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Piano Scales – Get Acquainted with Music’s Foundation

Piano scales are essential building blocks in music. You will devote a

good deal of your time and effort to learning and playing them.

On following pages I will show you a useful overview, give you an overview of major scales as well as some important beginner exercises.

Students of all levels endlessly complain about piano scales. And I agree, playing a scale is not the most exciting part of mastering your instrument.

Click Here For Quick Piano Scales Tips And Great Beginner Exercises!

But one thing is certain: the scales will progress right along with your skills, but you will always play some if for nothing other than an excellent warm up or workout for your fingers.

In case you belong to the category of those who have hardly touched a piano or never had a teacher, you should know some theory. Don’t worry, I won’t make it more complicated than necessary!

Let’s first answer the most important of all questions:

What is a scale?

In music it’s a collection of notes that belong together and are used to create melodies and harmonic variation.

These notes are ordered in pitch or pitch class. As such they provide a measure of musical distance (whole tone or whole-step (WS) or semitone or half-step (HS)). A scale step is the distance between two successive notes.

Piano Scales - Whole and Half Steps

There are many different types of piano scales, some with five notes (pentatonic scale – popular in blues music), six notes (whole tone) and twelve notes (chromatic – widely used in modern jazz).

The most commonly used in Western music are diatonic scales.

A diatonic scale has seven notes: five whole-tone and two half-tone (or

semi-tone) steps. The half steps are maximally separated. This means that there are two or three whole-steps between each of the two half-tone steps. The pattern repeats at the octave.

The keyboard of a piano (as well as an organ, electronic keyboard etc.) is diatonic, with black keys grouped in twos and threes.

A major scale is also diatonic. The steps in a major scale are:

  • whole-step
  • whole-step
  • half-step
  • whole-step
  • whole-step
  • whole-step
  • half-step

Use this formula and the notes of the C major scale are:

C Major Scale

All 12 Major Scales

Natural minor scales are also commonly used. Here the steps are:

  • whole-step
  • half-step
  • whole-step
  • whole-step
  • half-step
  • whole-step
  • whole-step

Use this and the notes of a C natural minor are:
C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C.

Other important piano scales every beginner should master are melodic minor and harmonic minor scales. No doubt you will get acquainted one day!

Let’s stop here now. You will get a better understanding when you’re playing and hear the difference. However, not only your ears count. Proper fingering of piano scales is equally important if you want to develop your skills and improve as a pianist. But that’s another story.

Interested in all Seven Modes of Music?

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Click Here For Quick Piano Scales Tips And Great Beginner Exercises!

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Dr. Samir December 22, 2010, 10:22 am

    Hi everybody. I am a beginner piano learner. I want to know whether music pieces are usually composed merely from one or two scales, in other words, is this one benefit of scales (to save concentration).

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