Scales: Ways to Know a Scale: Keyboard Awareness

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Mapping the melodic-harmonic function of each note in a scale to its visio-spatial layout of the keyboard is a huge advance in your musicianship…

Doing so takes only minutes of effort, but lays a solid foundation for aural comprehension, memorization, playing by ear, transposition, and improvisation.

For any scale type, an expert musician should be able to describe the key signature and be able to identify every note by letter name, scale degree, and Solfege syllable.

Here, for example, is the keyboard layout of the Bb Major Scale over one octave with letter names and scale degrees…


and now with letter names and Solfege syllables…


And here are some sample questions that illustrate what it means to see the pattern above like a real musician:

  • What is the key signature of Bb Major? Answer: 2 flats (Bb & Eb)
  • What is the scale degree of Eb in the key of Bb? Answer: 4
  • Which note is scale degree 6 in the key of Bb? Answer: G
  • What the sound name of D in the key of Bb? Answer: Mi
  • What is Re in the key of Bb? Answer: C

A master musician sees the unique pattern of white and black in their “mind’s eye”… in their visual imagination with their eyes closed. Such deep visio-spatial awareness is essential to expert performance. They should be able to “play” the scale in their head… imagining each key going down… without using their body… and without worrying about fingering. As they virtually play each key in their visual imagination, they should be able to identify each one by letter name, scale degree, and solfege syllable.

learn more… Ways to Know a Scale: Aural Comprehension


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