An introduction for beginner musicians
One day I was looking the selections of lessons on the web, I realized something that there were no lessons about major and minor keys for people who know NOTHING about music! I will repeat that statement: THIS LESSON IS FOR PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MUSIC. If you have been playing guitar, or any other instrument, and already have knowledge about major and minor keys, I’ll be honest in saying this lesson probably won’t teach you anything new. It is strictly a pure beginner’s lesson. Anyway, this lesson will focus on major and minor keys and scales. Enjoy!
What is the Difference?
“What is the difference between major and minor keys?” is probably the first question one will ask. Well, simply put, major keys sound “happy”, while minor keys sound “sad”. The sound of major chords and scales can be described as bright, cheery, and happy, while the sound of major chords and scales can be described as sad and depressing. So, in that sense, if you wanted to write a happy sounding song, you would probably write it in the major key, while if you wanted to write a sad sounding song, you would probably write it in the minor key.
The Major and Minor Keys:
For anyone who doesn’t know what a key signature is, it is the sharps or flats drawn between the clef and the time signature. It says “hey, if a note is on the same line of space as me, it’s sharp/flat (depending on whether it is a sharp of flat sign talking), unless it has a natural sign in front of it!” Simply put, it says how many sharps or flats are in the scale of that specific key. Now, the major keys are:
Cb-seven flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb)
Gb-six flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb)
Db-five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)
Ab-four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
Eb-three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
Bb-two flats (Bb, Eb)
F-one flat (Bb)
C-no sharps or flats
G-one sharp (F#)
D-two sharps (F#, C#)
A-three sharps (F#, C#, G#)
E-four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#)
B-five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#)
F#-six sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#)
C#-seven sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)
The minor keys are (m means “minor”):
Abm-seven flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, Fb)
Ebm-six flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb)
Bbm-five flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb)
Fm-four flats (Bb, Eb, Ab, Db)
Cm-three flats (Bb, Eb, Ab)
Gm-two flats (Bb, Eb)
Dm-one flat (Bb)
Am-no sharps or flats
Em-one sharp (F#)
Bm-two sharps (F#, C#)
F#m-three sharps (F#, C#, G#)
C#m-four sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#)
G#m-five sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#)
D#m-six sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#)
A#m-seven sharps (F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, B#)
There are a couple things you should notice. First of all, when comparing major and minor keys, you should notice that there are different keys that have not only the same amount of accidentals, but also the same notes are altered. For example, both the G major and E minor scales have F# in them. A second thing you should notice is that accidentals are just added one, with the previous ones staying constant. G major has F#, D major just adds a C# to that, and A major just adds a G# to that. Another thing you should notice is that a major key is 2 tones higher than it’s like minor key. C is 2 tones higher than A, G is 2 tones higher than E, etc.
Now, with knowledge of the key signatures, you can start to compose major and minor scales. First of all let’s start with major scales:
Major scales all follow the same tonal structure: tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. To put this into guitar terms: 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret. Does it sound complicated? Well guess what! Major scales are super easy to compose! You can compose a major scale in three, you read correctly, THREE steps!
Step 1: The root note
The first step is to start with your root note. If you want to compose D major scale, for example, you would start with a D.
Step 2: The Octave
From there, you would put a note on EVERY line and space UNTIL YOU REACH D AGAIN. This should give you a total of 8 notes.
Step 3: The Accidentals
Now, since we know from the lesson on time signatures that the key of D major has 2 sharps, F# and C#, we will make any F’s and C’s in this scale sharp. And that’s a major scale! Try playing it, and note the feeling the sound has. If you wanted to get rid of the sharps, you could just add the time signature at the beginning of the piece. This is actually mandatory to properly write music, as it tells the musician what key the song is in. It also saves you writing a bunch of sharps!
Now, minor scales follow a similar pattern: tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, or 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets, 1 fret, 2 frets, 2 frets. Now, to save time and space, I won’t beat around the bush, and just tell you minor scales follow the three steps as major scales, except in a minor key. Notice how it, like the D major scale, has F and C sharp. Play the B minor scale, and compare it to D major. Do you notice how B minor sounds sad, while D major sound happy? Your probably asking how they sound so different when they both have the same notes, A, B, C#, D, E, F# and G. Well, the only answer to that is the placement of the semitone. In the minor scale, the semitone comes a note sooner than in the major scale. Finally, make note of how the B minor is 2 tones lower than the D major, like we noted in the lesson on key signatures.
Well, if you made it to here, you endured a long lesson (3 pages on MS Word!) But, you came out strong, and are now more knowledgeable about the entire concept of music. In fact, you are probably a lot more knowledgeable than you think, because what you just learned is one of the most important things you need to know for understanding and writing music. In fact, it is arguably THE most important thing! Well, I better stop myself now, before I go onto a fourth page. I hope you learned a lot from this lesson; you can rate it, and leave a comment with your opinion or questions. I’ll try to respond to them as frequently as possible, and if it’s urgent, feel free to send it directly to my profile. Thanks for your time!