Tag Archives: circle-of-fifths

Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle of Fifths”

Posted on February 25, 2016 by songtive

In our first post we were talking about the names of notes, it’s placement on keyboard, Major scale construction method and how “Piano Companion” application can help you in memorising all these musical things. Today, we are going to discuss how to build a Minor scale using the same method as we used for a Major scale creation. We will also introduce a very handy tool – “Circle of Fifths”.

As you can remember from the previous post (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale), to construct a Major scale we need to know the specific order/pattern of gaps/steps or (in musical terms) “intervals” between notes. You probably already know that these intervals are called “semitones”. The order/pattern for the Major scale is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 and the easiest way of figuring it out – was counting gaps between white notes on keyboard from “C” to another “C” note. We can apply the same concept to create any Minor scale. We just need to find out which Minor scale has all white keys in it as well. There is a great musical feature in the application, that will help us to do that. If you open the main menu of “Piano Companion” you will see the button “Circle Of Fifths”:

When you press the button, you will be redirected to another screen, where you actually can see the “Circle of Fifths”:

 Ok, you all probably have a question in you mind: “How this tool can actually help me to find the key, that I am looking for?”In our case it is A Minor scale, which has all white notes (which has no flats and has no sharps). Please have a look at the circle again:

 

There are 3 sections in the circle:

  1. Purple section – It represents Major scales.
  2. Peach section – It represents Minor scales.
  3. White section – It represents sharps and flats that each of these key has.

Can you see that a letter “A” is underneath a letter “C”? You can also see that there is a white section underneath both letters “C” and “A”.

Basically, that means that a “C Major scale” has no sharps and flats, as well as “A Minor scale” has no sharps and flats too. This is exactly what we were looking for, isn’t? The same rule applies to other letters of the circle. According to the picture, it’s clearly seen that a “G Major scale” has 1 sharp as well as “E Minor scale” has one sharp too. A “D Major scale” has 2 sharps, whereas a “B Minor scale” has 2 sharps as well and etc. Now you can tell for sure, that a “C Major scale” and “A Minor scale” has all the same notes, only the root note/ starting point is different. These scales are called “Relatives”. So, if you ever want to find out which Minor key has the same amount of sharps or flats as your chosen Major scale (and opposite), you can always use a “Circle of Fifths” as your guide.

This is not all that a “Circle of Fifths” can assist you with. It has much more information that it may seem from the first glance, however we will talk about this handy tool deeper, a little bit later. Right now, let’s come back to the main goal we were aiming for – Minor scale construction. Please go back to your main menu of the “Piano Companion” and choose a “Piano”:

Here is our piano roll, but with note names on it, just to make the process easier:

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If you press the keys from A to A, you will hear the A Minor scale. So let’s have a look at the specific order/pattern for Minor scales. We are sure that you all understand, this order/pattern is different, than the one for Major scales. How do we determine it? Once again, all you need to do is look at the keyboard and count how many gaps/steps there are in between each note of the scale. Have a look at the picture below:

Cool, now we can confidently tell that the specific note order is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2, which is the order/pattern of gaps/steps that applies to any Minor scale. With this pattern you will be able to create any Minor scale!

There is one more interesting fact about the name of a Minor scale. It has another more specific name – “Aeolian scale”. If you remember the Major scale is also called – “Ionian scale”. Don’t forget, you can always check these scales in “Scales Dictionary” of the “Piano Companion” application:

As you can see, we have emphasised some “little circles” on the picture. There are two types of them:

  1. Fully coloured circles – represent 1 Tone/ 2 semitones
  2. Half coloured circles – represent 1 semitone.

That means if you forgot the specific sequence of intervalic gaps for “Ionian” or “Aeolian” scales, you can always refer to this “circle pattern” because it is equal to the“numeric pattern” of “2-1-2-2-1-2-2” or “2-2-1-2-2-2-1”.

That is all for today and If you find our articles useful, just keep an eye on our blog, as this is just a beginning. New posts will be added frequently. Keep on doing music!