Mike Moxcey ©2005


Scales are the basis of music. Some folks say chords are the basis of scales, but many say scales are the basis of chords. I’m not going to get into that argument at all.
They are co-dependent.

The basic major scale is usually presented as a C scale: C D E F G A B C

But you’ve probably been playing other major scales such as G: G A B C D E F# G or D: D E F# G A B C# D

The trick to understanding the similarities between scales is that a scale isn’t based on the notes themselves but on the distance between the notes. This distance is called an Interval. Intervals can be various lengths. On octave is an interval. A fifth is an interval.

Steps and Frets

The distance between any two notes of a scale is usually one fret or two frets. Music theorists don’t talk of frets because they need to be able to apply music to wind instruments, also.

They call a single fret a half-step. A whole step is two frets.

The Major Scale

A major scale isn’t called by notes, but is instead shown as steps: 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ steps

It only has seven steps because that’s all we need to get to 8 notes.

Here is the scale in frets: 2 2 1 2 2 2 1 frets

Thinking of the major scale in intervals shows how they are all the same except for the particular note they start on.

Here are all the major scales. They are shown how they are often represented. A Db isn’t usually written as C#. F# and G# sometimes are written as Gb and Ab, but string players tend to think in sharps (if they think about that sort of stuff at all).

Frets: -2--2- -1--2--2- -2--1- 

Scales:C D  E F  G A  B C
 D E  F# G  A B  C# D
 E F# G#  A B C# D# E
 F G A  Bb C D E F
 G A B  C D E F# G
 A B C#  D E F# G# A
 B C# D#  E F# G# A# B
 Bb C D  Eb F G A Bb
 Db Eb F  Gb Ab Bb C Db
 Eb F G  Ab Bb C D Eb
 F# G# A#  B C# D# F F#
 G# A# C  C# D# F G G#
You can memorize the 12 different scales, or you can memorize one pattern of 7 intervals (spaces between notes).
That’s the power of theory

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