Intro to Scales #4: The Major Scale

Imagine you are giving a dramatic reading in front of a crowd.  You have not seen the material beforehand, and are reading from a manuscript.  Not so much of a challenge.

Now, imagine it late August, and swarms of millions of amorous gnats have descended in front of you; their frantic lovemaking obscuring your view of what you are trying to read.

Quite a predicament to find yourself in.

And a similar one can befall a musician trying to read a piece littered with accidentals.

In our C Major scale, there are no accidentals needed to ensure we have our formula of tones and semitones in the correct order.  

This is why we use it for examples and beginner theory.  It's easy on the eyes.

But what happens if we get the dreaded C# Major scale?  Or Cb Major?  An accidental on every note! Aw hell no!

To take some of the pressure off the person writing or the person reading, accidentals can be set and organized using KEY SIGNATURES.

This is the same C# Major scale as above, but we are using a key signature to organize the accidentals.  

It may look like we threw those sharps up there and let them hang where they may like so many fridge magnets, but that is not the case.  

A given key will need a certain number of accidentals to ensure the pattern for building a major scale is there.  Those accidentals will appear in a certain order.

Let's look at the chart:

The order of sharps is

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

The order of flats is

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

How do we use this monstrosity of an information deluge?  Simple.

The keys listed are the generally accepted keys.  So, upon picking your tonic from the list, add the appropriate key signature, and slap it on your notes.  

You can now write and identify scales and what key a given piece of music is in.

It will help to memorize this chart.  And by help, I mean it is required.  

Head over to the EXERCISES here and cover these topics:

Previous article in this chapter:

Intro to Scales #3: Scale Degrees (Part 2)

Next article in this chapter:

Intro to Scales #5: Modes of the Major Scale

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Lazer Monk

Lazer Monk

Hamilton, Ont