Questions & answers

This Q&A section is made to help you understand how the scales are presented on this site and how to interpret the information.

How a keyboard diagram is interpreted?

The typical keyboard diagram on this site contains 25 keys (15 white and 10 black) which makes it two octaves (see picture below).
C major scale diagram
Two octaves are used for being able to use the same template over and over for different scales.

Keys colored blue means that they are included in the scale. Only one octave is used to present the notes in the scale, but that doesn’t mean that the scale only include one octave. The reason for showing the scales on one octave is to simplify the reading of the diagrams (you can play the same notes on all octaves).

The diagram are not to be misunderstood as the part not colored in blue, of the next octave, doesn’t belong to the scale.
C Major
All white keys on the keyboard are a part of the C Major scale, but for simplifying matters only one octave is colored (see picture above).

Where on the keyboard should the scales be played?

The diagrams don’t show all the keyboard since it would take up too much space (a full size keyboard consists of 88 keys), and neither is it necessary. A certain scale can be played in all octaves on the piano in the same pattern.

Why are eight and not seven notes included in most scales?

For example C Major are presented with the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C instead of C, D, E, F, G, A, B. Both variants would be alright, the reason for the choice made on is that when exercising on a scale it is natural to include the second C when returning and play descending or playing over several octaves like: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C …

This doesn’t mean, however, that a C Major includes two C notes and only one D, for example.

What does “Fingerings (LH)” and “Fingerings (RH)” stand for?

Fingerings are instructions for which fingers that would be used, see fingerings. “LH” and “RH” are abbreviations for left hand and right hand.

Why are double-sharps and double-flats sometimes used and sometimes not?

The use of double-sharps (e.g. F##) and double-flats (e.g. Bbb) are not always used in the "Notes" directly under the diagrams since it could confuse beginners. They could instead sometimes be found further down the pages in the overviews of notes.

General questions

What is the use of scales?

The scales are the way to melodies, solos, licks and improvisation. Without knowledge of scales it is much harder to improvise and find melodies. By knowing scales, on the other hand, means that you have the knowledge of which notes that could be played together – you can stop guessing.

Scales are fundamental and used in almost any music style. A guitarist playing flamenco music, a saxophonist playing jazz or a pianist playing pop songs often use scales.

What piano scales are most important to learn?

Since it is impossible to memorize all scales, you must be selective. How many scales you learn is depends also on your ambitions - if you play piano only a few hours a week it would probably be hard to keep all that many scales in your memory. The first scales to learn is the major scales, these are the key to understand keys and to get a better understanding how melodies are constructed. You could also start improvising your own songs after you have learned these scales.

Otherwise, the scales to learn should be decided upon your musical preferences. If you like blues, you ought to study the pentatonic blues scales.

How to memorize scales?

This is the hard part. As said earlier, the numbers of scales you could hold in memory depends on how often you play. If you learn five categories of scales and take a break a couple of weeks there is of course a risk that you will have problem to recapitulate all of them. In other words, you need to learn scales and when keep repeating them.

A tip then learning scales in the same category is to observe that the intervals are the same. A tip if you want to learn many categories of scales is to compare them to each other and recognize patterns. This is especially obvious then studying the modes, which all are variations of the major scales.

Questions from visitors

About piano fingering instruction: is there a specific rule, how to you figure it out, by trying it out yourself?

Yes there are some general rule, see Fingerings under "Some general tips about how to position your hand and use your fingers". For exercising, there are tons of books for beginners, including book with sheet music with fingering notation.