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Why do I need Scales?

What are scales?

All western style (not Indian or Chinese) music is made up of scales. Even though you don’t realize it you are listening to music made up from scales. There are number of scale types but the most common ones are used for the vast majority of music. The two most common scales are the Major Scale and the Minor Scale. These account for probably about 85% of all music.

Why do I need scales?

So if you want to play music you need to know scales and how they work. It is a bit like learning what words are so that you can read. There are many guitarists who simply learn things from hearing them and never know what they mean or how they work. This means they will never produce anything that hasn’t already been recorded which is very limiting.

Working out scales.

All western music theory starts with the CHROMATIC SCALE (which is all 12 notes written out). The Chromatic Scale can start on any note but we are going to look at the Chromatic Scale that starts on C:-

C, C# or Db, D, D# or Eb, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab, A, A# or Bb, B, C.

There are no E# or Fb notes and there are no B# or Cb notes. There is no explanation for this it is just something that has happened that way.

The distance between each note is called a SEMI-TONE. This distance is the same regardless of the names of the notes, so the distance from C to C#/ Db is a semi-tone and the distance from E to F is a semi-tone.

SEMI is Latin for Half so 2 SEMI-TONES is called a TONE. So the distance from, say, C to D is a TONE.

To find any Scale you can use a, pre-determined, formula and the first Scale we are going to look at is he Major Scale. Because the Major Scale will start on C it is called the C Major Scale. So firstly we need to learn the formula and then apply it. To find the C Major Scale we need to use a formula made up of TONES and SEMI-TONES. The formula is:-


So to find the C Major Scale you must firstly write the note C. This is very important and if you don't the formula will not work out correctly. Once you have the first note (C) you can then apply the formula.

Having written C then count up a tone to find the next note (use the Chromatic Scale for this) - D.

Then count up another tone from D to find the third note - E.

If you continue to apply the formula you will get the C Major Scale. You will know if you are correct as the last semi-tone will bring you back to C. You should get the notes:-

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

Having found these notes you can find them on any instrument. You will find that as you play them in alphabetical order that they should sound familiar and the reason for this is that the Major Scale is the most common and popular Scale in modern music and the C Major Scale is the most common Major Scale. This makes it a good place to start. Enjoy.

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