May, 2011

Snow is gone, gardens can be planted, the forests wake up, and acoustic guitars can be played outdoors without serious risk of thermal shock damage.


This Month:
    Scales: Major and Minor 
   A Lesson On Elocution (per Joe Cocker ;) )
   Braedon has a new Website!!!
    Eric Goes B.A.D. 


Major and Minor Scales
An Introduction

Major Scale

What we usually refer to as a major scale is the common 8 note pattern of tone and semi-tone intervals that are the basis of the vast majority of songs in western music.  On a piano keyboard this pattern is demonstrated by the sequential notes on the white keys starting on C.
(Listen: Diatonic C Scale)

The pattern is:

       tone;  tone;  semi-tone;  tone;  tone;  tone;  semi-tone

(A semi-tone is the tonal distance between any 2 adjacent keys on a piano keyboard, or one fret on a guitar. A tone is 2 semi-tones - 2 adjacent piano keys or 2 guitar frets.)

This scale is also known as a diatonic scale, and in some circles as the Ionian Mode.

In standard treble clef musical notation and guitar TAB, this tone pattern looks like this:

C Major Scale
( CLICK on any of the musical notation images on this page to hear how it sounds)
Cmaj Scale

These notes are often numbered, and the tonal distance between them are referred to as numbered intervals.  Here is some nomenclature showing the various ways these notes can be referred to:

Major Scale: Notes and Intervals
Number Name Tonal Step  Interval (from root) Interval  Note
(key of C)
1 Tonic (or Root) Perfect unison I C
2 Supertonic tone minor 2nd ii D
3 Mediant tone Major 3rd III E
4 Subdominant semi-tone Perfect 4th IV F
5 Dominant tone Perfect 5th V G
6 Submediant tone minor 6th  vi A
7 Leading Note tone Major 7th VII B
8 Tonic semi-tone Perfect Octave VIII C

This same interval pattern applies in every key, so for example in the key of E, the notes are: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E.  This can be seen and heard easily if you play these notes on the first string on a guitar, starting with the open string and following the tone/semi-tone pattern.

E Major Scale
(on the 1st sring of a guitar)Emaj Scale on the 1st string of a guitar

Minor Scale

A minor scale is almost identical to the major scale, with the exception that the 3th is lowered by 1 semi-tone to form a Minor 3rd (iii) interval.  The key of C minor has the notes C, D, Eb, F, G, A, B.  This scale is known as the Natural Minor, Relative Minor, Pure Minor, and in some circles as the Aeolian Mode. 

C minor ScaleC minor scale

Note the tone pattern here is:

       tone;  semi-tone;  tone;  tone;  tone;  tone;  semi-tone

If we were to apply the same pattern starting with A instead of C we get the following scale:

A minor ScaleA minor Scale

Notice that this contains exactly the same notes as the C major scale above, but just starting on a different note in the scale.  The A minor scale is known as the "relative minor" of the C major scale (and conversely the C major scale is known as the "relative major" of the A minor scale.)  All 11 of the major and minor scales have their respective relative major and minor scales.

If you have a major scale, then the relative minor scale starts on the 6th note of the major scale: in the key of C, the 6th is A, so the relative minor is A minor.  If you have a minor scale, then the relative major starts on the 3rd:  in the key of A minor, the 3rd note is C, so the relative major is C.

We’ll come back to that relative major/minor stuff, but first a little bit about common chords and chord progressions.

Major and Minor Chords (triads)

A major chord is built out of 3 notes from the major scale that we just talked about.  The 3 notes are the 1st (root), the 3rd (mediant) and the 5th (dominant).  In the case of the C chord (designated C, or Cmaj), we would look at the C scale (above) and pick the 1, 3 and 5 notes: C, E, and G respectively.  This is known as a major triad.

The most common chord grouping in modern music - folk, blues, pop, rock and roll… lots of stuff - uses what is known as a I, IV, V progression ("one, four, five" in English...).  In the key of C, most of you musicians out there will know that the 3 common chords played are C, F and G.  If we look at our C scale again, C is the first note (I), F is the fourth note (IV), and G is the fifth note (V) of the scale.  In the key of D, the I, IV, and V chords are D, G and A, respectively which any of you who has ever played a few Canadian folk songs will recognize.

Ok… now back to the relative minor stuff we talked about above.  Not only does every major scale have a relative minor scale associated with it, but every major chord has a relative minor chord associated with it, and it is found the same way as we found the relative minor scale:  The relative minor of a Cmaj chord is an Am chord (A is the 6th in the key of C).  If we look at the Fmaj chord, the 6th in the key of F is D, so the relative minor of Fmaj is Dm.  Using the same process the relative minor of Gmaj can be found to be Em.

Major and Minor Triads in the Key of CCmaj triads and their relative minors C Major Triad F Major Triad G Major Triad A minor Triad D minor Triad E minor Triad


Scales and Chords Together
(such a content and happy family...)

Why all this stuff is cool and useful:  The 6 chords we just mentioned using the example of the key of C, the I, IV, and V chords and their relative minors all contain notes that are within the C major (and A minor) scale.  That means that harmonically all of these chords work with melodies based on the Cmaj scale (and Am scale).

This means that if you know the key of a song, you can quickly figure out at least 6 chords that will work with that key, and either choose from them for your own composition, or limit the number of chords to choose from when trying to learn someone else’s song.  By determining if the chord you are listening to is happy or sad (Major or minor), it quickly reduces the choice of chords to only 3 chords (3 major chords, or 3 minor chords).

some common examples:
In the key of C, the 6 common chords to choose from are:  C, F, G, Am, Dm, Em
In the key of D                                 “ D, G, A, Bm, Em, F#m
In the key of E                                 “ E, A, B, C#m, F#m, G#m

If you are a guitar player, I recommend that you try playing these chords in whatever voicings you know for them and follow each major chord by its relative minor and vice versa.  You may start to recognize the common fingering patterns, especially in voicing up the neck which will be a valuable aid to quickly find the chords you need, especially when jamming.

Most of the myriad collection of hundreds of chords out there are modifications to these 6 chords. Often, if in doubt, one of these 6 basic chords will work in place of some of the more esoteric chords that you may be hearing but can’t quite pick out yet.  Maybe we’ll look at some of these other chord structures in a future article, but for now, keep having fun, and keep learning!

Eric Mattila

Plectrum


References:

Ron Middlebrook, Ron."Scales and Modes, In The Beginning",Centerstream Publications, 1982
Randel, Don (editor). "The New Harvard Dictionary of Music",Harvard University Press, 1986

 

Just what WAS he saying?

(the importance of enunciation...)

Check out this very funny video on YouTube:   Joe Cocker With Subtitles


Big Smile
If you haven't seen it before, it is worth the read.






Plectrum

Braedon Garret is online

Wizard of the guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and saxaphone, music teacher, recording engineer/producer, and friend of The Coyotes, Braedon Garret has a new website!

Check it out here: Braedon Garret Online

Braedon Garret

Plectrum

Eric Goes B.A.D

BAD Eric, Stuart and Raymond
Eric, Stuart and Raymond with Honda CX500
Once again, Eric and his boys will be participating in a fundraising motorcycle ride, the annual B.A.D. Ride on May 29, to raise money to support the work of the Toronto Distress Centre. The work is unique and important, and helps some of the most vulnerable in our midst.

If you'd like to sponsor Eric this year, you can do so through the following link: Sponsor Eric.


Plectrum
Click on this image to hear it
Click on any of the triads to hear it