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Basic Music Theory: Notes, Pitch, and Scales

Updated on March 4, 2013

Notes are to music as atoms are to life. They are the most basic part to a bigger picture. They help to form the melodies and harmonies that we all here. But there is much more that goes on with these notes that many people probably do not realize. The basic note letters are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. With that being said, there are also notes in between each of these letters. Perhaps you have heard of the note "B-flat" or "C-sharp." These are notes that are half-steps away from the original seven letters. Pertaining to half-steps, there are also whole-steps. Consequently, 2 half-steps make a whole-step. Makes sense, right?


Think of a piano. There are black and white keys. If you move up by one key, it is a half-step. If you move up by two keys, it is a whole-step. The diagram to the right gives you examples of half and whole-steps. For example, say we started on the first white key on the left and we moved to the black key that is to the right of it. We have moved one half-step. Now if we started on that same white key and moved to the next white key to the right, we have skipped the black key in the middle and moved a whole-step.

Now using the diagram again, lets start at the same white key. This note is called C. Now starting at the next black key and moving down the right of the keyboard we have these notes: C-sharp (D-flat), D, D-sharp (E-flat), E, E-Sharp (F), F, F-sharp (G-flat), G, G-sharp (A-flat), A, A-sharp (B-flat), B (C-flat), and back to C.

You may be wondering why there are notes in parentheses. These notes are called "enharmonics." This is a whole different lesson, but essentially they are the same pitch as the note that is written before it, they just have a different name. I know it sounds kind of silly, but trust me, there is a reason for it!


A scale is any sequence of notes in ascending or descending order. In this hub we will talk about the most basic type of scale called the major scale.

I can not begin to stress how important learning scales and steps are to understanding music theory. Putting this concept together, a scale is built of a combination of whole and half-steps. The formula is W (whole-step), W, H (half-step), W, W, W, H. This formula is the SAME for every major scales. There are other types of scales such as minor, dorian, blues, etc., but this is the formula for a major scale. If you have access to a keyboard or piano, start on any key and use this formula to create a scale. You can do this from any key on the piano. There are twelve major scales, so if you start on the C key and play a scale on all the keys going up to the next C key, you will have played all twelve major scales.

I hope that this hub helps you in your musical endeavors. There will be more to come!


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    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 5 years ago from hub

      I think if you are not a music would make a good one:) For a beginner wanting to learn, you explain things very clear and concise:)

    • goego profile image

      goego 5 years ago from Loserland

      Music, A story for the soul... Thanks for sharing, and welcome to HP!!!

    • profile image

      MundaneMondays 5 years ago

      Music was my first major in college, this right here ? was the reason i switched out, wouldn't you guess the way you just explained it, made it so simple, "applause"