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Music Theory: questions about Major and Minor scales
What are major and minor ?
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Kmmoon
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July 10, 2018 - 11:15 am
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Hello everyone,

 

Before digging in the question, I must give an idea about my situation

I played the violin 1 year ago relying in youtube videos that uses tabs but I want to open new world of music by reading the score.

Eventually, learning the score take me to Music Theory and I didn't even know that there are music theories because here in my country (Saudi Arabia, in case you're curious) we don't have music classes in school.

 

My questions are : what does major and minor mean ?

If we have G major it's should be G's from all octaves not G, A, B, C...etc if it has all these notes why it's called G major?

If we have a piece for example Vivaldi concerto in G major? What should I understand from mentioning G major?

I need simple but informative answers as I know very few things about music theory.

Sorry for my bad english and thank in advance.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
July 10, 2018 - 7:37 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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G major means that there is one sharp which is F#.
Scales are composed of intervals of whole and half steps. Depending on what note you start on, you'll be playing varying sharps and flats.
Think of major as happy sounding and minor as sad. This is a very basic explanation but there is so much to learn if you are interested. 🙂

Check out the circle of fifths
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Raven
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August 26, 2018 - 6:34 pm
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Wow. Trying to understand that wiki article made my head swim. I'll try it again later!

Lord, give me patience, because if you give me strength, I'm gonna need bail money, too!

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Scrap
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August 26, 2018 - 8:30 pm
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I’m glad I wasn’t the only one more confused after reading the article. 

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
August 27, 2018 - 12:27 pm
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LOL. Not necessary to understand everything in life. ROFL
You can be a great musician without knowing the specifics of music theory.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Uzi
Georgia
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August 28, 2018 - 12:03 am
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In Western music the major and minor scales are the most common scales used to create songs. The Circle of Fifths is very useful for seeing the relationship of the major keys to their relative minor keys.   If you look at the circle you will see that each major key is exactly 1 and 1/2 steps above its associated minor key.  For example G is exactly 1 and 1/2 steps higher than it's associated minor key Em.  E-F-F#-G.  This is true all the way around the circle.  

On the violin neck a half-step is one finger placed right next to another finger -- more or less.  A whole step leaves a finger-width between one finger and the next -- more or less.  Placing a finger on any note on the violin and walking backwards three half steps will always be the name of the relative minor key of the note you played. 

A Major Scale "Do Ra Me Fa So La Te Do" is composed of two four note groups separated by a whole step.   Each four note group (called a tetrachord) follows the pattern Whole Step - Whole Step - Half Step.  Below I show the tetrachords along with the scale number of each note from 1 - 8, with WS indicating a Whole Step and HS indicating a Half Step. 

1st tetrachord : 1-WS-2-WS--3-HS-4

Separator: WS

2nd tetrachord 5-WS-6-WS-7-HS-8. 

Following that pattern from anywhere on the violin you will be playing a major scale that is named for the first note that you play. 

Notice on the Circle of fifths, next to the letters for the keys, there are key signatures which may contain sharps # and flats b. Once memorized one can tell instantly what key (the first note of the scale) the song is played in.  For example G has one sharp, the F# which is the 7th note of the G scale and is, as can be seen in the tetrachord above, 1/2 step away from the octave. 

To play the associated minor key (which has the same key signature as the major key) start the scale on the note 1 and 1/2 steps below the first note of the major scale.  For G major that note is E.  So starting on the E and ending on E, play all of the same notes as the G scale and you will be playing in E minor.  That is E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-E.  You will notice that the half-steps are not in the same places in the tetrachords as they were in the major key.  This difference in note intervals is what gives the minor key its distinct sound. 

However, there are actually three minor scales.  I will mention that if you want to experiment with scales that sound more Eastern than Western, the Harmonic Minor scale might be interesting.  To create the Harmonic Minor simply lower the 3rd and 6th notes of any major scale by 1/2 step.  For example, the G Major Scale G-A-B-C-D-E-F#-G.  The G Harmonic Minor: G-A-A#-C-D-D#-F#-G. 

Hope this helps. 

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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Scrap
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August 28, 2018 - 12:40 pm
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That actually did. Thank you for the time and effort you put into the response.

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
August 29, 2018 - 4:24 am
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Just an addition to @Uzi 's perfect description -

The "western" musical scale consists of 12 semi-tone steps -  let's start on C for instance - (but all the possible semi-tones are shown, there are no others)

C, C#, D, D#(Eb), E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#(better thought-of as Bb), B, C

Note that there is no E# and no B# - that's just the way it is (and related to how we perceive a traditional western-music scale.  There are other types of scales, as perhaps heard in some eastern type of music, with "microtonal" steps rather than just 12 semi-tones in the octave - but - that's another story entirely....)

Following Uzi's Whole-tone and Semi-tone ( whole/half steps ) - C major is

C -w- D -w- E -h- F -w- G -w- A -w- B -h- C

it's the 2-2-1  -2-  2-2-1  formula, showing the two tetra-chords, with C maj having no sharps or flats

And of course, again as Uzi wrote - you can apply that rule from ANY starting position and create a major scale.

That was the easy part - all you have to do then, is to get the fingers in the correct position roflol

Enjoy your musical journey !

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Raven
North Idaho
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August 31, 2018 - 2:11 am
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Thank you, Billy, and you too, Uzi. That's about the best explanation I've come across. All the years of junior high and high school, and I don't think any of my teachers even bothered to try and explain the reasoning and mechanics of the scales. You were given sheet music and scales, and fingering charts. I guess that why they never offered to teach stringed instruments. Oh, so much wasted time...trying to make up for it now.

Lord, give me patience, because if you give me strength, I'm gonna need bail money, too!

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BillyG
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August 31, 2018 - 2:31 am
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@Raven - if your interest has been piqued - then - "just" perhaps you might like to explore the difference between equal-temperament-tuning (which is necessary on keyed instruments) and just-intonation.   It's a tad mathy, but it is really interesting to understand - there are lots of resources and discussions to be found relating to this - here's one just off-the-cuff - https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/7986/why-is-just-intonation-impractical  - but in relation to the topic title - on a non-keyed or fretless instrument - it's not impractical at all.   Here's another interesting link - https://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/scales.html

  Enjoy !   We fiddlers just don't fret....   roflroflrofl

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Raven
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August 31, 2018 - 1:08 pm
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Ooohh,oww,ouch! The more I learn, the more I see I am way behind! Going to have to get out the slide rule for this. But that's okay, I like math. Just don't expect to have any esoteric discussions about the subject with me for a while! Thanks for going through the trouble of finding these links for us!

Lord, give me patience, because if you give me strength, I'm gonna need bail money, too!

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Uzi
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September 1, 2018 - 6:46 pm
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Raven said
Ooohh,oww,ouch! The more I learn, the more I see I am way behind! Going to have to get out the slide rule for this. But that's okay, I like math. Just don't expect to have any esoteric discussions about the subject with me for a while! Thanks for going through the trouble of finding these links for us!  

Music theory is interesting, but keep in mind that all the music theory in the world won't beat a good ear.  

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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