Scale Construction Worksheets
A sound knowledge of the construction of scales is at the heart of the study of music theory and without this understanding our students will struggle to make any real "joined up" sense of the subject?
Our download features a huge range of worksheets with varying levels of graphic support (keyboard diagrams etc).
By using the resources offered in this simple download it becomes possible to take a student group from a position where they have no functional knowledge of scales and their construction to a suituation in which they are able communicate the notes (either verbally or in notated form) for any common scale.
By employing the same resources in a slightly different way during classroom sessions it becomes possible to simultaneously address the differing levels of capability and prior learning that exist within any student group.
Some learners can be busy constructing scales using worksheets containing graphics similar to the picture above in which the learner has been required to fill in the letter names in the lower part of each circle. These "early stages" worksheets feature keyboard diagrams and/or scale formulae whilst other more "advanced" students can be set to working on sheets requiring notation only with the theoretical knowledge being the responsibility of the learner?
This graduated series of worksheets is designed to challenge individual students at a level appropriate to the current stage of their musical development and to give our learners the confidence that they need to deal with this vital component of a well rounded knowledge of music theory.
Lets take a closer look at the whole subject of teaching scales and spelling scales.......
What Are Scales?
It might seem like a bit of a strange question but it is a very important one?
Scales can be defined as being "a set of sounds arranged in order of pitch" Dig a little deeper and you can add the fact that these pitches are composed from a "pre-determined combination of intervals" (gaps between notes) So... scales are "A set of sounds arranged in order of pitch composed of a predetermined sequence of intervals" Having then decided what scales are it is perhaps just as important is to establish what scales are not?
Scales are NOT MUSICAL NOTATION!
They are often written down in notated form but it is perfectly possible to develop a meaningful understanding of scales (and how to use them) without at this stage either writing them down on (or reading them from) a musical staff.
This is in no way to suggest that musical notation is without value and any meaningful study of how music works will probably involve notated music to a greater or lesser degree but it is worth speculating that in the early stages of understanding scales etc. it might be better not to teach them this new subject (scale construction) in a "foreign" language (notation).
It may be more effective to have our learners confident in the construction of (at least a few?) scales before introducing them to notated music?
In the Classroom
The text below sets out how an educator might make use of our handouts and worksheets during the course of a series of music theory lessons to take students from the point where they have no knowledge of scale construction through to a stage where they are able to notate major and minor scales and key signatures directly onto music manuscript paper with no reference to visual aids at all?
It is not the intention that the journey should be made in a single session and one of the strengths of the approach outlined is that students can develop familiarity with scales at different rates as their capabilities and potential dictates.
The ethos underpinning this material is firstly to develop an awareness of the theory that underpins the construction of scales.
From this point the object is to "turn that awareness of the theory into a familiarity with it"
By the time they are familiar with the theory you can expect students to be able to tell you the notes of a scale without having to write anything down or without recourse to handouts with keyboards/scale formulas on them.
A First Music Theory Handout
Distribute the handout shown ("notes on the keyboard") which names the notes with relation to their location on a piano keyboard. It is a good idea at this stage to ensure that all students become familiar with the idea that the white (natural) notes can be identified by a single letter name whereas the black keys are more ambiguous in that they can be assigned one of two letter names depending upon the circumstances in which they are being used.
Although simple this handout is a very important one because if you are able to constantly refer students back to it you can often find out the root of any problems that they are experiencing with music theory.
Whole and Half Steps (or tones and semitones)
After you have distributed the handouts make students aware of the two different kinds of "intervals" involved in the construction of any Major (and for that matter minor?) scales
Explain to the group that a half step (also known as a semitone) is a movement of a single chromatic step from any given given starting note (for example from the white note of C up to the black note which is labelled C# or Db.
When this has been established introduce them to the idea of a whole step (alternately known as a tone) being two chromatic steps (from C up to D or from Bb down to Ab etc.)
When your students are comfortable with this idea it is a good idea to mention the "rules" of major (and for that matter minor) scale construction?
Major Scale Construction: "The Rules"
Rule no 1The names of the notes of a major or minor scale follow the strict alphabetic sequence (if the first note of a scale is an A then it follows that the second will be a B note, the third a C note and so on)
Rule no 2The only letter of the alphabet to appear twice within a scale is the first (or "root") note which "bookends" the scale by featuring at the beginning and the end of it.
Rule no 3You should not mix #'s and b's within a scale
Establishing The Sequence of Whole and Half Steps in any Major Scale
Make students aware of the fact that all major scales follow the same sequence of intervals (whole steps and half steps) and that this sequence, once learned on a single scale can then be transferred to all others.
Stress to your music students that if they are able to understand the construction of a C Major Scale then they have the tools to understand the construction of any Major scale as the sequence of intervals is exactly the same?
Major Scales:The sequence of musical intervals
Thinking in terms of whole (W) and half (H) steps that sequence is W-W-H-W-W-W-H (or alternately tone-tone-senitone-tone-tone tone-semitone)
If this were a phone number it could be remembered as
221 2221 or perhaps more easily
"double two one-treble two one"?
Now might be a good time to distribute the handout featuring the C Major scale on a keyboard?
Talk your students through the handout (or the free powerpoint demonstration that you can download now if you click this text?) pointing out the sequence of intervals and how it corresponds to the
formulae discussed earlier.
Having analysed the construction of a single major scale now is a good time to introduce the idea that "if you can create a single major scale then you can create them all?" and that you don't have to have the first clue about musical notation in order to understand scales completely?
By using the sequence of whole and half steps outlined above and by applying a couple of simple rules you can understand how the C major scale is constructed. From this point it is possible to use the same process to work out which notes are in any Major Scale?
From this point in the programme (in future lessons?) more "advanced" handouts can be incorporated which are concerned with developing an understanding of other scales and musical notation.
We have produced a series of lesson plans (arranged into topics) that might give a more developed view as to how you might use our materials to make your teaching less stressful. We also have pages on this site dealing with topics such as chord construction and the existence of harmonic concepts such as the diatonic system etc.
As members of your student group become firstly "aware of" and then "familiar with" the fomulae and principles invilved in the construction of major and minor scales it is possible to present them with a series of worksheets which "scale down" the amount of graphic assistance on offer (there are handouts without either the scale formulae or the keyboard diagrams etc) until they feel comfortable in a situation in which they are able to write down or verbally articulate any major or minor scale purely from memory demonstrating an ability to provide either the required accidentals or key signature.
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