Tag Archives: pianocompanion

Tutorial 3 – Explore New World Of Music with Scale Spelling

Posted on March 18, 2016 by songtive

In our previous posts (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale and Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle Of Fifths”) we were talking about a method of constructing Major and Minor scales, as well as we’ve introduced a very handy music tool – “Circle of Fifths”. Today, we are going to introduce another very important music concept – “Scale Spelling”. With a help of that we will discover the whole new world of music scales which is far wider than Minor and Major.

As everyone already knows, all notes in a scale have letters. We also know that there are 8 notes in a scale, with 7 distinct ones. Now, all notes/letters from the scale also have a corresponding number. These numbers are referred to as “scale spelling”. Please open a “Piano Companion” application and choose “Scales Dictionary”.

By the application default settings, the first scale that you see is a Major scale. Just have a look at the numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) – this exactly what we call a “Scale Spelling”.

Let’s choose “Aeolian” (Minor) scale from the list.

Can you see that the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale is different from the Ionian one (Major)? As you may guess, if you chose any other scale from “Scales Dictionary” it will be different too. But let’s take a closer look at Ionian and Aeolian scale spellings.

It will be very helpful, if you take a piece of paper and write down a C Major scale and put 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (1) above every note of the scale. If you do it correctly, that’s how it should look like:

 Each note of the scale has it is own number, which we always write above the note names. Let’s write a C Minor and the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale above it.

Even if you never learnt music before, we’ve already mentioned that “b” – flats are responsible for bringing notes DOWN for one semitone, whereas “#” – sharps are responsible for bringing notes UP for one semitone. As you can see the spelling for Aeolian scale (Minor) has b3, b6 and b7 in it. The notes that are below these numbers, also have flats: Eb, Ab and Bb. Isn’t that simple? The scale spelling is like a clue for any musician. Let’s say, you know only a construction method for a Major scale using specific pattern (2-2-1-2-2-2-1) and have no idea how to create any other one, but there is a scale spelling for Minor scale in front of your eyes. By writing your Major scale and putting this scale spelling above the notes (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8) you’ll be easily able to add necessary flats to notes and finally get your Minor scale. The same method applies to any other existing scale in the music world. However, you should follow 2 simple rules:

1) The letters (notes) MUST always correspond to the assigned number (spelling).
2) There may not be notes that share the same name in the scale

What does it mean? Literally, you just need to choose correct enharmonic names for your notes. For example in C Minor (Aeolian) you can’t put “D#” under the number “b3” because “D” is already referred to your second note, the number “2” of the spelling. The same applies to “Ab” and “Bb”. You can’t put “G#“ and “A#” instead. We are quite sure that this fact is very obvious, but still sometimes people can forget, so keeping this tip in mind will help not to make mistakes.

Ok, the time has come, to find out why a Major scale is called “Ionian”, and why a Minor scale is called “Aeolian”. The reason why these scales have more specific names, simply because there are different types of Major and Minor scales. Most of the scales can be divided into Major and Minor families. So let’s have a look at 7 scales that are mostly used in today’s music:

 

SCALE SPELLINGS:
IOANIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
DORIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
PHRYGIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LYDIAN - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
MIXOLYDIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
AEOLIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LOCRIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

The picture above points us to the different types of Major and Minor scales that have all white notes in it like C Ionian and A Aeolian. There is exactly the same thing for D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian and etc. As we’ve mentioned earlier all scales can be divided into 2 families: Major and Minor. In this case we have:

Major scales:

  1. Ionian
  2. Lydian
  3. Mixolydian

Minor scales:

  1. Dorian
  2. Phrygian
  3. Aeolian
  4. Locrian

The most used scales in Popular music are Ionian, Aeolian, Mixolydian and Dorian. Less used is Lydian, because of the #4 which gives quite dissonant sound, that may feel unpleasant the ears. The most famous example of Lydian scale use, you can hear in known by everybody “Simpsons” music theme. Phrygian and Locrian are common in soundtracks and background music for Horror movies. Just have a listen, and you will understand why! These scales often used in Metal music as well.

The most accurate definition of the scale family would by checking thr 3rd note of the mode. If the 3rd number of the scale spelling is flattened, then it belongs to the Minor scale family. By the way, have you noticed that there are more Minor scales than Major ones? There is exactly the same thing for chords. There are more Minor chords that you can construct from the scale, than Major ones.

If you have a proper look to the scale spellings of these modes (scales), you’ll see how easy it is to construct any mode you like, if simply have a scale spelling in front of your eyes. All you have to do is just to construct Ionian scale and flatten or sharpen necessary notes, according to the spelling. Isn’t that simple? It’s definitely is!

We believe that we’ve shared enough information for today and there is a lot to think about and experiment with. And don’t forget to check out your “Scale Dictionary” in “Piano Companion” which has so many more scales to play with!

 Just keep an eye on our blog and you will find so much more interesting about music.

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:

img_56e19cabed3f6

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!

Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale

Posted on February 13, 2016 by songtive

If you are willing to be a musician and want to express your own ideas and feelings, it is really essential to learn at least some basics of music theory. Especially if you are thinking about writing your own songs and musical compositions. For many people who has never been a musician, a “Music Theory” sounds scary and seems complicated at the first glance, but in a reality it isn’t, depending on the way it’s presented of course. Luckily we are living in the world of technology and have so many tools, resources available, for such an easy learning of anything we want to. A Piano Companion is a wonderful application that will make your music learning process as simple as possible, without a touch of any musical instrument or even a computer. All you need – is just your phone or your tablet. Here at Songtive Blog, we will attempt to explain a “Music Theory” subject and how a “Piano Companion” can help those of you, who have never learnt or have just a little knowledge of music theory, but really would like to give it a try and improve own musical/composition/songwriting skill. Shall we start our trip into the world of music?

Today is our first tutorial and we are going to start from the very beginning! We will learn how the music notes are placed on the keyboard, how are they called (their names), what a major scale is and how to create it. Before we carry on, we would suggest you to download the Piano Companion app to your device and open it. In case if you are still thinking about downloading the application and not ready yet, you can just open any other virtual keyboard. Having the keyboard in front of you will make an understanding of a topic much easier. However, when you open a “Piano Companion” you can see the following picture on you screen:

 Please choose a “Piano” button to open the keyboard.

Great! This is your piano roll and you can follow the tutorial. However, this a pure keyboard, with no note names on it. That is why we are including another picture with the same app’s keyboard but already named one. Please have a look below:

 As you can see, each key has a letter and those letters are the real names of the notes. There are only 7 letters/notes that you need to learn in this specific order:  C-D-E-F-G-A-B.  This pattern repeats again and again throughout the entire keyboard: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C an etc. Now, if you press the keys in this order, you will actually hear what we call a C Major scale. Note “C” itself and a “C Major scale” are the starting points for beginning of learning a music theory.

Take a look at the following screenshot from Scale Dictionary in Piano Companion:

 

You may have a question in your mind, why is this specific order which starts from the note “C” is called a “C Major scale”? To provide you with the answer to this question, we need to explain what the music scale is, isn’t it? In simple words, a music scale is a melody that consists of 7 notes (actually 8 notes, but the 8th note is always the same as the 1st note) but always arranged in ONE SPECIFIC ORDER.

Don’t be afraid, everything is not that complicated as it may sound! Have a look at all the white keys on the keyboard! One again, If you start on the “C” note and press white keys one by one, going from the left to the right until you reach a “C” note, this will be that SPECIFIC ORDER for a “C Major scale”. This order will help you to create any major scale in the future, but we will talk about that later on.

You’ve just had a chance of playing a “C Major scale” by pressing the “C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C” keys on your keyboard. So what can you tell about the actual sound? We are pretty sure that even if you’ve never heard a word – “Major Scale”, by playing it just now, you could have heard that it represents a happy, uplifting sound. Doesn’t it? And this is a truth! Any major scale – is all about happy sound. There is also one more interesting fact about it. A Major scale has another more specific name, rather than just a Major. It’s called – “Ionian”. If you stay tuned with our blog posts you will find out why is it called like that, but in the meantime, let’s answer to the main question: “How do we create a major scale?”

Please have a look at your keyboard in the application and look at this picture afterwards as well:

To create our “C Major scale” we had to leave out all the black keys. But these keys actually represent the necessary gaps to achieve this beautiful sound. From the picture above, you can see that there is a black key between “C” note and a “D” note, the same applies to “D and “E”, or “F” and “G” and etc.

These gaps between keys are called “tones” and “semitones”.  We can also call these gaps as “steps” to make it easier for understanding. For example: 1 semitone is one step between each key, whereas 1 tone = 2 semitones or two steps between keys.

 Let’s say we want to calculate how many steps there are from the “C” note to “D” note. Looking at the keyboard, it’s clearly seen that a journey from “C” (white key) to “D” (white key) first brings us to the black key in the middle. This is the first step/semitone. Then we arrive at the white D key, which represents another step/semitone. All this means that there are 2 steps/semitones between the “C” note and “D” note. If you check your keyboard carefully, you will detect that most of the notes from the “C Major scale” have gaps of 2 semitones. But here is only 1 step/semitone between the “E” and “F” note, as well as between “B” and “C” because these are not separated by a black key.

All you need to do, is just to calculate the gaps between each note/letter of the scale. Once you’ve done it, you will end up with these calculations:  2-2-1-2-2-2-1. THIS IS THE SPECIFIC PATTERN/ORDER for any Major scale. You can use it to create any Major scale starting from any note that you want. So, let’s practice by creating a “D Major scale”.

As it has already been told, we have to use a sequence  2-2-1-2-2-2-1 of steps/gaps to create another major scale. You can see the steps between semitones in the scale details:

It will be very useful if you take a piece of paper and write the 8 letter/note progression on a piece of paper, starting from “D” and going up until reach  a“D” again. This would look like:  D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D.

Great! Let’s start from a “D” and according to the order, our next note of the scale will be 2 steps/semitones away from the starting point. That means If we start from “D” and go up with 2 steps (the first step will be from D to black key D#, the 2nd step will be from D# to E), we reach our destination–note E.  Relying on the 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 order, the next step you need to make consist of 2 semitones too. From the note E we need to go up with 2 steps, which makes our destination F#. Please complete all the steps until you reach your second “D” note of the scale. You can check yourself by playing the notes that you’ve written down. Can you hear that the scale sounds like a major? If you are not sure, you can close your piano roll for a while, go back to the main menu of Piano Companion and choose “Reverse Scale Lookup”.

Then you will see a piano roll again on the left side of the screen. Press a “D” note on the keyboard. A dropdown menu will appear and you will need to choose a “D Major scale”. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to see this picture on your screen:

 Now, you can compare what notes have you written down for the “D Major scale” practice exercise and what the actual notes are. But we really hope that the information that we’ve provided for you today, was useful and your exercise was completed successfully.

The huge benefit of knowing how to create music scales, is that once you have created a music scale as well as  selected the notes which you will be working with, you can never go wrong if you use this 7 notes of the chosen scale, in your own songs/compositions.