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Thread: Scale steps doubt

  1. #1
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    Scale steps doubt

    Hello my friends

    I'm doing some exercises and the last one gave me some doubts.

    The author asks us:
    "Translate each of the following melodies into numbers by finding the scale step number of each note in relation to its key signature. One melody is in a major key, and the other is in a minor key-figure out which is which."

    The exercises are these (let's concentrate on the first one, for now):
    SCALE STEPS.jpg

    In the first melody, the key signature is G Major or E minor.

    If it's G Major, the scale steps are:

    6-3-4-1-3-1-2-1-7-1-6

    If it's E minor:

    1-5-6-3-5-3-4-3-2-3-1

    First doubt: In the staff, although the sharp is on the 5th line it also affects the second, right? Just to confirm.

    Second doubt: How do I know if the key signature is G Major or E minor?

    Third doubt: The author says that the first is E minor and the scale steps are 1-5-b6-b3-5-b3-4-b3-2-b3-1 (different from the ones I've found above).

    I need some help to understand this.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    -5-6-3-5-3-4-3-2-3-1

    First doubt: In the staff, although the sharp is on the 5th line it also affects the second, right? Just to confirm.
    All Fs everwhere are sharpened unless notated otherwise with an accidental (the second line from the bottom on the treble clef is G, though, if that's how you're counting them...)

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Second doubt: How do I know if the key signature is G Major or E minor?
    What sounds like "home"? For a clue, note it starts on E and ends on E, and 8 of the 11 notes played are Em chord tones.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Third doubt: The author says that the first is E minor and the scale steps are 1-5-b6-b3-5-b3-4-b3-2-b3-1 (different from the ones I've found above)
    You're counting the literal scale steps, he's counting the intervals from the root - so while you're saying G is the third note of the E minor scale, he's saying G is a minor third from E (both are true.)

    (This is somewhat analagous to the different roman numeral conventions for notating chords we were talking about the other day...in the key of Em some would call the G chord III, while others would call it bIII.)
    Last edited by walternewton; 04-10-2011 at 11:24 PM.

  3. #3
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    In general, most music theory courses encourage the student to learn the major scales before they explore the minor scales. The logic to this is that the major scales provide a basis / a frame of reference to study & understand the minor scales. If you are looking at minor scales before you've fully internalized the major scales, then you will run into lot's of confusion.

    cheers

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    All Fs everwhere are sharpened unless notated otherwise with an accidental (the second line from the bottom on the treble clef is G, though, if that's how you're counting them...)
    Now I'm confused when you say "unless notated otherwise with an accidental" do you mean a "natural" sign?
    And if "All Fs everwhere are sharpened unless notated otherwise", it means that the first space from the bottom is an F#. Right?

    What sounds like "home"? For a clue, note it starts on E and ends on E, and 8 of the 11 notes played are Em chord tones
    .

    Well, I didn't heard it. I was making the exercises on paper only. But what you've said about the notes makes sense.

    (This is somewhat analagous to the different roman numeral conventions for notating chords we were talking about the other day...in the key of Em some would call the G chord III, while others would call it bIII.)
    Ok, I understand now. We are working in E minor scale so, in this notation (the book uses all uppercase), the E minor scale is referenced to the E major scale. By other words, the E minor scales is 1-2-b3-4-5b6-b7 when compared (or referenced) to the E major scale.

    In the second example the scale is E major and the author says that the answer is 1-5-6-5-4-3-4-2-3-4-3-2-3-1. Here we don't use any flats or sharps because we are working in the reference it self (the major scale).

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Now I'm confused when you say "unless notated otherwise with an accidental" do you mean a "natural" sign?
    More generally speaking, I mean that the sharps or flats you find in the key signature apply to those notes found everywhere in the notation (in all octaves), unless "overridden" by any kind of accidental symbol - natural, sharp, flat, double sharp, double flat.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    And if "All Fs everwhere are sharpened unless notated otherwise", it means that the first space from the bottom is an F#. Right?
    Yes the first space from the bottom would be F#.

    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    Well, I didn't heard it. I was making the exercises on paper only.
    Remember to keep the MUSIC in your music theory - "major" and "minor" are about SOUNDS, not the arrangement of symbols on paper.
    Last edited by walternewton; 04-11-2011 at 12:34 AM.

  6. #6
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    In general, most music theory courses encourage the student to learn the major scales before they explore the minor scales. The logic to this is that the major scales provide a basis / a frame of reference to study & understand the minor scales. If you are looking at minor scales before you've fully internalized the major scales, then you will run into lot's of confusion.
    This came up from the exercise. It's something we've discussed before. The chapter they come from is called "Harmonizing the major scale". Maybe they are preparing for what comes next.

    More generally speaking, I mean that the sharps or flats you find in the key signature apply to those notes found everywhere in the notation (in all octaves), unless "overridden" by any kind of accidental symbol - natural, sharp, flat, double sharp, double flat.
    Ok, thanks. It's clear and as I always thought it would be.

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    We are working in E minor scale so, in this notation (the book uses all uppercase), the E minor scale is referenced to the E major scale. By other words, the E minor scales is 1-2-b3-4-5b6-b7 when compared (or referenced) to the E major scale.

    In the second example the scale is E major and the author says that the answer is 1-5-6-5-4-3-4-2-3-4-3-2-3-1. Here we don't use any flats or sharps because we are working in the reference it self (the major scale).
    In the assumption that this is true, just for curiosity, this Major scale "reference" relationship shall be used always when working with minor scales?

  8. #8
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    In the assumption that this is true, just for curiosity, this Major scale "reference" relationship shall be used always when working with minor scales?
    The only exception that I know of is relative to the use (by some people) of mixed-case roman numeral notation in minor key progressions. Music theory language and terminology is fundamentally defined in terms of the major scale, it's structure and it's diatonic progression. This is why the answer to most theory questions is to study the major scales. The major scale and all it has to offer is the foundation of (western) music theory language, structure and terminology.

    This has been said before by various people in various ways. You seem to be driven to find an exception to this rule.

    cheers,

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    The only exception that I know of is relative to the use (by some people) of mixed-case roman numeral notation in minor key progressions.
    Yes, in that case the "reference" is the scale itself, the one you're working on.

    This has been said before by various people in various ways. You seem to be driven to find an exception to this rule.
    When you explained this to me last week, I understood it and had a glimpse of the relationship between Major and Minor scales.
    Although I'm not worried right now with the minor scales, now I can see a "bridge" between both scales. I know sometimes it seems that I'm just "flying around" a subject without touching it but I'm just trying to see the full picture. Step by step I'm starting to understand you perseverance about the major scales and, obviously, you're right.

  10. #10
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I know sometimes it seems that I'm just "flying around" a subject without touching it but I'm just trying to see the full picture. Step by step I'm starting to understand you perseverance about the major scales and, obviously, you're right.
    The "full picture" is not perceivable from the outside using modes of logic taken from outside of music. Look, you've been exposed to western music most of your life, mostly on an emotional level. That exposure has built a false perception of what music is and how it works. Theory only deals with the mechanics of music, how things "fit" together on a musical level. This is a much more simple structure than the emotional organization that you reference to define music today.

    Mechanically music functions from within a ridiculously simple mechanism. But people not versed in music theory are not able to see the simplicity because they are looking for an explanation for the complexity they experience on the emotional level and because they are looking at music with an inappropriate frame of reference. One doesn't "see the big picture" relative to yoga or meditation from outside those disciplines either. The fastest way for an adult to "see inside the music" is to study theory, take it's rules at face value and use it's inherent logic and structure to view the subject matter.

    Then you will come to see that the "big picture" is actually quite small. It's only the potential permutations and myriad emotional effects that are seemingly limitless. Happy hunting!

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    Mechanically music functions from within a ridiculously simple mechanism. But people not versed in music theory are not able to see the simplicity because they are looking for an explanation for the complexity they experience on the emotional level and because they are looking at music with an inappropriate frame of reference.
    Jed, I'm not sure if I'm fully understanding what you mean.
    I already noticed that everything, at least everything that I already learned here, revolves around the major scales. They are the origin of everything. Basically, everything that I've learned are just different ways to present the major scales or their variations. At the beginning, when I was taking all of you, especially JonR, to madness with my questions, everything seemed really confusing but now I'm finding it very simple. Sometimes it happens to learn new things that are confusing, but in the end, it becomes simple because, once again, it's all variations of what I've learned.
    Maybe I'm seeing things from the wrong perspective, I really don't know, but so far it allows me to, at least, see the music I do and hear from a different perspective.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarata View Post
    I already noticed that everything, at least everything that I already learned here, revolves around the major scales. They are the origin of everything.
    Everything in western music, yes, at least since the renaissance.
    That system is, of course, the one that our music theory is based on: in brief, the concept of TONALITY, or KEYS.
    A key can be major or minor, of course, but minor tends to be treated as secondary, as a kind of sidekick of major. Major = Batman, minor = Robin, if you like.

    As Jed says, the big picture is pretty simple. It's just that the jigsaw has a lot of pieces, so until it's complete (or near complete) it can look messy or complicated, with different parts not connecting.
    But learning the major scale (and what comes from it) is a little like sortiing out the corner and edge pieces of the jigsaw first. (Large central sections too, I guess.)

    The fascinating thing about music - for me - is that we all understand it when we hear it (assuming we've heard music of a similar kind before). We don't need any theory at all to be able to appreciate it fully. (Otherwise music would be very much a minority pursuit, not a universal part of culture.)
    We just need to listen - although some kinds of music require harder (or more) listening than others.

    Theory is what we need as musicians, to enable us to analyse it, break it down, and learn how to make it ourselves.

    To pursue (and maybe overstretch!) the jigsaw analogy, the average non-musician listener appreciates music like they might look at the picture on the jigsaw box. We musicians have to open the box and tip the pieces out - and then try and put them together. Thus certain details become critical to us, which might seem trivial or irrelevant to non-musicians.

  13. #13
    bitter old fool Jed's Avatar
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    Jon,

    Thanks for your comments. I struggle with how to describe just how simple music theory is once the student gets past the "memorization of the major scales" challenge. rbarata's desire to view the "big picture" first - is a great idea but just not possible since the "big picture" is that very small kernel of tonal functionality that is obscured by the myriad keys and note names. In other words, it's not the big picture that has value but the little picture that defines tonal functionality. The big picture is just a bunch of small pictures linked together.

    Quote Originally Posted by JonR View Post
    To pursue (and maybe overstretch!) the jigsaw analogy, the average non-musician listener appreciates music like they might look at the picture on the jigsaw box. We musicians have to open the box and tip the pieces out - and then try and put them together. Thus certain details become critical to us, which might seem trivial or irrelevant to non-musicians.
    To take Jon's jigsaw analogy just a bit further (too far?): Imagine that there are only so many shapes available for the pieces. And once you know the available shapes, sorting out the puzzle becomes even more simple. Our concept of tonality uses just seven notes out of a total of twelve possible notes. But these twelve note have as many as 15 note names. This is all far to complicated so we simplify and it's in the simplified view that we see how everything fits.

    If we look at the problem based on all the many possibilities, then things can look very complicated. But in a tonal setting, not all notes are created equal - so things are simplified. Further still, there are common sequences of chords - which in turn describe regular patterns of regular groups of notes - simplifying things even more, but only to the trained eye. To the uninitiated, this whole system seems obscured and overly complicated. But to the musician trained in the fundamentals of music theory (the major scales) - it's all quite simple, predictable and able to be manipulated.

    cheers,

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    [...] Our concept of tonality uses just seven notes out of a total of twelve possible notes. But these twelve note have as many as 15 note names. [...]
    Jed --
    I'm finding I need as many as 19 names for the 12 notes, just in order to spell the 12 or 13 major scales one time around the Circle of Fifths.

    The chromatic scale with all sharps makes 12:
    (A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G#)

    add in five enharmonic equivalents for the flat scales:
    (Bb Db Eb Gb Ab)

    And to spell Gb and/or F# scales using a unique letter per step, I find I need:
    (Cb and/or E#)

    ... and there are of course perfectly good reasons for using double flats and double sharps further down the road. Don't mean to nitpick; I may need enlightenment .. Enjoy your posts as always.

    woody
    Last edited by xyzzy; 04-12-2011 at 04:52 PM. Reason: formatting issues

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    ...the "big picture" is that very small kernel of tonal functionality that is obscured by the myriad keys and note names.
    Can you give me one or two simple examples of this functionality justo so that I can understand what are we talking about?

    Is it, for example, the tonal "hierarchy" between different chords, relatively to the key and, inside them, the tonal "hierarchy" between notes of an interval (consonance and dissonance)?

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