Questions & answers

This Q&A section is made to help you understand how the scales are presented on this site and how to better understand 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:
C major scale diagram
Covering two octaves makes it possible to use the same template over and over for different scales.

Keys that should be included in the scale are colored blue. Only one octave is used to present the notes in the scale, but that doesn’t mean that scales are limited to 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 diagrams, such that one below, should not be understood as the second part, not colored in blue, doesn’t belong to the scale. All white keys on the keyboard are a part of the C Major Scale, for instance.
C Major

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), neither is it necessary. A certain scale can be played on 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, and the reason that the former is used on are partly because that is natural to include the second C before returning when exercising on a scale, and likewise when playing over several octaves, as in this sequence: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C …

This doesn’t mean, however, that the C Major includes two C notes.

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

Fingerings are instructions of which fingers to use, 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 written out notes directly under the diagrams since it could confuse beginners. They could instead sometimes be found further down the pages in the note overviews.

General questions

What is the use of scales?

The scales are useful shortcuts when trying to accomplish melodies, solos, licks and improvisation. Without knowledge of scales it is much harder to improvise and find melodies. By knowing scales, you have the knowledge of which notes that fundamentally fits together.

Scales are essential for many music styles. A guitarist playing flamenco, a saxophonist playing jazz or a pianist playing pop songs often use scales.

Which piano scales are most important to learn?

Since it is impossible to memorize all scales, you have to be selective. How many scales you learn depends on your ambitions as well – 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 essential 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 can hold in memory depends to a high degree 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 problems to recapitulate all of them. In other words, you need to learn scales and keep repeating them.

When learning scales in the same category, it will be easier if you observe that the intervals are the same. And if you want to learn many categories of scales, it will be easier if you compare them to each other and observe 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 books with sheet music including fingering notation.