First of all what is a scale?
A scale is simply a set of ordered notes, chosen among the 12 notes within the octave.
The chromatic scale
What is a chromatic scale ?
The chromatic scale is the collection of all 12 notes within the octave.
Playing a chromatic scale simply means to play all 12 notes (12 semitones) from one note up to the same note at the next octave.
What is a Diatonic scale ?
The Diatonic is a seven note octave -repeating musical scale comprising five whole steps and two half steps for each octave, in which the two half steps are separated from each other by either two or three whole steps. The diatonic scale is most familiar as the major or the “natural” minor scale.
The Major Scale
How do we build a major scale ?
1 stands for a semitone, 2 stands for a tone (or 2 semitones)
2 2 1 2 2 2 1
This means 1 tone (2) between the first and second note, 1 tone (2) between the second and third note, 1 semi-tone (1) between the third and forth note and so on.
The first note of is also called the first degree of a scale, the second note the second degree and so on.
Degrees are often written with Roman numeral: I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII.
For example this is the C major:
So in the key of C major C is degree I, D is degree II and so on.
The first note of a scale is also called the root or the tonic.
In many cases it’s more convenient to think in terms of scales degrees rather than note names, because the note names change with the key, while the degrees are always the same, since they simply describe the position of a note within a scale.
To build a Major scale do the following:
Start from the root note (ex: A, B, C# etc.) which gives the name of the scale.
Use all 7 note names (C D E etc), once each, starting from the root.
Add flats an sharps where required to produce the interval structure for the major scale.
2 2 1 2 2 2 1 between the scale degrees.
At the picture below you have the major natural for all 12 semitones
You don’t need to memorize all the above mentioned now, but you should understand the logic because you will need it very often.
The Minor Scale
How do we build a minor scale ?
To create the minor natural start the major scale from the 6th degree. In every natural major scale, the 6th degree is called the relative minor. For example: A is the relative minor of C major. B is the relative minor of D and so on. You can simply use the table above.
In a future article I am going the above mentioned from 3 points of view : intervals, degrees and notes, so you can see 3 basic approaches to scale understanding and comprehending.
For a complete scale comprehending and understanding of the major scale, minor scale and chromatic scale you should visit this place.