Understanding Scales and Key Signatures
Scales and key signatures are just one part of understanding music. If you are learning to play an instrument or if you are working on improving your singing voice, you will need to have a firm understanding of scales and key signatures. These are some of the most basic aspects of music, and you will find that they affect an aspect of every piece that you play. When you first take music, you will be exposed to music theory as well. Once you understand these basic concepts it will help you in playing and composing music in the future.
Scales are the set progressions of notes. One of the first things you will learn when you play an instrument is the scales. The scales allow you to practice playing the notes, and it makes it easier to hear if you miss a note because the progression of the notes will sound wrong to the ear. You may learn a different set of scales for each key signature that you learn. There are a variety of scales available and in western music tradition most scales have eight notes. The common scales that you will hear about are major and minor scales.
- Musical Scales: This page from Berkley explains the basics of the Western musical scale.
- Common Western Scales: This article from Michigan Technical University examines the steps between scales in western musical scales.
- How to Finely Chop the Octave: This is a presentation on the different ways to approach and create scales in music.
- Scales in Music: This is an in depth look at scales through several different types of music.
- Scales and Modes: A page explaining what scales and modes are and how they are used.
Transposition is when you take one scale and rewrite it so it begins at a different pitch. This means that the notes will follow the same progression up the scale, but the notes sound different because the scales started at a different place. If you are adapting a violin piece to a piano piece you may need to transpose the music so that it will work correctly. It takes talent to transpose the music, and there are some computer programs that will do the work for you.
- Transposition: This article looks at how to use transposition for music that is written for a different instrument.
- Instrument Transposition for Musical Analysis: This is a chart that explains how to transpose for each individual instrument.
- Transpose: This page offers a basic definition and then audio files of the same measures of music transposed into different keys.
- Transposing Instrument: This article looks at specific instruments that are generally required to transpose the music that is written on the page for them.
- How to Transpose Software: This is a software program that will allow you to transpose music after you enter it into your computer.
A key signature lets you know what scales are going to be used in the piece. The key signature also tells you the sharps or flats for each note in the scale. You may be required to memorize the scales in different key signatures. This will help you because as you learn to play pieces you will need to learn to play certain notes as sharp or flat. The same will apply to any singing that you do. There are both major and minor key signatures.
- Key Signatures and Other Related Fears: This article explains the basics you need to learn about the different key signatures.
- Table of Signature Keys: This site provides several written examples of the signature keys.
- Minor Key Signatures: This site provides a list of the minor key signatures. It will help if you need to memorize or identify the different signatures.
- Key Signatures: This article looks at the reasons you use key signatures and explains the basics you need to memorize them.
- Key Signature Worksheet: This worksheet covers the basics for most key signatures.
Modes were used primarily before the 1700s in music. Scales have taken the place of the modes. Traditionally there are six different types of modes. The modes have the same step patterns, but can start at different tones. This was a common way to teach music when not everyone had access to the written score. It is still used in church music.
- A Brief Tutorial on Musical Modes: This site goes over the different musical modes and how it affects scales and key signatures.
- Musical Traditions of Scales and Modes: This article looks at how scales and modes have evolved through musical history.
- A Brief Introduction to Modes in Early and Traditional European Music: This article examines the use of modes in European music.
- Musical Modes: This provides a basic explanation of musical modes through the history of music.
- Six Modes of Western Music: This looks at the basic modes used in Western music.
Solfeggio allows you to teach music to people who cannot read music yet. Part of solfeggio is that each note in a scale is assigned a name. These are Do, Re, Mi, Fa Sol, La Ti and Do. There are hand symbols you can use to help people learn where they need to go on the current scale. This can be used to teach large groups or young children to sing.