What is the right approach to learn major and minor scales.

1) Learn C major and then A minor, G Major and then E minor, D Major and then B minor - Notes are same in major and minor in this pattern. 2) Learn C major, D major, E major till B major – Complete all Major scales and then start A minor, B minor till G minor - Learn all major and then minor in this pattern. 3) Randomly select one song and learn the notes and learn the scale of particular song then pick next song with different scale.

The objective of learning is to a) Memorize the notes in a scale. b) To understand the difference in pitch and tone of each scale. c) To identify the scale of any song by identifying the tonic note and other notes so that the scale of the song can be identified.

  • When you say "memorize the notes", I would recommend not put too much effort into memorizing the individual notes for each key. The thing to memorize or learn is the sequence of intervals for each scale type (e.g. the steps for a major scale is whole tone, whole tone, semi tone, whole, whole, whole, semi). That way you can easily construct any scale starting from any note. – mattliu Mar 27 '17 at 8:55
  • Am I right that you are approaching this from the direction of "ear training" and not from a theoretical standpoint (number of sharps and flats in a scale, etc...)? – Tim H Mar 27 '17 at 9:25
  • Yes,you are right.I want the suggestion from a "ear training" standpoint and also to memorize the notes in a scale. – robert winsly Mar 27 '17 at 9:43

Apart from the useful idea of when you are learning a piece in a particular key, learn the scale appropriate, it makes sense to accumulate # and b.

Assuming C as the first scale - no # or b. Move on to one # (G), and one b (F), and keep adding, so moving round the circle of fifths.

The minors bring an interesting angle in that the natural minor will use the same notes as its relative major, so that can go alongside the majors in turn. The melodic (classical) parallel minor actually has only one different note ascending, so can't be too difficult to understand and learn at the same time, and when the relative concept is understood, the natural minor notes fit when descending.Or, you may want the less complicated harmonic - same notes up and down, using the natural minor and changing the leading note only. That minor scale is probably the most used, unless you're looking at classical music.

It may be worth looking at exam boards' syllabi, as they set out scales to be learned in order, certainly with ABRSM. RGT has a good method, in that the scales needed to be played in a grade are used later in the exam to solo with - thus giving credence to having to know scales - yes, they're useful tools - but not to a young child who often gets the idea they're to gain points in exams! Bear in mind there are no clues from the OP to specify what instrument all this refers to, and that will make a difference too - I doubt if it's all being done 'theoretically'.

  • Consider Piano as instrument.Requesting specific answers as per the approch mentioned in the question or any other approch which is better than the three mentioned in the question.Thanks. – robert winsly Mar 28 '17 at 4:51

IMO, the exact order to learn scales is dependent on what kind of music repertoire you want to learn. If you want to learn piano music, you start with C major because it uses (the generally considered "easier") white keys only. If you want to learn guitar music, I suspect you start with G major because the strings are typically tuned to play it better than C major. If you want to learn concert band music, you start with B flat major because enough important (transposing) instruments treat that as their home key (such as the trumpet and the clarinet).

Due to difficulties in learning minor scales (for each minor key, you need to learn both the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales), I've actually generally been exposed to a learning pattern that's more like this (at least for piano--transpose all scales down one whole step for concert band): C major-F major-G major-A minor-D minor-E minor-D major-B flat major-B minor-G minor-...

While I do not recommend picking songs completely randomly in order to learn scales (you risk running into songs that change keys far too many times, atonal music that is not in any key, world music that does not use major or minor scales such as gamelan, and more), picking a sample of a lot of songs, then learning the most common scales first, is a wise idea.

Along those lines, I do not recommend learning all major scales before all minor scales, as some major scales are significantly more relevant than others. In concert band repertoire, for example, songs originally in keys with several sharps (e.g. E major) are often transcribed into versions in keys with flats instead (while B flat major, F major, and E flat major are common targets because they are the first few keys that students learn, this transcription of Dmitri Shostakovich's Festive Overture in http://www.jwpepper.com/599043.item is in A flat major instead of the original piece's A major). In another example, you bump into some keys more than twice as often as others on Spotify, according to https://insights.spotify.com/us/2015/05/06/most-popular-keys-on-spotify/.

  • Cmaj theoretically should be the starting point :) – jazzboy Mar 27 '17 at 9:16
  • In terms of notation, you start learning transposing instruments in C major, independent of whether the sounding pitch is B flat, E flat, or something more exotic. – user19146 Mar 27 '17 at 9:39
  • @Santa not if your piano teacher follows Chopin, and starts you off with the easiest scale to play, which is B major, not C. – user19146 Mar 27 '17 at 9:41
  • @alephzero yeh probably is the easiest scale to play. But Cmaj is theoretically the best starting place :) – jazzboy Mar 27 '17 at 9:45
  • @alephzero - C#maj and F#maj are also very easy to play. One of my students has very long fingers, and consequently prefers those keys. – Tim Mar 27 '17 at 11:06

Not only play the scales but the associated triads and their inversions, some chord progressions in that key, and the chromatic scale starting on tonic note.

Try one piece in that key

Check out ARSM for more on the order of the scales. It's usually C major and A minors and then sharps then flats.


The 'recipe' for the spacing of notes any major scale is: Tone Tone Semitone, Tone Tone Tone Semitone

I have my students recite and memorise 'Tone Tone Semitone, Tone Tone Tone Semitone' or even 'TTSTTTS'.

Given any starting note, they can then 'generate' any major scale using sharps/flats to maintain the tone or semitone spacing.

So I would start by learning this pattern and then memorising the keys from no sharps/flats to one sharp, one flat and so on.

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