We have already learned about eight notes in a row called an OCTAVE.
Another name for a row of notes spanning an octave is a SCALE.
Scales always starts and end on a note of the same name.
We are going to learn three scales for 1st Grade Music Theory:
We are going to learn to write each of these scales on manuscript going up in pitch and going down. You might play scales on your instrument and read them in music already. We are going to learn more about scales before we try to write them out.
We will start with the C major scale is it is the only major scale that is made with no sharps or flats, only the white keys on the piano. The notes in the C major scale are C D E F G A B C and it sounds like this. (Click to hear)
Click here to bring up the online keyboard. Mouse over the keys on the keyboard to play each note in the C major scale.
T e t r a c h o r d o n e: C D E F
T e t r a c h o r d t w o: G A B C
We can break the C major scale into two parts:
Each of these two scale parts is called a TETRACHORD.
If you have ever played the game 'Tetris', you will recall that in the game you have to move falling blocks to fit into the spaces to build a wall. Tetris is so named because blocks have four sides and a tetrachord gets its name from having four notes. Because our scales have 8 notes they must be made from two tetrachords.
An easy way to understand and make all our major scales is to build them from tetrachords. The important thing to remember about tetrachords is that they must have certain spaces between the notes. To make our major scales our tetrachords must have
So we can see that every tetrachord in every major scale will have two tones and one semitone. This pattern of tones and semitones can be abbreviated (shortened) to T, T, ST. When we put two tetrachords together we separate them with another tone so that the pattern of intervals over our 8 notes is T, T, ST +T+ T, T, ST.
Scroll back up to your keyboard and see if you can hear the two semitones in the C major scale?
Now we know how to make the C major scale we can go ahead and make our scale with one sharp. To make the G major scale we must begin with the tetrachord two of the C major scale. The notes in tetrachord two of C major are G, A, B, C.
To complete our G major scale we must add a second tetrachord above these notes. The important thing to remember about a tetrachord is the interval pattern of T, T, ST (Tone, Tone, Semitone). When we add four more notes above G, A, B, C we will end up with G, A, B, C + D, E, F, G.
But there is something wrong with our second tetrachord in G major. Do you know what it is? Try playing our new scale on the keyboard and see if you can tell what is wrong with it.
HINT: The important thing to remember about tetrachords is that they must be made up of a tone, a tone and a semitone.
So far we have made the scale with no sharps or flats (C major) and the scale with one sharp (G major). Now we are ready to make the scale with one flat (F major).
We made the G major scale by taking tetrachord two of C major and placing another tetrachord above it.
To make the scale with one flat (F major) we again begin with tetrachord one of C major: C, D, E, F.
This time, rather than add a new tetrachord above these notes, we add a new tetrachord BELOW them.
The thing to remember about tetrachords is that they must be made up of a tone, a tone and a semitone.
We already know that between C and D is a tone, between D and E is a tone and between E and F is a semitone.
What are the four notes that we need to add to make a new tetrachord below C? Check on the keyboard and count down four notes below C.
We should be able to see that the four notes of our new tetrachord will be F, G, A and B.
But if we play our new scale F, G, A, B + C, D, E, F it sounds like there is something wrong with it. Do you know what it is?
This time, rather than raise a note a semitone we will need to LOWER one note a semitone. Which note should we lower?
Now that we understand how to build our three scales we need to learn to write them on manuscript paper.
If you don't have a book with manuscript paper in it you can download a page here to write on.
Always use a pencil and rubber to write on manuscript.
AMEB Examination requirements:
If you do not have any manuscript paper (with staves on it), download a page here.
Begin writing the C major scale by drawing a treble clef at the beginning of the staff.
Put a bar line at the end of the first staff.
Begin by writing your scales using semibreves.
There is no key signature or accidentals needed for C major so we can go ahead and write our first note, middle C.
Write in the other notes of C major
Your scale should look like the one below but it does not matter if it does
not take up the whole of the first staff line as this one does.
Write the F major scale
Write the F major scale
Once we have mastered the idea of writing the C major, G major and F major scale in the treble clef we can move onto writing them in the bass clef.
Write the F major scale
Now that you have the idea of how to go about writing your scales you just need to practice so that you make the least number of mistakes possible in the exam. To practice download the scale practice sheet for First Grade Theory here. You can download this sheet any number of times depending on how much practice you need. Complete it with a pencil and correct your mistakes with an eraser.
Web site copyright BR Fletcher & R Williams 2005.