Keyboard Playing Basics- Scale

Let’s hope that you’ve understood both systems of nomenclature. Once you are comfortable with them, rest is easier to understand. In this article, we will move on to the concept of scale.

First, let us remind ourselves of few hit songs in Bollywood:

  1. Kajra re (Joy)
  2. Tum hi ho (Sorrow)
  3. Yeh sham mastani (Joy)
  4. Hua hain aj pehli baar (Mixed)

(The links will redirect you to the videos, which I’ve uploaded on YouTube. I’ve played the cover/ tutorial of the song on keyboard. You can subscribe for more videos 🙂 )

Each of these songs creates a different mood. Of course, there are many factors which affect the overall “effect” a song produces, such as rhythm, singer’s voice, instruments used and the performance of actors, if the song is more famous in its audio-visual form. It also depends on the choice and sequence of notes for the playback. This is where the concept of scale comes into picture. 

A scale is a set of 7 different notes, chosen a priori. The 8th note is again the 1st note, but in the next “pattern”. (Recall Sa and Sa)

There are 2 important types of scales, the major scale and the minor scale. The scales are characterized by the starting note. For example, if you start with F# (or Kaali Teen), it will be either F# major (written generally as F#) or F# minor (written generally as F# m). A thumb rule is that a positive (negative) feeling is associated with a major (minor) scale.

When we say that Tum Hi Ho is in F minor scale, we mean that the notes contained by the song belong to this particular set of notes.

Now we’ll see which notes form a major scale.

  1. Start with any key, say C# (Same as Db). So, we’re playing C# major.
  2. Leave the key immediate to C# and go for the next key, Eb.
  3. Leave the key immediate to Eb and go for the next key, F.
  4. Now, go for the immediate key, F# (THIS IS IMPORTANT)
  5. Leave the key immediate to F# and go for the next key, Ab.
  6. Leave the key immediate to Ab and go for the next key, Bb.
  7. Leave the key immediate to Bb and go for the next key, C.
  8. Now, go for the immediate key, C#. Anyway, this was the key with which we had started.

 

So, we started off with C# and ended up with C# in an octave higher than the original. (Always keep this in mind)

(1,3,5,6,8,10,12,13) – The sequence of keys for any major scale. You can try this out for all the notes. In all, you will have 12 major scales. 

major_1

Shown above is the sequence of notes in a major scale. See the red ones.

 

 

Now we’ll see which notes form a minor scale.

  1. Start with any key, say C# (Same as Db). We’re playing C# minor.
  2. Leave the key immediate to C# and go for the next key, Eb.
  3. Now, go for the immediate key, E (THIS IS IMPORTANT)
  4. Leave the key immediate to E and go for the next key, F#.
  5. Leave the key immediate to F# and go for the next key, Ab.
  6. Now, go for the immediate key, A (THIS IS IMPORTANT)
  7. Leave the key immediate to A and go for the next key, B.
  8. Leave the key immediate to B and go for the next key, C#. This was the key with which we had started.

Again, we did start from C# and ended up with C#.

(1,3,4,6,8,9,11,13) – The sequence of keys for any minor scale.

minorShown above is the sequence of notes in a minor scale. See the red ones.

 

A closer look at both these scales reveals the following:

  • 1,3,6,8 and 13 are always a part of any scale. The other 3 notes are decided by the type of scale, whether it is a major scale or a minor scale.
  • A major scale has 5, 10 and 12.
  • A minor scale has 4, 9 and 11.
  • Keys 2 and 7 have not been used anywhere.

The last observation is particularly important. For time being, let it be there.

If you have a keyboard, you can try playing the notes in ascending and descending order. As far as possible, please do not try to “remember the sequence of numbers”, but “pay more attention to the sound” which these notes make. 

As an exercise, you can write down the notes for each of the 12 major and 12 minor scales in Western notation. In Indian notation, you cannot distinguish between 2 major scales, since the system is position specific. What you will eventually figure out is, a major scale consists of all “shudhha” (or pure) notes and a minor scales has “Komal Ga”, “Komal Dha” and “Koman Nee” instead of their “Shudhha” versions. Also, “Komal Re” and “Teevra Ma” do not take part in both major and minor scales.

 

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2 thoughts on “Keyboard Playing Basics- Scale”

  1. congratulations!!
    You have explained the different scales in very simple and systematic way.
    Fact that you havit included both forms of music ( Indian classical and western) in explaining scales makes it even more complete reference for someone who’s trying to understand these similarities n differences in the way music is written in both forms.
    Looking forward to more such interesting concepts and their interpretation.

    Like

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