Term 2 Theory Lessons & Quiz

1 Relative Keys

Major Scale Review

To write a major scale, the pattern of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps) is: T T S T T T S.

Step 1: Write in every note, making sure not to skip any line or space.

Step 2: Look at the pattern of tones and semitones. Check the notes and see if the notes correctly line up with the pattern.

Step 3: If the distance between two notes is too small, add a sharp to increase the distance. If the distance between two notes is too big, add a flat to decrease the distance.

C, F, and G are sharp notes in the A major scale. These accidentals have been grouped together at the beginning of the line in a key signature. Every time you see a key signature with 3 sharps, you know that it is the key of A major.

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming major keys (up to 4 sharps or flats):

Minor Scale Review

To write a minor scale, you follow the same steps. However, we have 3 different types of minor scales. They are similar, but not exactly the same, so you need to make sure you are writing the correct type.

Natural Minor - The pattern is: T S T T S T T.

B natural minor

Harmonic Minor - Start with the natural minor scale. The seventh note of the scale needs to be raised by an additional semitone. It's now a "tone and a half." This note is always raised, but you don't need to include the raised note in the key signature.

B harmonic minor

Melodic Minor - This scale is a mixture of the previous two scales. Ascending (going up), the scale is like a harmonic minor with the raised seventh note. Descending (going down), that raised seventh note is lowered back down, so it is like the natural minor scale.

B melodic minor

Although there is no key signature written in these examples, this B minor scale could be written with the key signature of two sharps: F# and C#.

Relative Keys

Each major key has a minor key with the same key signature. This is called its relative minor. The relative minor shares the same key signature, but does not start on the same note as the major key. The note name that begins a relative minor scale is always a minor 3rd below the letter name of the relative major.

C is a minor 3rd lower than Eb. The relative minor of Eb major is C minor.

How to Find a Relative Minor

If you are given a major key  and need to find the relative minor, you can use one of these methods:

Semitone Method - Start with the name of the major scale and count down 3 semitones. You may want to refer to a piano keyboard to help you count the correct distance.

B major = G# minor

Interval Method - If you are confident with writing intervals, you can find the note that is a minor 3rd lower than the name of the major key. 

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming minor keys (up to 4 sharps or flats):

How to Find a Relative Major

To find a relative major, you just do the opposite: Count up 3 semitones from the name of the minor key, or go up a minor 3rd.

D minor = F major


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