A scale is a pattern of notes going up and down. Usually the notes of a scale will belong to one key, this in turn will make it easy to show the melody and/or harmony of a part or the entire song or composition.
Scales are measured in pitches, this gives us an idea of how large or small distances are. Scales are separated, using intervals to measure the notes they include, into groups like major, minor and others which are then described as C-major scale, D-minor scale, etc.
When reading this it probably looks quite complicated, however everything can be simplified and broken down into categories. Let’s start how scales look on the piano and their attached notes on the treble staff.
Example 1: C Major Scale doesn’t have any sharps or flats
As you can see above each scale consists of whole (1) or half steps (1/2). This determines the sound quality. A major scale has not the same order of whole and half steps as a minor scale.
However all the 12 major scales, since there are 12 tones on the piano, will have the same order of steps. For example the D major scale, which you’ll see below, will have same order of steps as the F# major scale, although the note names wouldn’t be same.
Now that we know the scale we can determine in what key the song is in. In this case it’s in the key of C major since we’re using the C major scale (in a later post I’ll explain the difference between major and minor scales and keys).
Often the first chord of a song, whether it’s in the intro, verse or chorus, is the same as the key it’s in. Please listen and watch the song “I’m Your Angel” by R.Kelly and Celine Dion“:
Other songs which are in the key of C major are:
What kind of emotions did you experience when watching this song? I think the feelings I got were of faith, innocence and positive strength. So usually songs in C major carry emotions of pureness, innocence, faith and simplicity.
The key of G major has one sharp: “F#” and that means that all the F’s become F sharps. In order to carry this out we need to add a “Key Signature” at the beginning of the staff (after the clef sign). This shows us how many sharps and flats each key has. It also tells us how many notes in the scale get sharps or flats. And lastly it tells us what key the song is in.
We can easily find this out by looking at the last sharp in the key signature and move up a half step. In this case, since there’s only one sharp, we move up a half step from F# and arrive at G. G will thus be the key of the piece. Furthermore you can see that the order of the whole (1) and half (1/2) steps remain the same except the notes themselves change.
Example 2: G Major Scale has 1 sharp (F#)
If you are interested in learning to recognize and sing melodies in this and other keys you should check out this post.
What are some characteristic emotions of songs in the key of G major? Usually everything is of a traditional, beautiful and lyrical quality. Often there’s a tender thankfulness for genuine friendship and true love.
When we summarize this we can say that gentle and peaceful emotions are expressed by the person’s heart. A good example of this is “From This Moment On” by Shania Twain:
The key of D major has two sharps: F# and C# and will result in all the F’s and C’s becoming F#’s and C#’s. Remember the rule of how to find the key of a song? For sharp keys you should look at the last sharp in the key signature and from there move up a half step.
So when you see the 2 sharps below in example 3, the last one of these should be C sharp. Go up a half step from here and it will tell you that the song is in the key of D major.
Example 3: D Major Scale has 2 sharps (F# and C#)
Interested in training yourself to hear and recognize the most common chord progressions in popular music, click the link below:
A powerful song in the key of D major is “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith. If you have a piano or keyboard at hand press any key and listen which one will fit best with this song, especially in the verses and choruses.
Other songs in the key of D major:
Like to play along with these songs at a slower tempo?
Go check out this post ……..
These are often feelings of triumph, war-cries, victory and glory. Songs in this key are usually suitable for symphonies and big vocal choruses because they convey a feeling of perseverance with an outcome of victory.
May be the songs above aren’t of this caliber but each of them conveys some emotion of perseverance whether the outcome does or doesn’t reflect a feeling of victory.
Listen to “Stop” by the Spice Girls. What key is the song in? What emotions do you get when listening?
If you like the pdf version of my post, opt-in to my mailing list
In the next post we will look at songs in the keys of A, E and B major and their emotions.
About the Author:
Hans Hansen is the author and founder of “The Music Arrangers Page” and is always happy to share his passion for music arranging. In addition, he is a well experienced piano & bass guitar teacher, specializing in classical, rock and jazz. Any questions you have about music arranging; he is the person to ask. He also likes to invite you to download his Special Free Gift and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter or leave a comment on his blog.