Learn 10 Major and Minor Scales
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) major and minor 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!
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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:
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...
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
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!
D major scale shares the same notes/ keys on the piano as G major.
we now have F# from before. PLUS one more new “black” key on the 7th
- Finish the scale in D major with a chord (Remember that the 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#,
- 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!
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.
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!
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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)