Creating The Flat Scales

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Learning how to create flat scales is a simple process.  Before we get started, let’s review a few things about tetrachords and major scales.

 What is a Tetrachord?

A tetrachord is a 4-note scale that contains a specific pattern of half steps and whole steps.  Tetrachords are used to build major scales and contain this pattern of whole steps and half steps:  Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step.

The 4 notes used to create a tetrachord must appear in alphabetical order using the musical alphabet (A-B-C-D-E-F-G, etc.).

Turning Tetrachords Into Major Scales

In order to create a major scale, we take 2 tetrachords and join them together with a whole step.  Now, our scales have a total of 8 notes instead of just 4.

Here’s the pattern of whole steps and half steps we must follow in order to create major scales:

Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step – Whole Step – Whole Step – Whole Step – Half Step

So, let’s build a few flat scales by joining 2 tetrachords together….

Major Scale = Tetrachord #1 + Tetrachord #2

Creating Flat Scales

This is what will happen when we join 2 tetrachords together to create some major flat scales:

flat scales

F Major Scale = F tetrachord + C tetrachord

  1. F tetrachord = Whole Step (between F & G) + Whole Step (between G & A) + Half Step (between A & Bb)
  2. C tetrachord = Whole Step (between C & D) + Whole Step (between D & E) + Half Step (between E & F)
  3. Notice how there is a whole step between the 2 tetrachords (between Bb & C)?  That is how you know this major scale was built correctly.

flat scales

Bb Major Scale = Bb tetrachord + F tetrachord

  1. Bb tetrachord = Whole Step (between Bb & C) + Whole Step (between C & D) + Half Step (between D & Eb)
  2. F tetrachord = Whole Step (between F & G) + Whole Step (between G & A) + Half Step (between A & Bb)
  3. The whole step between these 2 tetrachords occurs between Eb & F.

More Scales

Let’s keep creating the rest of the flat scales…

Eb Major Scale = Eb tetrachord + Bb tetrachord

  1. Eb tetrachord = Eb – F – G – Ab
  2. Bb tetrachord = Bb – C – D – Eb

Ab Major Scale = Ab tetrachord + Eb tetrachord

  1. Ab tetrachord = Ab – Bb – C – Db
  2. Eb tetrachord = Eb – F – G – Ab

Db Major Scale = Db tetrachord + Ab tetrachord

  1. Db tetrachord = Db – Eb – F – Gb
  2. Ab tetrachord = Ab – Bb – C – Db

Gb Major Scale = Gb tetrachord + Db tetrachord

  1. Gb tetrachord = Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb
  2. Db tetrachord = Db – Eb – F – Gb

Cb Major Scale = Cb tetrachord + Gb tetrachord

  1. Cb tetrachord = Cb – Db – Eb – Fb
  2. Gb tetrachord = Gb – Ab – Bb – Cb

Even More Patterns

  • The fourth note of the C major scale becomes the first note of the F major scale.  Then, the fourth note of the F major scale becomes the first note of the Bb major scale. Next, the fourth note of the Bb major scale become the first note of the Eb major scale. Do you see how the flat scales progress by moving in fourths?
  • The first tetrachord of a major scale also becomes the second tetrachord of the very next major scale.  For example, the first tetrachord of the C major scale (C tetrachord) becomes the second tetrachord of the very next major scale, F major.  Remember that the F major scale is the fourth note of the C major scale.

It’s always neat to see multiple patterns and relationships within scales.  Hopefully, this will help you think of the flat scales in a new way and bring clarity to your music reading.

Try creating a few flat scales on your own using the system suggested above.  It’s just one more tool to add to your overall musical knowledge!

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