Music Theory: Rules To Remember When Transforming A Major Scale Into A Minor Scale

Just going a bit further in my music theory today.  I have to say I rather lazy in delving too deep into music theory, but today I push myself a bit in this area.  Anyhow, I’ve come to understand some rules are best to know by heart in order for me to convert a major scale into a minor scale.  The key is to learn about music intervals.

As long I remember that each note in a scale represents a degree.  The distance of a degree from a root note (which represents the scale) represents the degree of a note.  An example would be E note in C major scale is a third degree.  Simple really, C major scale starts with C and the rest goes DEFGABC, and when you count C as root note, D would be 2nd degree, and E would be 3rd degree.  Furthermore, I also need to remember which degree on the major scale and minor scale would have the note to be of the same note.  By this I meant let’s take C major scale, the 2nd degree on C major scale is D natural, and so the 2nd degree on C minor scale would also be D natural.  Both major and minor scales’ degrees that are having the same notes should be 2nd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, and the root note/octave.

The key to transform a major scale into a minor scale easily is to remember that 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees are a half step down for major notes to minor notes.  For an example, let’s transform C major scale into minor scale, and we shall see by what I meant.  CDEFGABC is the C major scale.  Minor scale of C should be CD (to stay the same), E major should now be E flat, FG (to stay the same as these are perfect 4th and 5th), A major should now be A flat, B major should now be B flat, and C octave should stay the same as C root note.  Thus, C minor scale is now CDE(b)FGA(b)B(b)C.  I inserted (b) to represent a flat note.

By the way, if you’re reading this and don’t know what a half step down for major to minor, then here is a short explanation of this.  Let’s use a piano scale to easily show this to you.  If you have a piano right in front of you, just take a look at a D natural note for C scale, and a half step down of D natural note would be D flat.  This D flat is the black key on the piano, and this black key is one down or to the very left of the D natural note.  D natural note is naturally a white key.  Half step down rule applies to all keys, and so it does not represent a black key on the piano in case you’re wondering.  Thus whenever someone says that a flat of something or half step down of something, just look to the key which is very left of the former key.

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Learning Music Theory Part 7 (Major Scales)

Whatever a color a tonality would be according to your imagination, but musicians say that there are two tonalities to describe the scales in music.  First and the most important tonality is all about the major scales, and the second tonality is all about minor scales.  Up to now I’ve learned how to construct any major scale in Western music’s doctrine, but don’t ask me about the minor scale construction just yet since I’ve yet to learn the essentials of minor scales.

Anyway, to construct major scales according to Western music’s doctrine, we need to know the pattern of whole steps and half steps in a pattern.  Basically, there is only one pattern of whole steps and half steps that we need to remember in order for us to successfully construct any major scale.  The pattern is (whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half).  Furthermore, a C major scale does not have any accidental (i.e., sharp or flat), because C major scale utilizes only natural keys.  If we know about piano’s keyboard layout, natural keys are the white keys.  Except C major scale, all other major scales must utilize at least one accidental or more.  To understand why this is the case, one just needs to apply the major scale’s construction pattern of (whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half) to the piano’s keyboard layout (or any other musical instrument’s layout).

Don’t know what are whole and half steps?  For an example, on the piano, C major scale starts out with C natural key (white key on the piano which represents C note) and would end with C natural key to create one octave.  So, according to major scale pattern [(1)whole, (2)whole, (3)half, (4)whole, (5)whole, (6)whole, (7)half]:

  1. C to D is a whole key step movement, because there is a half key step movement of an accidental black key (#C or C sharp) which sits between C natural and D natural keys.
  2. D to E is another whole key step movement, because there is (#D or D sharp) which sits between D natural and E natural keys.
  3. E to F is a half key step movement, because there is no black key between E natural and F natural keys.
  4. F to G is another whole key step movement, because (#F or F sharp) which sits between F natural and G natural keys.
  5. G to A is another whole key step movement, because (#G or G sharp) which sits between G natural and A natural keys.
  6. A to B is another whole key step movement, because (#A or A sharp) which sits between A natural and B natural keys.
  7. B to C is a half key step movement, because there is no black key between B natural and C natural keys.

The series of key step movements that I posted above is for C major scale of course, but I did not include the repeat of a C key to end the whole series as an octave.  Nonetheless, we all know when a major scale starts out with a key note, to end an octave it should end with the same key note.  For a C major scale, we start out with key note C, and to end the C major scale octave we should end it with key note C.  The key note C that ends the current octave for C major scale should start a new octave which begins with this very key note C for C major scale.

Remember, half step is one key up or down from the original key, and whole step is two keys up or down from the original key.  Since the pattern of major scale is according to a series of whole and half steps, thus any other scale, except for C major scale, must use some accidentals (black keys on the piano) in the construction of a major scale.  By following the C major scale pattern of the series of whole and half steps accordingly, one can see how a finger should place on each key note in a series accordingly.  Thus, it’s important to remember when one has to play at least a black key (accidentals) in a scale, it’s not a C major scale.

With major scale pattern knowledge, it’s easy for anyone to construct any major scale.  According to what I’d read from books and watch videos from YouTube, people suggest that all major scales are very important.  They think all major scales are the DNA of music, because all other scales derive from major scales.  Perhaps minor scales derive from major scales?  I don’t know about minor scales yet, so I guess I’ll talk about minor scales when I finish minor scale lessons.

So, any major scale starts out with a note label should end with the same note label.  For an example, a C major scale starts out with C natural, and so it should end with C natural.  Thus, D major scale starts out with D natural and ends with D natural.  If I’m not wrong, each scale should form a complete octave.

Now, the question is why one needs to know any scale?  I guess and if I’m not wrong, from playing the piano perspective, knowing a scale can help a piano player to move from one octave to another while preserving the tonality color.  For an example, one octave higher can be played by the same notes in the same scale such as C major scale, yet preserving the same tonality color such as how things sound similar.  Also, knowing the scales by heart, this I’ve yet to achieve, may help one to remember all the notes on a specific musical instrument.  I notice that the notes in any scale do play nice and sound nice in whatever series.  By this I meant when you play any note in a specific scale in a series, the notes come together nicely in a series of sounds.  For an example, you can try to play a C major scale, but you can intentionally try to insert a non-member scale note into a C major scale without any careful thought — the series of sounds might come out unpleasant.  Of course, there is always an exception, thus with careful thought and listening, one might be able to form musical piece with notes that are not sync in any scale and yet such musical piece sounds totally awesome and sweet.  I guess, knowing scales can also help one makes music easier, because one can always fall back onto a scale!  Of course, there are other important keys that I’ve probably missed in pointing out why knowing any scale is important for knowing music, but I sure hope the keys I point out would help you a lot already!

By knowing how to construct major scales, it probably will be very useful for you in learning how to read key signatures.  I’m still trying to learn more about key signatures.  When I attain enough knowledge on key signatures, I’ll post another blog post on key signatures.  For now, major scales are all that matter!

Perhaps, you may not totally know what I’m talking about in this blog post in term of major scales for whatever reasons, then the YouTube video which sits right after the break may help you understand better at how to construct any major scale.  This YouTube video isn’t mine, but I’ve found it on YouTube.  I think the video is quite helpful in helping one to understand the construction of the major scales.  Enjoy!!!