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Scales and Their Constructions

Scales and Their Constructions

In the article Notes and Intervals, we examined the C major scale, the notes included in it, their intervals, as well as 12 keys of music. Now is the time to get to know other scales.

The scale is a set of notes that has a clear sequence of intervals within one octave. When moving to the next octave, this sequence is saved.

The scale consists of a tonic – the note from which it is built and a series of intervals (in the main seven modes, these are half step and whole step intervals). Let’s look at these basic 7 modes.

Main Seven Modes

Ionian Mode

The same as a major scale. It has a fun, joyful sound. To begin with, consider it with tonic C. It includes all natural notes:

C D E F G A B.

Consider the image:

C Major Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
C Major Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

Numbers are scale steps.
W – whole step interval;
H – half step interval.

The change (moving) of steps in musical theory when constructing other scales is considered relative to the major scale. In other scales, the steps and intervals will be different. Further we will consider how this happens.

And now we will build A major scale:

A Major Scale -  Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Major Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

To build A major scale, we need to find note A and keeping the sequence of intervals relative to this note, play all 7 notes located at these intervals within one octave.

C major scale intervals: W W H W W W H.

If you know the sequence of major scale intervals, you can build a major scale from any note and see which notes will be included in it.

Next, we will build all other scales relative to tonic A.

So, A Ionian (A major scale):

A Ionian (Major) - Notes and Tablature
A Ionian (Major) – Notes and Tablature

To understand another detail, we place the fingering of the guitar and on it we denote the major scale within two octaves. The filled circles are the major scale within one octave. The tonic is painted over in red.

Ionian Mode (Major) - Fingering
Ionian Mode (Major) – Fingering

Dorian mode

The dorian minor mode sounds slightly brighter than the natural minor.

A Dorian scale:

A Dorian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Dorian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

The picture shows which notes are included in the A dorian scale, the steps and intervals are also indicated (designated relative to the major scale). In this scale there are ♭3 and ♭7 steps, which means that the third and seventh notes of the major scale in the Dorian mode are shifted half a tone down.

A Dorian - Notes and Tablature
A Dorian – Notes and Tablature

Dorian mode fingering:

Dorian Mode - Fingering
Dorian Mode – Fingering

That is, if we take the major scale and play 7 notes, starting from the second step, then we will get the Dorian scale.

Phrygian mode

The Phrygian mode has a gloomy “Spanish” sound.

A Phrygian dominant scale:

A Phrygian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Phrygian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

The phrygian scale has flat 2, 3, 6 and 7 steps relative to the major scale.

A Phrygian - Notes and Tablature
A Phrygian – Notes and Tablature

Fingering of the Phrygian mode (starts from the 3rd step of the major scale):

Phrygian Mode - Fingering
Phrygian Mode – Fingering

Lydian mode

The Lydian mode sounds detached and mysterious.

A lydian scale:

A Lydian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Lydian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In Lydian mode the fourth step of the major scale is a sharp.

A Lydian - Notes and Tablature
A Lydian – Notes and Tablature

Fingering of the Lydian mode (starts from the 4th step of the major scale):

Lydian Mode - Fingering
Lydian Mode – Fingering

Moving along the major scale, starting from the fourth step, we get lydian mode.

Mixolydian mode

The mixolydian mode resembles the ordinary major, however it is not so triumphant and complete.

A mixolydian scale:

A Mixolydian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Mixolydian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In the mixolydian mode, the 7th step of the major scale is a flat.

A Mixolydian - Notes and Tablature
A Mixolydian – Notes and Tablature

Fingering of the mixolidian mode (starts from the 5th step of the major scale):

Mixolydian Mode - Fingering
Mixolydian Mode – Fingering

Aeolian mode

Aeolian mode (natural minor) has a sad medieval sound.

A aeolian scale:

A Aeolian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Aeolian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In the Aeolian mode the steps 3, 6 and 7 are flat.

A Aeolian - Notes and Tablature
A Aeolian – Notes and Tablature

Fingering of the Aeolian mode (begins with the 6th step of the major scale):

Aeolian Mode - Fingering
Aeolian Mode – Fingering

Locrian Mode

The Locrian mode combines the mystery of the Lydian major and the gloomy “Spanish” sound of the Phrygian minor.

A locrian scale:

A Locrian Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Locrian Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In Locrian mode 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 steps are lowered.

A Locrian - Notes and Tablature
A Locrian – Notes and Tablature

Fingering of the Locrian mode (starts from the 7th step of the major scale):

Locrian Mode - Fingering
Locrian Mode – Fingering

Other scales

In addition to the main seven modes, there are other scales. Let’s consider some of them.

Harmonic Minor Mode

The sound of this scale has an “Arabic” or “Egyptian” tone.

A harmonic minor scale:

A Harmonic Minor Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Harmonic Minor Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In the harmonic minor, the seventh step is increased by a half step, unlike the natural minor.

A Harmonic Minor - Notes and Tablature
A Harmonic Minor – Notes and Tablature

Harmonic minor fingering:

Harmonic Minor Mode – Fingering

Flamenco mode

Flamenco scale has a classic Spanish tone.

A flamenco scale:

A Flamenco Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Flamenco Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In flamenco mode steps 2, 6 and 7 are lovered.

A Flamenco - Notes and Tablature
A Flamenco – Notes and Tablature

Flamenco mode fingering:

Flamenco Mode - Fingering
Flamenco Mode – Fingering

Pentatonics

Pentatonics is a scales, which have a 5 notes. The main 2 pentatonic scales are major and minor.

Major Pentatonic Mode

A major pentatonic scale:

A Major Pentatonic Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Major Pentatonic Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In major pentatonic scale steps 4 and 7 are absent.

A Major Pentatonic - Notes and Tablature
A Major Pentatonic – Notes and Tablature

Major pentatonic mode fingering:

Major Pentatonic - Fingering
Major Pentatonic – Fingering

Minor Pentatonic Mode

This scale is most often used in rock, metal and blues and has the following structure.

A minor pentatonic scale:

A Minor Pentatonic Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Minor Pentatonic Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In this scale steps 2 and 6 are absent and steps 3 and 7 are flat.

A Minor Pentatonic - Notes and Tablature
A Minor Pentatonic – Notes and Tablature

Minor pentatonic fingering:

Minor Pentatonic – Fingering

Blues Scale

The blues scale differs from minor pentatonic scale by adding of the ♭5th step.

A blues scale:

A Blues Scale - Notes, Steps and Intervals
A Blues Scale – Notes, Steps and Intervals

In this scale steps 2 and 6 are absent, 3, 5 and 7 steps are also lowered. In the scale there is a chromatic part, consisting of three notes. These are 4, ♭5 and 5 steps.

A Blues Scale - Notes and Tablature
A Blues Scale – Notes and Tablature

A blues scale fingering:

Blues Scale - Fingering
Blues Scale – Fingering

Chromatic scale

In the Chromatic scale, all notes have half step intervals, i.e. if you play all the notes in order, we get the chromatic scale.

So, we examined the basic scales and their constructions.

Alex Bratkov
Alex Bratkov Administrator

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