Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Scales and Chords - Its not as scary as you think

I wrote this in another thread a few days ago and a few people said it was helpful to them and should be stickied so i thought i'd post it up here for anyone thats struggling with their basic theory. Everything i've learned i've pretty much picked up myself, so i dont know how these methods would be viewed by a professional, but this is how i learned how to write scales and find chords within a scale.
So it all revolves around this chart:

You can find all the major scales using this chart, this is how its done.

1) First we pick our scale, for example lets say we want the A major scale.

2) We find the "A" in the chart, ONLY looking at the CAPITOL letters for now. You can see its the 4th column, 3rd row.

3) Look above and you will see its underneath a number, in our case its 3. This means that there are 3 sharps in the A major scale. Why sharps? Because the "A" is sitting in the "#'s" row. If it was in the "b's" row, it would mean there were 3 flats (i.e the Eb major scale).

4) So now we know that the A maj scale has 3 sharps, now we need to know which notes are sharps. This is where the lower case letters come in. You'll see underneath every CAPS letter is a lower case letter, these show which notes are sharpened or flattened in eac scale. All we have to do is count backwards. So in our example of A maj, the sharpened notes are G, C and F. You see how we got there?

5) And thats it, now we have the A major scale, it should look like this - A B C# D E F# G# A


Dont get sharps and flats confused with major and minor, they are completely different things. There is a C# major scale and a C# minor scale, there is an Eb major scale and an Eb minor scale.

The above steps are to find a major scale. I will show you in a minute how to find a minor scale.

You'll notice there is no "C" in the chart, this is because the C maj scale has no sharps or flats. Its just; C D E F G A B C

Minor Scales

Now you know how to find a major scale, you can easily convert it to a minor scale. All you need to do is flatten the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes in the scale.

So sticking with our "A" example, the A minor scale looks like this:

Remember in the A maj scale the C, F and G were all sharp, we flattened them and now we have the minor scale.

Another example:
E major scale - E F# G# A B C# D# E
E minor scale - E F# G A B C D E


Okay so now you wanna know how to play chords within your scale, this is the easiest part. Every chord, just like scales, follow a pattern. Let me explain what i mean.

C major chord - C+E+G
D major chord - D+F#+A

What do these two chords have in common? They both use the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in their respective scale.

C maj scale - C D E F G A B C
D maj scale - D E F# G A B C# D

Using this rule, you can find the major chord in any key by simply playing the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in the scale.

Every chord has its own "spelling". Using these spellings to find chords in a scale instead or memorizing individual notes means you have much less stuff to remember. 

And as you practice, you should naturally pick up which notes to play.

So here are the spellings for some of main types of chords (there are loads). Remember, these are the notes within the scale you play.

1 3 5

1 3b 5

Major 6th
1 3 5 6

Minor 6th
1 3b 5 6

Major 7th
1 3 5 7

Minor 7th
1 3b 5 7b

Dominant 7th
1 3 5 7b

1 3b 5b

Diminished 7th
1 3b 5b 7bb

Power Chord
1 5 8

Augmented Chord
1 3 5#

Sus 2
1 2 5

Sus 4
1 4 5

When you see a "b" in a chord spelling, that means you flatten that note. For example, the minor chord spelling is "1 3b 5", which means you play the 1st note, the 3rd note (flattened) and the 5th note.

When you see "bb", thats simply means you flatten the note twice (see the diminished 7th chord)

People usually use Roman Numerals instead of numbers, i am pretty much self taught, so i dont do it that way. Dont let the Roman numerals fool you.

To finish off...
I hope i explained everything well, i'm pretty much self taught so i just know my own way, i dont know how much sense it makes to other people cuz no one ever really explained it to me lol. If you are unsure about anythin just gimmie a shout i'll try and help. 

Also cuz i am self taught, not everything i say might be considered 100% correct, i'm still learning myself. If anyone knows better than me and spots a mistake let me know so i can change it. I've just explained it as I understand it, someone who has been professionaly trained might know somethin i dont.

Hope that helps someone, learning theory was a huge pain in the ass for me, so i hope i've made it easier for some people to understand. These are just the very basics, so once you get your head round major and minor scales and chords, it will be a lot easier to get into more advanced stuff. Remember i've only showed you two types of scales, there are hundreds of different scales each with its own sound and character. The chord spellings are still the same, if you find a list of scales (google), you can use these chord spellings to find chords in all those exotic scales.

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