Music Theory Building Blocks

Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semi-Tone

To me the above statement is as fundamental as it gets regarding music theory. It is the formula to build the Major scale, which virtually all the music I have listened to throughout my life has been based on. I can build a major scale on any of the 12 notes –

A, A/B, B , C , C/ D , D , D/ E , E , F , F/ G , G , G/ A

I’ve separated enharmonic equivalents with a /

A Semi-Tone is one move along the above 12 note horizontal ladder. A Tone is equal to two Semi-Tones

A – B= Semi-Tone                                      A – B = Tone

Each major scale key likes to be neatly organised into ♯s or♭s and keep to only one musical letter per note. For example F major – F, G, A, B♭, C, D, E. To call the B♭ an A♯ would be incorrect as there is already an A.

The formula works like this –

C + Tone = D + Tone = E + Semi-Tone = F + Tone = G + Tone = A + Tone = B + Semi-Tone = C

Applying the formula to the root note of C gives the notes – C,D,E,F,G,A,B. Otherwise known as C Major. Easily remembered as the key with no ♯s or♭s.

Starting with a different root note. For example G produces –

G + Tone = A + Tone = B + Semi-Tone = C + Tone = D + Tone = E + Tone = F# + Semi-Tone = G

Giving the notes G,A,B,C,D,E,F♯.

All of the major scale keys can be neatly arranged for easy memorization. Most famously as the ‘Cycle/Circle Of Keys’. I have my own diagram to display this, which is here –

Major Scale Keys Chart

I feel this, coupled with a basic understanding of intervals, arms me with a large musical weaponry which, allied with good technique, timing and tone, is the combination of the all round player.

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