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Blog » Piano and Music Theory Part 05

11th May 2012  |  5 comments

Last week in Piano and Music Theory Part 04 we looked at 3 different minor scales; the natural minor, harmonic minor and the melodic minor. If you remember I said we would recap the mysterious melodic minor...

As we discovered the melodic minor uses a different tonal pattern depending on whether you are ascending or descending the scale. The example below shows a C melodic minor scale (ascending) with its flattened 3rd key.

Of course this is only true while ascending the scale, while descending the scale the pattern reverts back to the C natural minor (see below). Why? I hear you ask... good question! You'll see this happens a lot when composers write melodies in minor keys.

The Whole Tone

The last scale I want to take a look at (for a while at least) is the Whole Tone scale which uses a pattern where all tones are spaced equally apart by 1 whole tone (whole step). Try playing this scale on the piano and you will soon discover it's eerie, uneasy nature. This is due to the scale having no 'leading tone' (because all tones are evenly spaced apart). The image below shows a Whole tone scale which starts on the C key.

Only a short post today! hope thats ok (I am in the process of moving house). I will be back next week to talk all about intervals... Until then keep practicing all the scales we have covered so far and please let me know if you are finding these posts useful!

Written by Steve Heath of Wave Alchemy

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Excellent thanks for the response guys really appreciated. I should know this by now but I still get the differentiation between scale and key back to front. Clarification very helpful
Wave Alchemy
For your second question the answer is yes if you want to be strict and stick to the Melodic minor scale, of course rules are there to be broken! I hope this helps...
Wave Alchemy
Hi Nick! glad you are finding these posts useful. Your question regarding Beatport is a good one... Beatport actually shows the "key" of a track rather than the scale. The difference between musical key and scales can be confusing at first (perhaps this is a good idea for a future post!). In summary "key" describes the root note (tonic) of a track / song while "scale" refers to specific patterns of notes...
As a quick extension to the last question. For the Melodic Minor how does that translate to a real world scenario - does it literally mean if a jump up in pitch from whatever key I have pressed I can use any note complying up the scale and if I choose to jump down in pitch at any point in my melody then I can only only choose notes from the revised set of notes used going down the scale? (that's assuming we discount accidentals and passing notes)
Another great post in this massively useful series - one thing I would like to check. Beatport shows the scale of a given track. Its often minor(Gm, Bbm etc). How do you discern if the composer has used Natural vs Melodic vs Harmonic. Or if thats not easy without a great ear what's the most likely one chosen?

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