Lesson 4 – Major and Minor scales.

Beginner’s guide to keyboards!

In this lesson, we are going to learn about the Major and Minor scales.

What are they? Simply put, they are sets of specific notes within an octave.

Those notes have specified intervals between each of them.

It’s worth to mention that Major scales sound more ‘happy’ and ‘complete’ than Minor scales.

Minor scales seem more ‘sad, nostalgic and incomplete’.

Let’s start with the Major scales.

Remember the C Major scale from the previous guide? It’s C D E F G A B C. Now, let’s take a look at the structure of this scale. If we were to create a formula of intervals in the scale, it would be

2-2-1-2-2-2-1, which means that between C and D there are 2 semitones, between D and E there are also 2 semitones but between E and F there is only one. Semitone is the smallest musical interval, which leads from one note to another without any notes in-between.

Now we can take our Major scale formula and try to play for example the D Major scale.

We start with the D of course and stick to the formula. First interval is 2 semitones away so we dodge the D# and hit E. Now again 2 semitones so we dodge F and land on F#. Can you see the correlation? Try completing the D Major scale by yourself now. If you find it too difficult, the solution is below.

D E F# G A B C# D

As you can see, there are 2 black keys in the D Major scale – F# and C#.

Let’s try to figure out a tougher scale now.

C# Major. We apply the same formula starting with C#. The result is C# D# F F# G# A# C C#.

That’s 5 black keys in one scale! Don’t worry though. If you practice long enough, you will be able to automatically play the right keys without overanalyzing the theory!

Okay, we’ve covered Major scales, let’s move on to Minor scales.

These also have their own ‘formula’.

Take C Minor for example. The notes in this scale are: C D D# F G G# A# C

You’ve probably noticed how different C Minor sounds sounds from C Major scale.

Let’s examine these notes and figure the formula.

It’s 2-1-2-2-1-2-2. Again, you can apply this formula to other notes to find out how other scales sound and which notes they contain.

Major and Minor chords.

Let’s learn about chords now. A chord is a harmonic set of notes (usually 3) played simultaneously.

Chords also have their own formula. For example C Major. Play the notes C, E and G all at once. This is the C Major chord. The interval between C and E is called Major Third, which means you have to skip 3 keys between those notes. The interval between E and G is a Minor Third and you have to skip 2 keys between E and G. The terminology of intervals is a bit confusing at first. We recommend you to google the list of intervals. You should be able to see how many semitones they consist of. So we’ve got our ‘formula’: 3-2.
So let’s say I want to play an F Major chord. I start with the F note, skip 3 keys, which gives me A, and then skip 2 keys, which gives me B. There we go, the FABulous F Major chord! Simple, isn’t it?

The formula for minor chords is the opposite: 2-3.
For example: C Minor.

Start with C, skip 2 keys, you get D#, skip 3 keys, you get G.

And there we go! That’s C Minor chord – CD#G.