Grade Two Music Theory Lesson 8: Writing Scales
In Grade Two Music Theory there are lots of different types of questions with scales.
Here are some things you might have to do:
- Write a major or minor scale either ascending or descending, and either with or without a key signature.
- Add clefs, key signatures or accidentals to a given scale.
Now we've learnt about the pattern of tones and semitones in major, minor harmonic and minor melodic scales, and about the key signatures and clefs needed, we just need to practice each type of question which might come up in the grade two music theory exam.
Writing Scales in a Music Theory Exam
Here are two important rules for you:
- Write ONE note per line or space
- Use semibreves (whole notes)
Here's an example question, and the steps to follow to get full marks in your music theory exam:
- Whatever the scale is, the first thing you need to do is put in your starting note (the tonic, or "keynote"). If you're writing an ascending scale, start low. For descending scales, start high. Make sure you leave enough room on the left for the key signature, if you need one.
- Next, using semibreves (whole notes), fill up the lines and spaces - one note per line/space, until you have eight notes. Don't draw the notes too close together!
- Look again at the type of scale you need to write - is it major or minor? Think about the sharps and flats you'll need for that scale - what sharps or flats appear in the key signature? Do you need to add any extra accidentals?
- Major scales and and minor melodic descending scales don't need any extra accidentals. Minor harmonic scales need ONE sharpened note on the 7th degree of the scale, and minor melodic ascending scales need TWO sharpened notes on the 6th and 7th degrees of the scale. ("Sharpened" is not the same as "sharp". A "sharpened" natural is a sharp, but a "sharpened" flat is a natural. "Sharpened" means "raised by one semitone".)
- Put in the key signature, if you've been asked to write one. Now add any necessary accidentals. (Note - you'll NEVER write a flat as an accidental in a scale with a key signature - only sharps and naturals are possible.
Sometimes you'll be asked to write in the clef of a scale. Look at the first note and the key signature of the scale. Decide if the first note must be treble or bass clef:
In this scale, the first note needs to be a G, so we should write a treble clef:
Working Through a Music Theory Exam Question on Scales
Let's work together through the scales question at the beginning of this lesson, using the steps we suggested above.
1) We write the first note: A. It's an ascending scale, so we start with an A low on the stave:
2) We'll fill up the lines and spaces, until we have 8 notes:
3) We need to write a minor scale, without a key signature. (We'll choose A minor harmonic.) A minor has no sharps or flats in the key signature, like its relative major, C major.
4 & 5) Minor harmonic scales have an accidental sharpened 7th degree of the scale, so we need a G sharp. Let's put it in.
That's our finished scale of A minor (harmonic) ascending.