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Major Scales

To become a proficient pianist, you need to master the basics of piano scales. Do you know that all chords are derived from scales? Knowing how to play piano scales effectively will help you improvise as well as create song melodies.

There are two types of piano scales:Major Scale and Minor Scale.

There are 12 major scales; and each one has its relative minor scale (also called the natural minor scale).  Beside the 12 natural minor scales, there are also 12 harmonic minor scales and 12 melodic minor scales. Sounds too much? Don't be overwhelmed! Let's take a look at each type of scales.

C Major Scale
We can form a major scale using a simple formula:

whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half

*A half step is the closest key to any key. C to B is a half step down. C to C# is a half step up.
*A whole step is two half steps. C to D is a whole step up. D is also two half steps up from C.

Let's say we want to form the C major scale, we can plug in this formula

Starting with
C >
D
(D is a whole step from C)
E (E is a whole step from D)
F (F is an half step from E)
G (G is a whole step from F)
A (A is a whole step from G)
B (B is a whole step from A)
C (C is an half step from B)

Always ask yourself what is a whole step from the note you want to form a piano scale. Asking questions based on the formula (whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half).

Remember there are 8 notes in a scale. You may also remember the scale notes by using Roman numerals.



C Major Scale:
 
C D E F G A B C
I II III IV V VI VII VIII


Fingering for scales

hands position
 
c scales
                                            C

D

E

F

G

A

B

C

(Right Hand Fingering)          1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)            5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1

 
Right Hand Fingering Suggestion:
After playing the E (3rd finger), cross thumb (1st finger) under to play F note.
 
thumb cross under
 
 
Left Hand Fingering Suggestion:
Start with pinky (5th finger) on C note. After playing the G note with thumb (1st finger), 3rd finger (long finger) crossed over to reach and play A note.

finger cross over



Repeat playing the scale until you can play it relatively fast and smoothly!

Remember after you're done playing with the thumb (1st finger), you need to let the third or fourth finger cross over to reach the next note. If you're done playing with the third or fourth finger, you need to let the thumb go under to reach the next note.

Tip: Thumb under, finger over!

Remember there are 12 major scales. Let's talk about each one of them briefly!

Db Major Scale

Db major scale consists of:
 
Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db
I II III IV V VI VII VIII
 
 
Rule: The scale needs to be made up of every letter. (The letter can be a sharp or a flat.) For example: You may not say D# is part of Db major since Eb is also called D#. By saying so, you end up with two types of D (Db and D#), and you're missing the E note.

Fingering:
 
                                        Db

Eb

F

Gb

Ab

Bb

C

Db

(Right Hand Fingering)      2

3

1

2

3

4

1

2

(Left Hand Fingering)         3

2

1

4

3

2

1

2

 
 

Question: Why does Db major scale start with a second finger instead of a thumb?
Answer: Generally, we do not use thumb to play black notes. The structure of the thumb makes it hard and slow to reach for a black note. Whenever possible, use the 2nd, 3rd or 4th fingers to play black notes.

D Major Scale

Applying the same formula "whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half" gives you the following:


                                           D

E

F#

G

A

B

C#

D

(Right Hand Fingering)        1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)          5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1

 
 
Eb Major Scale

 
                                            Eb

F

G

Ab

Bb

C

D

Eb

(Right Hand Fingerig)           2

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

(Left Hand Fingering)           3

2

1

4

3

2

1

2



E Major Scale


                                           E

F#

G#

A

B

C#

D#

E

(Right Hand Fingering)        1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)          5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1


F Major Scale

                                               F

G

A

Bb

C

D

E

F

(Right Hand Fingering)            1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

(Left Hand Fingering)              5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1

 
 
 
 
Gb Major Scale

                                       Gb

Ab

Bb

Cb

Db

Eb

F

Gb

(Right Hand Fingering)     2

3

4

1

2

3

1

2

(Left Hand Fingering)       4

3

2

1

3

2

1

2

 
 
 
 
G Major Scale

                                           G

A

B

C

D

E

F#

G

(Right Hand Fingering)        1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)          5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1


Ab Major Scale


                                         Ab

Bb

C

Db

Eb

F

G

Ab

(Right Hand Fingering)       2

3

1

2

3

1

2

3

(Left Hand Fingering)         3

2

1

4

3

2

1

2

 
 
 
 
A Major Scale

                                                 A

B

C#

D

E

F#

G#

A

(Right Hand Fingering)              1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)               5

4

3

2

1

3

2

1

 

Bb Major Scale

                                               Bb

C

D

Eb

F

G

A

Bb

(Right Hand Fingering)             2

1

2

3

1

2

3

4

(Left Hand Fingering)               3

2

1

4

3

2

1

2

 

B Major Scale

                                      B

C#

D#

E

F#

G#

A#

B

(Right Hand Fingering)   1

2

3

1

2

3

4

5

(Left Hand Fingering)    4

3

2

1

4

3

2

1

 

Make sure to practice one major scale at a time. Since there are 12 major scales, you can devote one month out of the year to practice just one major scale. The following needs to be done when working on a major scale:

1. Understand what notes belong to the particular scale.
2. What are the key signatures (sharps or flats) of the scale?
3. What is the recommended fingering of the scale?
4. What are the I, IV and V notes of the particular scale?
5. Once familiar with the I, IV, V notes of the scale, figure out the chords of those notes.

For example: The I, IV, V notes of the D major scale are D, G and A. The respective chords are D chord (DF#A), G chord (GBD), and A chord (AC#E).

 
Yoke Wong highly recommends the Learn to Play Piano & Improvisation in 7 Days piano course.
 
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