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Grade Three Music Theory - Lesson 3: Scales (Trinity)

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Major Scales

You should already be familiar with the scales of C, G and F major, as these are on the Trinity syllabus for grades 1 and 2.

All major scales are built using this pattern of tones (T) (whole steps) and semitones (S) (half steps):


The first new scale in grade three music theory is D major. D major has two sharps: F# and C#.

11 major scales clip image002 0006


The other new major scale we’re going to learn is Bb major.

Bb has got two flats: Bb and Eb. Here is the scale going up, and going down, for one octave. 

Don’t forget, you need to know your scales in the bass clef too!

b flat major ascending descending


Minor Scales

You should already be familiar with the minor scales in the keys of A, E and D. For grade three, you also need to know the minor scales with two sharps or flats in the key signature:

  • B minor
  • G minor

In grade two music theory we learnt that there are two types of minor scales, the harmonic minor and the natural minor. For grade 3, we will learn a third type of minor scale – the melodic minor.

  • The harmonic minor has the pattern T-S-T-T-S-3S-S (3S = 3 semitones).
  • The natural minor has the pattern T-S-T-T-S-T-T

Don’t forget, you can work out the patterns by looking at the scales of C major, or A minor. C major uses only the white notes on the piano, starting on C. A natural minor also only uses the white notes, but starting on A. The harmonic A minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale, except it has G# instead of G natural (one black note). Once you have figured out the pattern of tones and semitones, you can use it to work out any other scale of the same type!

Here is the scale of B minor harmonic, with the tones and semitones marked, going up and going down. B minor harmonic has C#, F# and A# in it. Notice that we use A# and not Bb – this is because we should only use each letter of the alphabet once in each scale (apart from the top and bottom notes).

b minor harmonic ascending

b minor harmonic descending

And this is the scale of G minor harmonic, in treble and bass clefs.

g minor harmonic treble clef

g minor harmonic bass clef


Melodic Minor Scales

Let’s take a look at how to build a melodic minor scale. Melodic minor scales are quite unusual, because they use one set of notes on the way up, and another set of notes on the way down.

The ascending (rising) scale is similar to the harmonic minor scale. The only difference is that the 6th note of the scale is raised by one semitone with an accidental. Compare B minor harmonic and melodic:

b minor harmonic melodic ascending


The 6th note is G natural in the harmonic minor scale, but in the melodic minor scale is it raised to G# with an accidental. Notice again that we use G# and not Ab, because we need to use each letter only once.

Here is the scale of G minor ascending, in the harmonic and melodic forms:

g minor harmonic melodic ascending

In the harmonic minor scale, the 6th note is Eb. In the melodic minor scale, this rises by one semitone to E natural. (We don’t need to use an accidental in this case).


The descending (falling) melodic minor scales are identical to the natural minor scales going down.

Here is B melodic minor ascending and descending. Notice that on the way down, two notes are different from the ascending scale: the 6th and 7th degrees. Remember that when a scale is going down, the degrees of the scale will be backwards. The 6th and 7th degrees of the B minor scale are A(#) and G(#).

b minor melodic treble clef


Here is B minor melodic in the bass clef:

b minor melodic bass clef


And here is G minor melodic:

G minor melodic treble
G minor melodic bass

Do have a go at playing these scales on your instrument, if you haven’t already! Pay particular attention to the changes at the top end of the melodic minor scale.

The names of “harmonic” and “melodic” minor refer to the way the scales are used in music. We tend to use the notes from the harmonic minor scale to create harmony, or chords. On the other hand, we use the melodic minor scale patterns within melody, or tunes. The natural minor scale (ascending form) is most often heard in folk and pop music, and much less often in the classical style.


Trinity Grade 3 Scales Exercises 

Exercise 1

Using semibreves (whole notes), write one octave of the following scales, beginning on the tonic. Do not use a key signature, but add any sharps or flats as necessary.

a) Bb major going up.

scales trinity 1

b) G melodic minor going down.

scales trinity 2

c) D major going down.

 scales trinity 3


Exercise 2

Name the following scales e.g. "C major". If the scale is minor, say which type of minor (harmonic, melodic or natural) it is.

Hover over the scale to reveal the answer (tap on touch screen devices).


scales trinity 4


scales trinity 5


scales trinity 6

For more exercises, download the Trinity Grade 3 PDF here!




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