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#2182367 - 11/14/13 03:47 PM Working Out Scales
alexh7686 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/26/13
Posts: 13
Hi all, I was wondering if anyone had any tips or a link to some reading on how to work out what scale I am playing in. I was just playing the piano and came up with a little tune I liked and wanted to expand on it but I'm just playing by ear with what sounds good so it's taking quite some time.

I only really know the major scales at the moment and with the notes I'm playing it doesn't fit into any of them. I'd rather be able to work it out for myself than someone just telling me I'm playing in this scale but if you want the notes I'm playing I can give them.

Thanks in advance.

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#2182426 - 11/14/13 06:06 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
earlofmar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1638
Loc: Australia
You could use the Circle of Fifths as your guide. This will show you all common scales with the relative minor. Identifying the sharps or flats in your piece and lining those up with the different scales should help. If you can't find it from the major scales you already know chances are it may be a minor scale.
_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano
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#2182468 - 11/14/13 08:00 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
riley80 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/03/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Florida
Can you do-re-mi it? That's how I usually get oriented, for a start. Not sure if it's kosher, but it seems to work for me.

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#2182473 - 11/14/13 08:21 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
Rusty Fortysome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/25/11
Posts: 194
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: alexh7686
I was just playing the piano and came up with a little tune I liked and wanted to expand on it but I'm just playing by ear with what sounds good so it's taking quite some time.

I only really know the major scales at the moment and with the notes I'm playing it doesn't fit into any of them. I'd rather be able to work it out for myself than someone just telling me I'm playing in this scale but if you want the notes I'm playing I can give them.


It COULD be the scale of ALEXH7686!

There is only one rule to any scale: it keeps to its own logic across all key signatures. Or so I believe. Someone probably broke that rule already and I'm too noob to know.

MAJOR goes : W-W-H-W-W-W-H
(W=whole step=going over two keys/H=half step=going one key up)
You can work it out by seeing how you progress on C Maj across one octave.
MINOR is merely the MAJOR scale shifted down 3 H(alf steps). C Major is A Minor…. or is A Minor actually C Major?!?

MINOR goes : W-H-W-W-H-W-W (note the same pattern as Major, merely displaced along the keyboard).

Each Major has a Minor equivalent. Easy, yeh? Minor is said to be the 6th MODE of Major: start on the 6th not of the Major and you have the Minor (or drop back three H and start the major there. Same thing.)

There are then 5 other modes of that type of scale. DORIAN starts on the second note, etc. You play the same scale, but the D Dorian is just C Major.

Those are your very basic scales. Next come trickier ones with a different spacing of notes. BLUES scales, MELODIC scales, DIMINISHED scales, etc.

And, you can make your own. Just do it. But, be consistent. You might be able to just be forgiving and say "I'm using a G Major with an E flat thrown in for goodness." There's probably some name for that already, like G MAJ Dim-6 or something.

Make it sound good, but create your own logic for how to play it. It's YOUR reality you are laying down for the listener. Just make sure it has a logic so it doesn't become atonal or too dissonant. Unless you intend to make it so.


Edited by Rusty Fortysome (11/14/13 08:22 PM)
_________________________
Currently working on/memorizing...
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#2182572 - 11/14/13 11:14 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: Rusty Fortysome]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1389
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
If you can record the song (just with an audio recorder -- nothing fancy] and post it on this website, or on:

soundcloud.com

we can listen to it, and probably figure out what key it's in.

If you can write it down in standard musical notation, we can figure out what key it's in.

Anything else is like blind men feeling an elephant.

. Charles

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#2183032 - 11/15/13 07:10 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: Charles Cohen]
alexh7686 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/26/13
Posts: 13
I apologise for the quality of the sheet I've never tried to write one before and the program I had never used. I hope it's at least somewhat readable. At the tenth bar the timing rhythm gets all messed up but the notes are correct.

http://postimg.org/image/buaxe3ae1/

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#2183065 - 11/15/13 08:44 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1389
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
FWIW (I don't have a piano in front of me) --

It feels like "G minor", which has the same key signature as "B flat major" -- E-flat and B-flat.

I never thought about a "rule" to figure out the key signature, but -- by and large --:

. . . The "correct" key signature is the one that makes the most accidentals disappear.

So, with your score, the first part needs a b-flat and an e-flat in the key signature.

The second part looks like it modulates into F or B-flat.

. Charles

PS -- this could all change when I get back to my keyboard! And not every piece is easy to classify into a "key".

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#2183070 - 11/15/13 08:57 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1894
Loc: Pennsylvania
Originally Posted By: alexh7686
I apologise for the quality of the sheet I've never tried to write one before and the program I had never used. I hope it's at least somewhat readable. At the tenth bar the timing rhythm gets all messed up but the notes are correct.

http://postimg.org/image/buaxe3ae1/


Well, a tried and true method is to look to see what the last note of the piece is and that could be the key it is in.

In this case, Bb.

Other parts of it do not seem to contradict that possibility.

I vote for Bb.
_________________________
Don

Current: ES7, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 audio device, SennHeiser HD555 Phones, Focal CMS 40 Powered Monitors, Ravenscroft275, Ivory II American Concert D, Pianoteq 5

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#2183080 - 11/15/13 09:19 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2409
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
This isn't diatonic harmony. There isn't an easily identifiable key centre.

The bass G doesn't easily fit the RH melody unless it's G Locrian, perhaps. A Bb bass would have put you in Bb minor.

The C# in M2 is a Db and makes the Eb major in M3 a bit awkward if the cadence is on the F. If you were in F minor or Ab you wouldn't have started on G and if F is the dominant you'd have had a Bb bass in M1 and the c#/Db wouldn't be there.

The change to Eb minor in M7 closing on D in M8 has nothing to do with the previous key and the naturals that follow it are dissonant to the Bb bass.

This is atonal.
_________________________
Richard

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#2183086 - 11/15/13 09:26 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
Locrian! Atonal! Sign me up!

I might have been listening to too much Pierrot Lunaire...

But seriously, I like things that stretch the edges of music and don't go as expected. And the poor neglected Locrian mode I think deserves more attention. Any key whose tonic chord is DIMINISHED has got to be wonderful (says the lover of diminished chords).
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Ebaug(maj7)

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#2183090 - 11/15/13 09:40 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: dmd]
alexh7686 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/26/13
Posts: 13
Originally Posted By: dmd
Originally Posted By: alexh7686
I apologise for the quality of the sheet I've never tried to write one before and the program I had never used. I hope it's at least somewhat readable. At the tenth bar the timing rhythm gets all messed up but the notes are correct.

http://postimg.org/image/buaxe3ae1/


Well, a tried and true method is to look to see what the last note of the piece is and that could be the key it is in.

In this case, Bb.

Other parts of it do not seem to contradict that possibility.

I vote for Bb.




It only ends in Bb as I haven't finished it. I was just practicing leaps and thought best to know what scale at least I'm in to make it a bit simpler by knowing roughly where to go. By the sounds of it it doesn't seem to sit anywhere in the more common styles of playing. At least it'll have an unexpected feel to it.

I listened to a few atonal tracks on YouTube and wasn't a fan. Hope my ears aren't just playing tricks on me because I'm playing. I really should invest in some sort of recording device so I can hear what I play when not thinking of anything else.

Thanks for the help. thumb

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#2183106 - 11/15/13 10:26 PM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: alexh7686]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3181
Loc: Maine
alexh7686, there are many ways of being atonal. So you can dislike what you've heard on YouTube, but still like what you're creating. Just because something can't be stuck in the narrow box of a specific major or minor key doesn't mean it can't be delightful. Maybe better ways to describe your piece will be that it's floating through many key centers, or that it has a lot of chromaticism, or that it eschews traditional chord progressions... all sorts of lovely things it can be doing.
_________________________
Ebaug(maj7)

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#2183217 - 11/16/13 05:19 AM Re: Working Out Scales [Re: PianoStudent88]
alexh7686 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/26/13
Posts: 13
Don't worry about that, I wasn't dismissing the whole style of music based on only a few pieces I listened too. I like to think I gave all styles a fair chance and listen to quite a variety.

Still think the recording device will be beneficial as I'll be able to just listen to what I'm playing. As I've only been playing a few months I'm still thinking about what keys I need to play next. It isn't automatic yet as I've not been playing long enough for it to be engrained in my mind to be able to do it without thinking.

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