The Facts of Music, Part 3

Renaissance Fiddle

The major scale ("do-re-mi").

Play an open string, and sing that note and call it "do".
Then go up (in pitch) two frets and sing "re"
Go up two more frets, sing "mi".
Go up one fret, sing "fa".
Go up two more frets, sing "so".
Up two more, sing "la".
Up two more, sing "ti".
Finally, up ONE fret, and sing "do".

You have just played, and sung, a major scale. Play the open note again, it should be the same note as the last note of the scale you just played, just an octave lower.

The basic pattern of a major scale is: Start anywhere. Go up a whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step and stop. You are now an octave above where you started. Sometimes you'll see this written: w-w-h-w-w-w-h (w=whole, h=half)

Now, find out the name of the string you played; if it was the fattest string on a guitar, the one lowest in pitch, it should be an E. On a mandolin, the lowest note is a G.

If your starting note was an E, then you played an E major scale. If your starting note was G, you played a G major scale.

Renaissance Fiddle Many songs and tunes are in a major key, and they all can be played in any key you want. Start with a G note, play a major scale, and then hum a tune or song you know, and it will very likely be in that key. Start with some other note, make a scale in that key, and you will probably sing the same tune in the new key. Any tune can be played in any key; it's the same tune, just a different starting point.

Quiz: Name the notes in the key of C major.
Bonus points: do the same for G major.

2014 Tony Mates