Now, let me give you a little heads-up about those "key signatures."
Play the C-major scale, which of course is "all white keys, beginning and ending with C." But, as you do so, notice the black keys.
Notice how they lie in-between each of the notes except
two: there is no black key between E
, and there is no black key between B
and the C
of the next octave.
When a black key does
lie between two notes, we call this a whole
step. When it does not, it is a half
step. So our scale consists of five whole-steps and two half-steps. And what I'd like you to notice, now, is that there is a pattern here: W-W-H-W-W-W-H
Well, this "pattern" is(!) a
Now, start with any note other
and figure out what notes you must play in order to create the same pattern
of whole and half steps. You will immediately realize that you are now playing one or more of the black keys, and skipping-over one or more of the white keys. And, this is how and why
we have "key signatures." These are the notes that need to be "flattened" or "sharped" in order to produce the same pattern
of whole and half steps if you want to start and end your scale on that particular note. This pattern
is the reason why
"it sounds like a major scale."
(You also can't help but notice, as you look at the various key-signatures, that there is also a pattern
to the way that the sharps or flats are added as we go from one key to the next. Welcome to the "Circle of Fifths!")
Western Music theory is heavily based on [higher ...] mathematics, and that means patterns.
I could go on – for instance to say that "modes" consist of a circular rotation
of that same pattern. For instance, start playing "all white notes" but this time begin and end with A
You have a minor scale
. But what happened to the pattern of sharps and flats? It rotated
to become: W-H-W-W-H-W-W
. And this is why
it "sounds like a minor scale." (Technically, one of three such scales in practical use.)
Like all modes, it has a funny pig-Latin name that students are forced to memorize, but that working musicians commonly call "mode #6."
But, that's enough music theory for one post.