› Major and Minor Scales

10 Major & Minor Scales the Easy Way

Here is a very easy exercise to learn to play major and minor scales on the piano!



In just 3 steps the piano exercise takes you through the first 5 major scales, then the 5 parallel (not relative) harmonic minor scales.

You will quickly learn 10 (out of 24) scales, and you will at the same time have learned the basic fingering patterns that will make it easier to learn the rest!

The scales in the exercise all share the same piano fingering, so when you have learned them, you have learned 10 out of 24 major and minor scales and improved your fingering skills at the same time! 

The rest of the scales change fingerings, but they will be much easier to learn once you get used to playing this basic fingering pattern.

Free Video Lesson: How to Play a Major Scale

Start with this video lesson and quickly learn the basics of how a major scale is built and played on the piano. Then follow each step below, and you will have learned 10 major and minor scales in no time!

Step 1:

  • Starting with the C major scale in one octave. This is what we could call a “template” for all the other scales. (It is also called the Ionian scale).
  • With your right hand (if you are left handed you should start with your left hand, see below.), play finger nr. 1 (the thumb) on C.
  • Finger 2 on D, finger 3 on E, then slide your thumb under and continue with finger 1 on F, 2 on G, 3 on A, 4 on B and finally finish with 5 on C one octave higher. 
  • The fingering pattern you use is: 123-12345.
  • Practice to play several times going up the scale to really set the pattern and fingering, then take the same road down: 54321-321.
  • All set?
  • OK. Now practice your left hand the opposite way.
  • Start with finger 5 (pinkie) on a lower C, then play upwards with fingers: 4321 slide over your 3rd finger and continue 321. Practice several times going up and then going down.
  • Finish each scale after playing up and down, with a major chord (Triad):  Why? Because it sounds good! Here's how:
  • Play simultaneously the notes on the 1st,3rd and 5th step of the scale. For example; when you have played the C major scale up and down you will finish with the notes C-E-G using fingers 1-3-5 in your right hand: (For left the order is 5-3-1)

After you have learned to play the C major scale and it's triad  in each hand fluently, you are ready for...

Step 2:

After finishing each of the piano scales on a chord, you will find the first note of your next scale on the 5th note. From C that was G. So now we will play the G major scale.

 Remember this simple rule

Playing each new scale a 5th up from the previous, (follows the Circle of the fifths by the way) lets you keep exactly the same notes you used before- with one exception- the 7th step must always be raised ½ step higher each new scale!

  • When playing the G major scale you will use all the white keys- as in C major- and the same fingering as well, except for the 7th step in the scale; the F will be changed to F#.
  • That’s it! Finish with the G major chord.
  • What’s your 5th note? Right! D!

Let's continue:

  • The D major scale shares the same notes/ keys on the piano as G major.
  • So, we now have F# from before. PLUS one more new “black” key on the 7th step: C#.
  • Finish the scale in D major with a chord (Remember that the F is F#)?

OK. Again… our next scale is… (5th note up from D) A major!

  • Great job! So what “old” black keys do we keep? F# and C#.
  • And the new one? On the 7th step- remember? A-B-C#-D-E-F#.....G#(NEW!)- and A.
  • Play the A major chord (It has a C# in the middle!!).

Next and final scale with the same fingering in major: E major!

  • Old raised “inherited” keys? F#, C#, G#.
  • What is the new one? D#! You got it!

Now make sure to practice these scales every day in each hand for 2-3 days. Then get back here and I’ll show you more!

Step 3:

Remember

For harmonic minor, the major scale needs to lower the 3rd and 6th step. Both when ascending and descending the scale. Sometimes you need to use a black key, sometimes a white (when the 3rd or the 6th is already black). Just go ½ step down to the left.

Adding up to 10 Major and Minor Scales

Do you know your 5 major scales fluently now?

All right- let us continue with 5 minor scales.

  • First, play and review a C major scale with your right hand.
  • Notice where the 3rd and the 6th steps are. These steps will be lowered ½ step. This will create a “harmonic” minor scale.
  • So, let’s play: C-D-E: E is on the 3rd step, so we need to lower E to Eb.  Then F-G-A: A is on the 6th step, so we need to lower A to Ab. Then B and back to C an octave higher. Cool!

The harmonic scale gives a very special “snake charming” sound- don’t you think? Beautiful!

  • Now, your next scale is G. Play first the G major scale to review-  then the harmonic minor by lowering the 3rd and the 6th notes as above.
  • Continue in the same way with D, A and E major and make them harmonic minor with lowered 3rds and 6ths.

Congratulations! You can now play 10 major and minor scales on the piano!

Where to go from here?

  1. Learn to play the piano scales both hands together. It is a little tricky to change fingers not at the same time, but you will soon learn. Here is a helpful exercise.
  2. Learn to play 2 octaves hands separately. Simply do not play finger 5 unless you will turn or stop. Right hand pattern going up (ascending) will look like this:123-1234-123-12345 and down (descending): 54321-321-4321-321.Left hand: (reversed): 54321-321-4321-321 and down: 123-1234-123-12345.
  3. Learn both hands together 2 octaves.

By now you are more than ready to learn more major and minor scales where the fingering will change slightly.

Continue with The 12 Major Scales, lesson and printable PDF's for easy practice.

Recommended Resources

Here is a great book with lots of help and advice on how to practice and learn major and minor scales and chords, combined with a healthy dose of music theory: Piano Essentials: Scales, Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences for the Contemporary Pianist (Book & CD)







Related Pages

Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

› Major and Minor Scales

Recent Articles

  1. Electronic Piano Keyboard Lessons

    Dec 03, 16 03:44 PM

    I am interested in lessons, etc, for an electronic keyboard (Casio LK230). I am a true beginner---74-years-old and NO experience whatsoever. But always

    Read More

  2. Czerny op 599

    Dec 03, 16 03:17 PM

    Dear Maria, Hi, thanks for this useful website. I have been taking piano lessons for nearly 2 years. I have finished Beyer and now I am practicing Czerny

    Read More

  3. Favorite Piano Quotes

    Dec 03, 16 11:57 AM

    Have a quote you love? Something that inspires your piano playing? Here is a collection with favorite piano quotes, for inspiration and motivation.

    Read More

Subscribe for Updates

Subscribe to our e-zine "The Piano Player", and get occasional updates with tips and tools for beginner piano players. You'll get a free e-book with piano playing tips too!