Video: Major & Minor Scales Explained

When I first started studying music on a more serious basis a few years ago, I quickly discovered how needlessly confusing and convoluted most music theory explanations can be- especially to the “newbie”.

Music theory is a very complex subject and I started by reading several beginner books and researched various subjects on the internet and YouTube, but it was not until I started studying Harmony, reading books first by Walter Piston and then by Arnold Schoenberg, that things started making sense to me.

This is not to say that their books are simple- just the opposite- they are quite complex and detailed- and very dry for the most part, but I carried forward, reading 1000’s of pages a few pages a day over the course of about two years. I would add that both of these writers (who were also great composers in their time) have a very different approach from each other to the analysis of music- more about that in future articles.

Given that most aspiring musicians will never take the time to read such volumes, one of my goals is to simplify and abbreviate their teachings and also to add some ideas of my own to make these musical concepts accessible to all.

Above is a video I made in 2011. It has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube and has brought me over a 1000 subscribers to my channel. In a nutshell, I show how all of your major and minor scales are built from 3 primary chords (basic triads)- the ones on the 1st, 4th and 5th degrees of the root and how you can easily convert the scales one to the other by flattening or sharpening the thirds of each of these chords. I also show how these scales are used as the basis of our key signatures and how you calculate any scale simply by using a Circle of 5ths.

If you would like to download free Chord Charts that I made to accompany this video, you can click here.

I hope you find the video helpful and I intend to do many more- there are at present about 1/2 dozen more on my YouTube channel, I just gotta find the time!  This blog is easier to post to than making videos, so you will find more new content here than in video form.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to post them here and on YouTube.

Post written by Ed Hastie, Piano tuner, mover, reseller and instructor in Louisville, Ky.