Scales For Music: What Are Musical Scales? An Explanation And Benefits For Musicians And Beginners
The Building Blocks Of Music
Have you ever caught yourself humming the melody to a song that you really like? Your favorite songs probably have really catchy melodies that you love listening to over and over. Well, those melodies whether catchy or not come from scales.
A musical scale is an organized group of pitches that form a particular type of sound. For example, a Major Scale usually creates a happy sound and a Minor Scale creates a kind of sad sound.
Scales are like the building blocks of music. When you look at a house, you don't see the building blocks. That's because they are hidden behind the siding, or bricks, or stones that make up the esthetic qualities of the house. Every house looks different on the outside because of the different shapes, colors, sizes, and materials. But they all have building blocks made up of cement or concrete in the foundation and the frame of the house.
That's why scales just by themselves will not make you creative or unique just like if you took away the exterior siding of a house, there would be nothing that would differentiate one house from another in an artistic sense. You'd see just building blocks. This is how music would look like if it was physical. If you stripped away the sounds, and artistic qualities of your favorite musical artists, you'd find the scales.
The Family Analogy
I like to make an analogy between scales and families in order to understand how scales are constructed. There are different “families” of scales in music. Each family has a different sound quality to it. The names of the most common families of scales are called: Major Scale, Minor Scale, Harmonic Minor Scale, Melodic Minor Scale, Pentatonic Scale, and Blues Scale. And each scale family has 12 members!
The Major Scale Family, has 12 members and they each have their own name and spelling. In music, the members are what we call “keys.” Here is a list of all 12 keys (members of the Major Scale Family):
All 12 Major Scale Keys (Members of Major Scale Family)
Bb Major (or A# Major)
Db Major (or C# Major)
Eb Major (or D# Major)
9. F Major
Gb Major (or F# Major)
Ab Major (or G# Major)
And just like you are a member of a family, so are the 12 members part of a scale family as well. Let's go another step further. In general, each Major Scale basically creates a happy sound.
Let's continue with the family analogy. Let's say your family member name is John Smith. Well, there is a spelling for the member name John Smith. It's J-O-H-N-S-M-I-T-H. That's how you spell the name. The same is true when “spelling” each Major Scale. For example, here is how you would spell a C Major Scale: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. These are the letters for how you spell the C Major Scale. Instead of letters, we use the word “notes” in music. These letters (notes), relate to each pitch in the scale.
Every scale has it's own unique spelling, just like different names have their own unique spellings.
Family Name = Smith
Member of Family = Chris
Spelling = C-H-R-I-S-S-M-I-T-H
Family Name = Smith
Member of Family = Anne
Spelling = A-N-N-E-S-M-I-T-H
Family Name = Rogers
Member of Family = Chris
Spelling = C-H-R-I-S-R-O-G-E-R-S
Scale Family Chart
So let's recap the family analogy by showing a few comparisons.
Family Name = Major Scale
Member of Family = C Major Scale
Here's another example:
Family Name= Major Scale
Member of Family = A Major Scale
Spelling = A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A
Family Name = Minor Scale
Member of Family = C Minor Scale
Spelling = C-D-Eb-F-G-Ab-Bb-C
So continuing with this analogy, the family is called Smith. But there are many members of the Smith family. There is Chis Smith, Anne Smith, Tony Smith, etc. How do you spell the name Chris Smith? How do you spell the name Anne Smith? Their family name is the same, but their first names are different, and obviously there would be different spellings for each name.
Did you notice the 3rd example? The family name was different. It was Rogers. If you notice the corresponding musical family name, it says Minor Scale. This is a totally different family of scale with it's own sound qualities.
This is the basic concept of scales. Now learning exactly how to spell all the scales is a topic for another discussion.
The Benefits Of Learning Scales
Scales help you become a better musician because:
You'll be able to learn new songs faster
You'll be able to “hear” the music better with a newfound depth
You'll understand how music “works”
You'll increase your technical ability on your instrument and play with more fluency
You'll no longer be overwhelmed by the complexity of your instrument