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I'm a beginning music student interested in learning music theory, and many texts that I've read speak about the importance of committing scales - at least the major and three common minor ones for starters - to memory.

Let me be clear: when I say "memorize", I mean if someone asks what the notes are in E harmonic minor I want to say, "E, F#, G, A, B, C, D#, (E)". I'm NOT talking about calculating or deriving them via "Tone, semitone, tone, tone...", or working it out from the key signature or Circle of Fifths, etc. I can do those things already. Nor am I talking about "muscle" or "kinetic" memory involved in fingering exercises on an instrument. I'm not learning an instrument, just music theory.

Is there any method or technique to doing this or is it just lots and lots and lots of flashcards?

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    Memorization comes with practice. But what's exactly the purpose? Let's say, you memorize the scale in order. What if you want to know what is the sixth of B harmonic minor. Wouldn't you prefer to be able to jump to that sixth immediately, rather than to go step by step? Also, visualizing patterns on an instrument doesn't require particularly high playing skills, or muscle memory. Moreover the ability to visualize patterns is an important aid when playing. – user1079505 Feb 13 at 3:36
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    Just a random observation while thinking about this question: numbering the keys chromatically from 0=C to E(leven)=B, the number of sharps for each key is (7x)mod12, and the number of flats is (5x)mod12. – Aaron Feb 13 at 7:53
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    Could you clarify how this question is different from the one you asked about a year ago? – Richard Feb 13 at 12:52
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    _Could you clarify how this question is different _ The answers I got to that one were all methods of deriving the scales. So in this one I tried to be more emphatic that I wanted to memorise them. – user316117 Feb 13 at 15:45
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    @user316117 it's not only important in playing, but in reading and understanding too. What you're asking is a way to memorize a poem by remembering the sequence of its letters, instead of doing it after understanding its meaning (which also makes the poem much more interesting). – musicamante Feb 13 at 16:16
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Premise: the concept of "memorization" is pretty broad and vague. I'm going for a huge oversimplification, since we're not talking about neuro-science, but most of our memorization processes are about structures and schemes.

What you're asking is almost the same as "any good methods to memorize times tables?".

Yes, we all learn times tables up to 10. But what if I ask you 17×31? That's why we learn how to multiply, and that's why we learn how scales and their intervals work.
Music [theory] has lots in common with math. It's structured, both notes and rhythm are based on time relations, not absolute constants, and there's no benefit in trying to "force" our way in using that kind of memorization.

Unless we're talking about good "forms" of eidetic memory, our brains generally have limited amount of "static memory", and, as soon as some structure is found, it's much more easy to make that structure "standard practice".

Consider it from the perspective of programming languages.

You could try to begin storing scales as constants, and that's fine if you're just having simple situations with basic major and minor scales: 24 constants "to rule them all".

Cmaj = 'C', 'D', 'E', 'F', 'G', 'A', 'B'
Cmin = 'C', 'D', 'Eb', 'F', 'G', 'Ab', 'Bb'
Dmaj = 'D', 'E', 'F#', 'G', 'A', 'B', 'C#'
# etc...

But, that's it.
There's no real correlation between them. They are just 24 constants in your mind, for which you also have to add other constants to indicate the relative tonalities.

Then, as soon as you're dealing with other scales -as you are asking-, you'll end up with at least 48 constants. And that's not only without considering "theoretic" tonalities, but even modal modes, which would make it to (at least) 336 scales.

That's not good. Any programmer would blame you to the death.

Let's see what would happen from a programming point of view:

# units are semitones
Notes = 'C', 'D', 'E', 'F', 'G', 'A', 'B'
BaseScale = 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1
Modes = Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian
CommonModes = {
    Major: Ionian,
    Minor: Aeolian,
}
AlterateModes = {
    Harmonic: [(6: +1), (6: +1],
    Melodic: [(5: +1, 6: +1), ()]
}

function getScale(tonic, alteration, mode, altScale):
    if mode in CommonModes:
        mode = CommonModes[mode]
    scale = []
    for interval in BaseScale[Modes.index(mode)]:
        scale.append(getNote(tonic, interval))
    return scale

function getNote(tonic, interval):
    ... (not really important right now)

And that's it: in what would be about 20-30 lines of code (a.k.a.: mind computation) you get everything you need, and you don't risk some "bugs" because maybe you remember a scale with the wrong notes.

Consider this: is it better to practice simple computation of intervals (which is a pretty common thing for any musician's daywork - hence creating the habit), or try to learn dozens (if not hundreds) of unique scales that, anyway, would have lots of common aspects between them?

This also has lots aspects in common with the "Movable do solfège" practice, which allows better abstraction of scales and intervals than "absolute memorization" (which, in turn, for many aspects explains why relative pitch is much better than perfetct pitch).

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  • I have several musician friends who've been musicians since children and every one of them can just name the notes in the common scales - they insist they don't go through a computational or derivational process, however quickly. They just "know" them. We're all in our 60's and they learned as children, so they have no idea how they did it. But this seems to run counter to your thesis that good musicians are deriving the scales from first principles, only really fast. – user316117 Feb 13 at 15:53
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    @user316117 the fact that they don't think they go through computation doesn't mean that they don't do it at a subconscious level, and it's normal that after years of practice the processes are so fast that they don't require awareness. I don't "compute" scales by consciously thinking about intervals, as it has become automatic since I started learning them as a child. It's almost like reading, another thing you learn from childhood: you don't think about putting letters together, you just do it - but your brain, actually, does it. – musicamante Feb 13 at 16:11
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    In cognitive psychology our professor said: If you can write a computer program about any subject - and it works, this is the proof that you've understood it. That's it! – Albrecht Hügli Feb 13 at 17:04
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    @leftaroundabout You're going to be listing them in O(n) anyway; a streaming implementation with O(1) memory is probably better for that than an O(log n) with O(n) (or higher) memory, especially if a human's doing it. But… asymptotic time complexity is kind of irrelevant when n=12. – wizzwizz4 Feb 14 at 17:40
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    @leftaroundabout I agree from the perspective of a "meta-algorithm", and that's what musicians with good harmonic knowledge more or less do. And, actually, if I were to write a good working function, it would work similarly. But, again, the point was the demonstration of the difference; there are many possibilities in creating scale functions, and their performance also depend on language, experience and system resources ("how each of us performs better" in brain analogy) also considering purpose and context. Classical performers would probably use different algorithms than jazz improvisers. – musicamante Feb 14 at 18:27
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Nor am I talking about "muscle" or "kinetic" memory involved in fingering exercises on an instrument. I'm not learning an instrument, just music theory.

What is memory?

Why just imagine scales only as letters or images of abstract scales? This is nonsense, sense-less! Non sense!!!

Learning and memory must be based on all senses: Visual, auditive, haptic (well, you just can't eat them, but this would be probably the best one!)

As I have already explored in many other answers a productive way is playing, writing, notating, singing, listening everything you want to learn in music.

Scales (and all other music theory elements like clefs, chords, melodies, rhythm) can be shown in different symbolic medias and layers:

  • the formal structure of the keyboard, guitar, brass instrument with valves etc. (haptic)
  • the notation system stave and grand staff (visual)
  • the abstract schema of scales in a matrix of letters
  • the inner imagination of fingerings
  • the inner ear (imagination of intervals)

I bet the first mentioned symbolic representation (the keyboard structure of black and white keys) is the most effective base to learn the scales because it is visual based and haptic, even combined with fingerings. The transfer to the staff-notation shouldn't be a great challenge to you.

  1. Start with C-major and a-minor.

  2. Take the 2nd tetrachord of C (G,A,B,C,) and make it the 1st of G, define the 2nd tetrachord of G by sharpening the 7th degree F=>F# (lead tone!)

  3. Continue with all scales the same way (circle of 5ths, clockwise). Mind that the upper tetrachord always becomes the lower tetrachord of the new scale!

  4. Play or write the C scale downwards, take the lower tetrachord (F,E,D,C) as 2nd tetrachord of F major and construct the new 1st tetrachord of F by flattening the 4th degree of the new scale (B=>Bb)

  5. Continue with all scales the same way (circle of 4ths, counter clockwise). Mind that the lower tetrachord always becomes the upper tetrachord of the new scale!

  6. Proceed the same way with the relative minor keys.

Add:

Once learnt the major keys you can also derive the parallel minor keys from the major keys: e.g. C -> cm by adding 3 flats.

Alternately to the upper method you can continue after learning C,F and G major) with F# and Gb by adding 6 sharps to F or 6 flats to G.

If you play piano or guitar (you should) - only for imaging what happens! visualization and audition) you can also continue with B major after learning C major (half tone step lower: B,C#,D#,E) playing 1,2,3, 1,2,3,4,1 (fingering). Now you continue backward the circle of 5ths counterclockwise starting with E,F#,G# (1,2,3). Mind that the thumb starts on the root tone and will always come on the 4th degree, the Fa of the new scale).

Analogue you can study flat scales downward (as described above) by using the 4th finger for the new additional Fa.

Btw. The moveable DoReMi combined with the numbers of sharps and flats (circle of 5ths) will help you to derive immediately any scale from the diatonic (white keys). So with this method of solfege and the basic knowledge of sharps and flats you actually don't have to memorize the scales at all: You just recall e.g. A-major: 3 sharps (F#,C#,G#) and the you spell the A,B,C adding the 3 sharps.

Just for recalling: every abstract learning without using your channels of senses is senseless!

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  • +1, if only for your opening and closing gambits! Yes, I know gambits open, but I can't find the opposite! – Tim Feb 13 at 11:38
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Flashcards may work for some, but that's purely academic. There's no understanding that way. Like you could learn a poem in Hindustani, and be able to roll it out, without knowing what it was about. A good trick, maybe, but where do you go next?

Surely, playing the particular notes on an instrument would be a quicker way, saying the notes at the same time. There is far more of a visual input that way. Flashcards are all the same size, it's just the letters that differ.

You'll also be able to match particular notes (in context) with particular scales/keys that way. And piano is by far the best instrument to do this with. Not only looking, saying, but playing, it'll all get absorbed better. Even a child's keyboard, or xylophone will suffice. Guitar is a bad choice!

EDIT: what occurs to me is why are you doing it? You could learn all about the theory of swimming, but without any water available, it wouldn't be of much practical use. Even being 'fluent' in music theory serves no purpose I can imagine without using it practically - please enlighten me!

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  • It's not abstract - it's very practical. Due to some physical limitations, my instrument is a DAW. I'm studying theory and composition and my instructor wants me to memorise the scales, and this is also recommended in most of the books I've read. I already know how to derive the notes in any common scale, but my musician friends can just rattle them them off and they insist they don't just derive them really fast; they just "know" them. – user316117 Feb 13 at 16:10
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    @user316117 "just knowing" this kind of thing comes from using it day in, day out for a period of time. I honestly think that advice to memorize scales other than through using them for a practical purpose is quite odd. Even if you're playing a traditional instrument, memorizing these scales is something that happens alongside the practical activity of playing them. Memorizing the scales in isolation does seem quite abstract; it's a bit like learning a load of verb endings in a foreign language but not learning each one in a sentence. – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 13 at 16:19
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    @user316117 - have a guess why your muso friends know scales and can just rattle them off... – Tim Feb 13 at 16:34
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You say

I'm NOT talking about calculating or deriving them via "Tone, semitone, tone, tone...", or working it out from the key signature or Circle of Fifths, etc

But you also ask

Is there any method or technique to doing this ..?

I think this is a little bit contradictory. Memory is strengthened through having different perspectives on the same information that reinforce each other. If your memory is not underpinned by understanding, then you might be able to get by just with lots and lots of repetition, but that's very inefficient - and once you stop repeating, your level of recall will decay.

I guess the way the I recall the notes in a scale is something like this:

  • Through having practiced and played scales on a number of instruments, I can 'just see' the common scales as a pattern of 7 notes within the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.
  • Through familiarity with the piano keyboard layout, I can 'map' that pattern onto starting point of the piano keyboard. That allows me to 'see' the sharps and flats as black keys.
  • As a reinforcement/different perspective, visualizing the circle of fifths helps - perhaps in conjunction with some silly mnemonics like "Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket"/"Blanket Explodes And Dad Gets Cold Feet".

And probably the only reason I'm conscious of that at all is because I don't actually spend any time at all practicing scales or reinforcing this knowledge. If I did, it would be fast enough to seem instant and automatic.

is it just lots and lots and lots of flashcards?

Whether you use flashcards or not isn't really relevant IMO - even if you're using flashcards, memory is often helped by having some structure and understanding.

That isn't to say that sometimes we can't 'just remember' something. Often those very strong memories are visual (a pattern or shape), a sound, or even musical. You could try singing the note names as a scale - you might find that the 'tune' the scale makes reinforces and helps you remember the note names!

Edit: Someone has pointed out that you asked a similar question a while back: Efficient exercises to Learn Scales. I think if you're still struggling then there's a strong chance you are getting hung up on this idea of memorizing scales. Don't overthink it - The major and three common minor scales are just 4 simple patterns. There's almost nothing to remember. All the stuff about sharps and flats is an oddity of how our music notation system works and is really not absolutely essential to have 'down' before you start making and playing music. Many musicians write music very successfully without thinking about note names at all!

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Lots of answers already. I generally agree with the sentiment that pure, exhaustive memorisation is not what you want to aim for, however I can also see why you'd say

I'm NOT talking about calculating or deriving them via "Tone, semitone, tone, tone..."

Indeed I agree that this is not the right way to go about calculating scales – it's really inefficient. To keep to musicamante's programming analogy, it's like performing random access on a linked list: to get to any given element of the scale, you first need to traverse all the preceding ones. This is wasteful in computation time. It's also not really efficient in terms of memory usage, because the scales will need to be memorised individually with no “resource sharing”. Specifically, this won't be able to be cached properly, because you need to go through everything separately.

Instead, your internal algorithm should focus on direct relations, generally to the root, and on features that scales have in common, prioritising the most common ones and deriving the less common ones from them.

There are multiple ways to bring structure into this; I'd personally suggest a kind of lookup tree like the following:

                   ┌────────────────────┐
                   │   Tonal skeleton   │
                   │ root, M2, p4, p5   │
                   └─────┬────────┬─────┘
                         │↓ add 3,│6, 7
              ┌──────────┘        └──────────────────┐
              │    ← major                 minor →   │
      ┌───────┴───────┐                      ┌───────┴───────┐
      │    Ionian     │           ┌──────────┤    Aeolian    │
      └───┬───────┬───┘        raise 7       └───┬───────┬───┘
     raise 4     lower 7       ┌──┴──┐      raise 6     lower 1
┌─────┴──────┐ ┌─────┴──────┐  │harm.│ ┌─────┴──────┐ ┌─────┴──────┐
│   Lydian   │ │ Mixolydian │  └──┬──┘ │   Dorian   │ │ Phrygian   │
└────────────┘ └────────────┘  raise 6 └────────────┘ └─────┬──────┘
                               ┌──┴──┐                   lower 5  
                               │melo.│                ┌─────┴──────┐
                               └─────┘                │  Locrian   │
                                                      └────────────┘

That still looks like a lot to remember, but the crucial thing is that you can use a sort of “lazy evaluation”: you don't actually need to think of the whole structure all the time, but instead just one short path down the tree. Instead of remembering for each of the modes the list step sizes, or which nth-mode of Ionian it is, you remember just the characteristic tone (i.e. the modification that leads directly to it), and from that you can always reconstruct the full tree as needed.

  • Ionian: major tones (specifically, major thirds for the primary triads)
  • Aeolian: minor tones
  • Lydian: raised 4 (i.e. augmented)
  • Mixolydian: lowered 7 (i.e. minor, but from a major context)
  • Dorian: raised 6 (i.e. major, but from a minor context)
  • Harmonic minor: raised 7
  • Phrygian: lowered 1
  • Locrian: lowered 5

Similar story for the actual notes: you shouldn't repeatedly count along from some starting point, instead you should have the direct intervalling connections ready. This does mostly amount to having the circle of fifths memorized, I don't think you will get around this. But again it can help to think of it more as a lazy tree, instead of the complete “circle” (which BTW I'm not a fan of anyway, because it's only really a circle in 12-edo).

                       D
                     ╱   ╲
                    ╱     ╲
                   G       A
                  ╱ ╲     ╱ ╲
                 C  (D) (D)  E
                ╱ ╲   ╲ ╱   ╱ ╲
               F  (G)     (A)  B
              ╱ ╲             ╱ ╲
             B♭ (C)         (E)  F♯

To start from any other note, remove all the stuff on top and expand again the notes in parentheses to a full branch.

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In my opinion, this task is relatively easy to accomplish. Some practice is needed, of course, but not so much.

The first thing to do is to memorize the sequence of flats and sharps in the different keys: flats: Bb, Eb, Ab, etc. sharps: F#, C#, G#, etc.

The second thing is to know how many flats or sharps a given key has. For example: D major = 2 sharps (F# and C#), Bb major = 2 flats (Bb and Eb), and so on.

Once you know the above, your job is almost done: given any key, say F, you'll instantly know it's got 1 flat (Bb), and you'll be able to spell the whole scale, from F to F, knowing that Bb will be there, and all other notes will be natural.

And that's all there is to it, really... I think I can spell any scale more or less instantly, and I never tried to memorize them, but the above is how I subconsciously know them, pretty much effortlessly.

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You've identified four scales, and there are 15 keys (C major, 1-7 sharps, 1-7 flats for the "no only 12!!!" brigade, and yes I have seen music in both 7 sharps and 7 flats), so that's 60 scales. Not impossible, I think. There is such a thing as "The Thousand Club" - that's people who've committed 1000 digits of pi to memory, which is probably a bigger feat than 60 musical scales.

But you've said this is "for starters". So I wonder if you're aware of the size of the task you're asking about?

First: what is a scale? There are 12 notes in an octave - on a piano, 7 white and 5 black. Each of those notes is either in a scale or not. So we can represent a scale as a 12-bit binary number, for example 10101 1010101 would be the major scale, 10110 1011000 the harmonic minor, and 10101 1010111 the dominant bebop. That gives us an upper limit of 4095 scales, excluding 0000 0000 0000, because if your examiner says "play me any scale" and you play him that one, you'll probably fail that part of the test. Of course, 1111 1111 1111 is included because that's the chromatic scale.

The melodic minor says a scale can be different depending on whether you're going up or down. I haven't included that complication in this analysis. Neither have I included scales with more complicated rules, like the Day-Weather scale which must include at least six notes on a snowy Wednesday.

But someone might argue CGCGCGCG (10000 0010000) isn't a scale. That would be fair enough. I don't know of any scale that includes an interval of a major third or above - they might exist, but I don't know. I know plenty that include minor thirds. So a quick C program later to count from 1 to 4095 and exclude any number containing 0000 - that gives us 2871 possibilities. This can be further reduced to 1489 by excluding anything that starts with 0.

So across all 15 keys that's up to 22,335 scales you want to commit to memory.

Good luck with that. I'd say being able to generate scales algorithmically would be a better approach, but you've specifically stated you DON'T want to do that.

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If you are a visual/experience-learning person, this will help you more than writing down how exactly these scales work or how to calculate them because your brain will learn the picture/pattern and how the hands move instead of an equation and moving from there is simple and (at least to me) way faster than knowing what is the "delta" for major (5) and minor (4) scales.

Personally I couldn't care less about learning about exact places so me learning the music theory was rather a funny part of learning to play an instrument.

"Semitone" in this works only with "chromatic" semitones and (most likely) doesn't apply to "diatonic" semitones (tones such as the one between C♯ and D).

In some countries the B note is called H, therefore the Italian flat approach is much more obvious/native because the B♭ note is simply called b.


Let's start with the basics, the semitones, the Sharps(♯) Flats(♭).

Imagine a piano keyboard, start with C as the base as that's mostly in the center of a piano anyway if you stand in front of the keyboard.

From there you start a C major scale, it has no tone scaled up or down, it's clean and basic.

Semitones follow in these shapes:

raised (by a half tone) - the Sharp approach
F♯ C♯ G♯ D♯ A♯ E♯ B♯

lowered (by a half tone) - the Italian approach
B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ C♭ F♭

or in other words, it's a zig-zag pattern.

Just remember that the first line consists of the tones F-C-G-D-A-E-B and the second one is reversed (B-E-A-D-G-C-F), or basically, you start with the "three black keys" and the raised tones start from the left key (F♯) while the lowered tones start from the right key (B♭).

Depending on the semitones you move either scale "to the right" (raising by a half tone up /major/♯) or "to the left" (lowering by a half tone down /minor/♭). Notice that not only the tones are raised/lowered, but also the pattern itself!

When learning the raised/major semitones with this method it might appear that you start G, but it's not so. In fact, you start with C and move in tones first, then raise and then move in semitones (there's a whole logic/mathematics for that - it's on the opposite side in the circle of fifths).

So let's look at the notation and derive via the pattern all of the available semitones until all of them are exhausted (7):

first tone, good to remember as G-clef/G-key/Treble clef, the "happy" tune
C -> base
G -> the fifth (it. quinto|lat. quintus) tone from the base (included)

first semitone
G - 0.5 -> F#

decrement by number of semitones
F♯ -> F♯ - 5 (C♯) - 5 (G♯) - 5 (D♯) - 5 (A♯) - 5 (E♯) - 5 (B♯)

There's a similar approach to flats (below) and an alternative with Italian "♭"/"bemolle" (simpler, used in the picture) which basically means soft/flat B hence starting with B instead of F. It doesn't have a "trick" in it and if you just remember that ♭ is just a lowered B the only remaining part is the shape(fifths).

increment by those 5 semitones back from B♭ to C
B♭ -> B♭ + 5 (E♭) + 5 (A♭) + 5 (D♭) + 5 (G♭) + 5 (C♭) + 5 (F♭)

back to the first semitone and tone
F♭ -> F♭ + 0.5 (G)

Alternatively start with the first semitone defined as C -> C - 4 (F) - 0.5 (F♭) and you'll get the same results with a different order depending on whether you want to start with:

  • Sharps

  • Flats

      • "bemolle"/"soft B" from Italian, therefore B♭-E♭-A♭-D♭-G♭-C♭-F♭
    • "to the left"
    • F-clef / Bass clef
    • G♭-G♭-D♭-A♭-E♭-B♭-F♭-C♭

The Flat approach:

good to remember as F-clef/F-key/Bass key, the "sad" tune
C -> base
F -> the fourth (it. quatro|lat. quartus) tone from the base (included)
F + 0.5 -> G♭

G♭ -> G♭ - 5 (D♭) - 5 (A♭) - 5 (E♭) - 5 (B♭) - 6 (F♭*) - 5 (C♭)
*F, but it's not a semitone so the next one in flats is F♭

increment by those 5 semitones back from B♭ to F
C♭ -> C♭ + 5 (F♭) + 6 (B♭*) + 5 (E♭) + 5 (A♭) + 5 (D♭) + 5 (G♭)
*A, but it's not a semitone so the next one when moving back is B♭

back to the first semitone and tone
G♭ -> G♭ - 0.5 (F)

Note that the 5 is amount of increments needed from the previous note. For the raised/lowered musical approach it'd be 6(sesto|sextus).

Why only 7? It's not some magic number, is it? No, not at all because B♯ is in fact C (physics disagrees, see this comment about sharp ♯ vs flat ♭) and the amount of all the keys within a single octave (without repeating) is 7, so you can't have more raised/lowered keys than that (within chromatic semitones and ignoring frequency physics).

Enter scales, here be dragons:

Sharp scales

Starting from the keyboard base (C) you move to the 5th tone (increment by 4, quinto|quintus), the visual approach for that is to simply start playing C with your thumb and move to the right by playing the next key with your pinkie (5th), then change the fingers and continue until you exhaust the number of seminotes.

C  major - <nothing>
G  major - F♯
D  major - F♯, C♯
A  major - F♯, C♯, G♯
E  major - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯
B  major - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯
F♯ major - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯, E♯
C♯ major - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯, E♯, B♯

a  minor - <nothing>, tonically the same as C major
e  minor - F♯
b  minor - F♯, C♯
f♯ minor - F♯, C♯, G♯
c♯ minor - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯
d♯ minor - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯
g♯ minor - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯, E♯
a♯ minor - F♯, C♯, G♯, D♯, A♯, E♯, B♯

See the tones in Sharp section above, they go in that exact order)

Flat scales

Starting from the keyboard base (C) you move to the 4th tone (increment by 3, quatro|quartus), the visual approach for that is to simply start playing C with your thumb and move to the right by playing the next key with your ring finger (4th), then change the fingers and continue until you exhaust the number of seminotes.

C  major - <nothing>
F  major - B♭
B♭ major - B♭, E♭
E♭ major - B♭, E♭, A♭
A♭ major - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭
D♭ major - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭
G♭ major - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭
C♭ major - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭, F♭

a  minor - <nothing>, tonically the same as C major
d  minor - B♭
g  minor - B♭, E♭
c  minor - B♭, E♭, A♭
f  minor - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭
b♭ minor - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭
e♭ minor - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭
a♭ minor - B♭, E♭, A♭, D♭, G♭, C♭, F♭

See the tones in Flat section above, they go in that exact order)

Notation is uppercase semi/tone letter for major scales and lowercase for minor scales. Tonically sound the sharps/flats the same e.g. C major = a minor, C♭ major = a♭ minor, the trickery for the ear comes when you start playing from a different place. Even C major sounds different when started from A (a minor).

The big difference comes with the evenness calculation, the chords and the semitones major and minor scales are allowed to use as those introduce (mostly) a completely different sound.

Now to the dragons

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    I've read half of this post and can't understand what it's about. Is it a method for memorizing the canonical order of sharps and flats? Needs editing, possibly a rewrite. – Aaron Feb 13 at 20:36
  • @Aaron order of sharps + flats + scales with simple patterns and explained with the common approach of calculating and remembering that isn't strictly necessary – Peter Badida Feb 13 at 20:50
  • Are they scaly dragons? – Brian THOMAS Feb 14 at 12:28
  • @BrianTHOMAS of course! 😄 some are major, some minor and some kind of both, hehe – Peter Badida Feb 14 at 12:56

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