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> How To Write Scales With Key Signatures, Rules for writing out scales and modes in letter names
The Professor
post Apr 28 2013, 11:28 AM
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Writing Scales on Paper Guide



As we dig deeper into the musical theory realm in the GMC Forum, one of the issues I see creeping up a lot is the mixing of sharps and flats when folks are writing out scales, especially modes of the major scale.

So, I thought I would put together a short primer to use as a reference page if you have any questions or get stuck on how to write out any scale.



Major Scales and Modes



When writing out any major scale or one of it’s modes, the rule to follow is only use each letter in the musical alphabet, A-B-C-D-E-F-G, once, and don’t mix sharps and flats in the same scale.

This means, that if you have the F Major Scale, this would be the wrong way to write it out.

F G A A# C D E F

Here, there are two A’s, A and A#, so that’s an error in the writing process.

Instead, use Bb so that you don’t double up on the A’s.

F G A Bb C D E F

The other issue, mixing sharps and flats, comes up in situations like this D Major Scale.

D E F# G A B Db D

Again, there are 2 D’s so that needs to be avoided, and since there is an F#, you can’t have any flats in the rest of the scale.

So, it would be written like:

D E F# G A B C# D

Here are your two rules to live by when writing out Major Modes.

Never double any notes.
Use sharps or flats but never both in the same scale



Other Scales and Modes



When writing out other modes, such as modes of Harmonic Minor or modes of Melodic Minor, you still only want to use each note once, but you can mix flats and sharps in a few of these modes to stick to that first rule.

For example, G Melodic Minor is written as:

G A Bb C D E F# G

So you have Bb and F#, but this avoids you using A and A#. So, mixing sharps and flats in Melodic Minor and Harmonic Minor modes is ok as long as it helps you avoid using 2 of the same notes, such as A and A#.

When writing out these other modes, first ask yourself, “Am I using any of the same note twice?” And if not, then it’s OK to mix sharps and flats. If you are using the same notes twice, such as A and A#, that can usually be fixed by writing A and Bb, two different letter names.

I hope that helps out. If you have any questions about these rules post them below and I’ll be glad to answer them.


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korblitz
post Apr 28 2013, 01:58 PM
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Thanks...I really needed this.

Sorry for all the wrong scales I posted.
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The Professor
post Apr 28 2013, 02:03 PM
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QUOTE (korblitz @ Apr 28 2013, 01:58 PM) *
Thanks...I really needed this.

Sorry for all the wrong scales I posted.



No worries, it's a very common thing that people deal with when learning to write scales out as notes. C# and Db are the same fret on guitar, but it can be a "wrong" note in a scale if the right one isn't used. Glad this is helpful!


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Darius Wave
post Apr 29 2013, 12:38 PM
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Verry common issue and great, short explaining! smile.gif


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The Professor
post Apr 29 2013, 12:53 PM
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QUOTE (Darius Wave @ Apr 29 2013, 12:38 PM) *
Verry common issue and great, short explaining! smile.gif


Thanks glad you dug it!


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Dieterle
post Apr 30 2013, 07:01 AM
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Cool , THANK YOU !
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The Professor
post Apr 30 2013, 07:18 AM
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QUOTE (Dieterle @ Apr 30 2013, 07:01 AM) *
Cool , THANK YOU !


No problem, thanks for checking it out!


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Phil66
post May 8 2015, 05:46 PM
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Very interesting.

Thank you.


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