Scales Classical Voice Conservatory Theory I
Things you Need to know • In order to understand scales, you must understand the following concept: • Pretty much everything we’ve done up to now, more specifically accidentals, half steps and whole steps, and tetrachords. • Considering we just tested on all of these things, I think we’re good to go, right? Let’s get started!
Scales: Construction • A Scale is a diatonic progression of notes from one note to the same note an octave higher or lower. • Scales also follow a specific pattern of half steps and whole steps, just like tetrachords. • The easiest way to construct a scale is to think of joining two adjacent tetrachords together with a whole step. • Let’s try constructing a scale together!
Recall that a tetrachord’s pattern is Tonic, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half Step. • Let’s pick the tonic C and construct a tetrachord from there.
When we combine the C tetrachord and the G tetrachord, we get the C Major Scale! Huzzah! :D
As long as you know how to build a tetrachord, you can build a scale just by combining two tetrachords together. • Let’s try to construct more scales together on a difficult tonic: F#!
Obviously, we’ve established F# as our tonic, so now we need to build the tetrachord. • Let’s write it on the staff in diatonic order first:
Next we add the accidentals. • Obviously F# is our Tonic, so we’re going to add a sharp to our F. Remember, on the staff accidentals are always to the left of the note!
It looks like a whole step up from F# could be G# or A b. But since tetrachords must be in diatonic order, we can’t skip over G. So it has to be Ab’s enharmonic equivalent, G#.
The same rules apply for A#. • Since B is a half step up from A#, we don’t need to add an accidental. So we’re all set!
Now to complete the scale, we need to construct a tetrachordstarting a whole step up from the last note of the tetrachord we just finished. So what’ a whole step up from B?
It could be Db or C#, but just like tetrachords, scales must also be in diatonic order. So our only option is C#. • While we’re at it, let’s but the C# tetrachord in diatonic order.
Now let’s refer to our keyboard and follow the tetrachord pattern to complete our C# tetrachord:
A whole step from C# is either D# or Eb. But since it needs to be in diatonic order, our only option is D#.
A whole step from D# is F or E#. Once again, we need to be in diatonic order, so E# is our only option. • And obviously, since this is supposed to be an F# Major Scale, we end this tetrachord with F#.
With these tetrachords combined, we have successfully built an F# Major Scale! Yay!
A Couple of Extra Things about Scales • They must be in diatonic order. • They are the basis for music compositions- all compositions and their harmonic structures are based on these scales. • When people refer to keys in music, they are talking about what scale the song/piece they are discussing is based on. • The first note of a scale and the last note of a scale is called the tonic.