use flats if starting on a flat root note)

F sharp and G flat (use sharps if starting on a sharp root note – use flats if starting on a flat root note)

G sharp and A flat (use sharps if starting on a sharp root note – use flats if starting on a flat root note)

A sharp and B flat (use sharps if starting on a sharp root note – use flats if starting on a flat root note)

Another Thing to Note

When a song is written using the C scale, it is said to be, "in the Key of C." 

When a song is written using the D scale, it is said to be, in the Key of D.

When a song is written using the F sharp scale, it is said to be, in the Key of F sharp and so on . . .



Root Notes

Lesson 1 - Section 3

Listen to Major Scales

Here are all the scales you played today being played chromatically, which is a very fancy word for up 1 half step at a time. Play the mp3 audio file below to hear the full set of Major scales being played chromatically.



For the black keys shown above on the staff, I chose to show sharps. However, as you have already seen, flats can also be root notes.

And now, you are done!

Now you can tell everyone that you know that you are now working on scales and roots. “Sounds like a scalp disease.” Keep playing out of that simple piano book I asked you to get. Keep exercising your technique. Or, as we say it in Jazz performance circles, “Keep your chops in shape.”


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