Last Updated on May 14, 2019 by Klaus Crow
So how do you build a scale with a formula, how do you figure out the notes for a particular scale, what else can you do with a scale formula and how can you make sense of it all?
Well, let’s find out.
The scale formula gives you insight in the notes you play. It gives you a clear overview of how scales relate to each other and reveals the easiness of building any scale in seconds.
It also a great tool for learning and understanding chord construction and soloing. Once you know the logic behind a scale and how to use the formula, a lot of pieces to the puzzle will fall into place one step at a time.
To construct or build a scale we need a major scale and a scale formula. We use the major scale as groundwork and reference point for building all the other scales and then apply the appropriate scale formula to fill in the notes.
What is a scale formula?
A scale formula shows you the notes of a scale compared to the notes of the major scale.
The notes of the major scale are referred to as numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
See here the notes of a C major scale:
C D E F G A B 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 See image below, first two scale diagrams. Then you choose a scale formula. Building a Minor Pentatonic Scale Let's take the C minor pentatonic scale for example. The Major scale formula = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 C major scale = C D E F G A B The Minor Pentatonic scale formula = 1 b3 4 5 b7 C Minor Pentatonic = C Eb F G Bb So you play the first note of the major scale, then the third note lowered by a half step, the fourth note, the fifth note and the seventh note lowered by a half step. b3 (flat three) means you take the third note of the major scale only a half step down. The third note of the C major scale is E, so if you go down a half step E becomes Eb (E flat). b7 (flat seven) means you take the seventh note of the major scale only a half step down. The seventh note of the C major scale is B, so if you go down a half step B becomes Bb (B flat). The notes of the C minor Pentatonic scale consists of the notes C Eb F G Bb (1 b3 4 5 b7) See image below, diagrams three and four. You can do this with any scale in any key. Pick the appropriate major scale key and scale formula below: Major Scales in Every Key: A major scale = A B C# D E F# G# A Bb major scale = Bb C D Eb F G A Bb B major scale = B C# D# E F# G# A# B C major scale = C D E F G A B C Db major scale = Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db D major scale = D E F# G A B C# D Eb major scale = Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb E major scale = E F# G# A B C# D# E F major scale = F G A Bb C D E F Gb major scale = Gb Ab Bb Cb (=B) Db Eb F Gb G major scale = G A B C D E F# G Ab major scale = Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab Common Scale Formulas: Major scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (C D E F G A B) Minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (C D Eb F G Ab Bb) Minor pentatonic scale = 1 b3 4 5 b7 (C Eb F G Bb) Blues scale = 1 b3 4 b5 5 b7 (C Eb F Gb G Bb) Major pentatonic scale = 1 2 3 5 6 (C D E G A) Harmonic minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7 (C D Eb F G Ab B) Melodic minor scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7 (C D Eb F G A B) Ionian scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (C D E F G A B) Dorian scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 (C D Eb F G A Bb ) Phrygian scale = 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (C Db Eb F G Ab Bb) Lydian scale = 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 (C D E F# G A B) Mixolydian scale = 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 (C D E F G A Bb) Aeolian scale = 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 (C D Eb F G Ab Bb) Locrian scale = 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7 (C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb) Whole tone scale = 1 2 3 #4 #5 b7 (C D E F# G# Bb) Whole-Half Diminished = 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 6 7 (C D Eb F Gb Ab A B) Half-Whole Diminished = 1 b2 b3 3 b5 5 6 b7 (C Db Eb E F# G A Bb) Assignments 1 - Create an A harmonic minor scale: * Look for the A major scale in the list above. * Look for the "harmonic minor" scale formula and write it down. * Fill in the notes for the A harmonic minor scale. * Look for the notes of the A harmonic minor scale on your guitar neck. * Play the A harmonic minor scale on your guitar. * Now play it in different keys. 2 - Build an A major scale. 3 - Build an A minor scale. 4 - Build an A minor pentatonic scale. 5 - Build an A major pentatonic scale. 6 - Write down the difference between a major and a minor scale formula? 7 - Memorize the major, minor and minor pentatonic scale formulas. 8 - Learn to be aware of the note numbers whenever you play a scale. Have fun!