Learn piano scales with these top 25 videos from pro pianists regardless of age, skill or background. You’ll Learn Piano Scales Quickly & Easily. While you’re here, don’t forget to download our free chord chart.
Piano scales form the basis of all music. When you know your scales, you can easily create interesting melodies and then support those melodies with harmonies and interesting modulations. Lucky for all of us, the days of having to buy scales books are over and now you can easily get printable piano scales.
What is a piano scale? Well think of them as a functional warm up for your fingers. They are designed to help you increase your speed and agility whilst also tuning your ear to different sounds. There are quite a few different scales – major, chromatic, harmonic minor, melodic minor and natural minor (modal). There are specific piano scale finger patterns for each
All major scales are based on the same pattern of Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone. If you remember this, you’ll be able to work out the keys for every single major scale. This holds true for all minor scales too. They follow the pattern of Tone Semitone Tone Tone Semitone Tone-and-a-half Semitone.
If you’re not confident reading notation with key signatures or you’re after printable piano scales for beginners you have a couple of options. You can write down the letter names of the keys you need for each scale under standard notation or you can find a piano scales chart for beginners.
This is definitely not standard if you’ve been trained Classically but it’s still really good to know how to form a Blues Piano scale. Typical of the style, there are some flattened notes and a reliance on chromaticism. Lucky for us there are printable music scales for the blues 🙂
The pentatonic is another kind of stand-alone scale. This scale is used in Traditional Asian music and, as its name suggests, is based on only 5 keys. This is the first, second, third, fifth and sixth. If you get confused, play all the black keys on the piano and you have yourself an instant pentatonic scale based on C sharp. Not to be confused with the C sharp major scale!
Getting a piano scales chart is a great idea, but why stop at just scales? There are printable piano scales and arpeggios waiting for you! Arpeggios will really test your abilities and allow you to play in the world of chords.
If you’re a beginner, the first scale you need to learn is the C major scale. This is all white keys and is also known as the Ionian mode scale. It consists of C D E F G A B C. If you’re writing out a piano scale finger chart, the fingering is 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5.
We’ve touched on the blues scale earlier and we also looked at the Pentatonic scale, but did you know that you can combine the two? Based on the 5 notes of the pentatonic scale If we take a look at a C minor pentatonic blues, we end up with the notes C, Eb, F, F#, G and Bb.
The B minor scale is often approached with a great deal of trepidation but have no fear. It is related to D major and as a result features only the F# and C# in the key signature. As per the minor scale formula it will also include the raised 7th which is A#. The result is B C# D E F# G A# B.
One of the most confusing things to remember when playing the piano is that your fingering will constantly change. That means the fingering for C major will not be the same as F major or C# minor. There are some standard finger positions and most scales will have finger numbers printed above the notes, however these are not set in stone. Remember that hand sizes vary and as a result, you may need to switch a 2nd for a 3rd. Experiment and see what feels right for you!
Minor scales have a reputation of being harder to learn. The truth is very different. You see, minor scales are related to major scales by 3 semitones. Let’s break that down. For example I’m in C major and need to find the relative minor. This means, I’m trying to find the minor scale that has the same key signature. I’ll need to count down 3 semitones (Remember Major to minor, you need to shrink down). This leads us to A. We know that A minor is related to C major. Easy!
Start learning minor scales with the key of A. The easiest to work with is the A natural minor, otherwise known as the Aeolian mode. This is actually the pattern that is used for all harmonic minor scales (except in modern day we raise the 7th). The Aeolian mode flows from A to A as: A B C D E F G A. Even better, this minor scale follows the same finger pattern as C major.
So you’ve mastered the B minor scale? Excellent. See if you can now move into the arpeggios and B minor piano chords. Both rely on using the first, third and fifth notes of the scales.
This is another kind of modal scale or natural minor scale. Beginning on D the pattern is Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone Tone.
If you want to make sure you’re playing your scales correctly, it doesn’t hurt to get your hands on a piano keyboard finger placement chart or search for printable music scales that allow you to write your own fingering in.
The F major scale is the first scale that has a single flat as a key signature. The notes are F G A Bb C D E F and in the right hand, the finger position is 12341234 – you’ll notice that the 5th is omitted as standard fingering 12312345 would see us have to rotate and place a 1 on the Bb. Definitely not comfortable!
Luckily the left hand follows the standard fingering of 54321321.
This is where it all begins. The first scale all pianists learn. It is the ultimate beginner scale and simply relies on all white keys (we saw earlier, this is actually the Ionian mode). All piano major scales are actually based off this one scale – we simply transpose the pattern of intervals to the different keys.
The G major scale follows the same pattern as the C major – Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone but is now transposed to begin on G. This results in an F# on the 7th note. Following the Circle of Fifths (in which scales are organised by key signatures) the G major scale is the second scale to be learnt as it has only 1 sharp – the F sharp. Every major sharp scale hereafter will now begin with the key signature of an F#.
For the most part, scale fingering follows a particular standard. In the right hand that is 12312345. In the left hand that is 54321321. The first notable exception is the F major scale in the right hand which, as we’ve seen, omits the use of the 5th finger to allow us to comfortably reach the Bb using a 4th. Other scales will require different fingering, especially those that begin on black keys. The general rule of thumb is that they will begin with a 2nd finger in the right hand and a 3rd of 4th in the left hand.
Once you’ve mastered the major and minor scale finger patterns for one octave, it’s time to extend that to two octaves and beyond. The trick here is to use the standard fingering and continue repeating that: 12312345 except where we see the 5th, we now place our 1s down again so we see a pattern of 123123412312345. The left hand will move from 54321321 to 54321324321321. This allows us to maintain the same pattern.
The relative tonic minor of C major, the C minor scale lowers the 3rd and 6th keys of the scale. The result is C D Eb F G Ab B C. This pattern is based on the Aeolian mode of Tone Semitone Tone Tone Semitone Tone-and-a-half Semitone. Once you master the harmonic scale, try your hand at the melodic minor scale which keeps the lowered 3rd and now raises the 6th and 7th on the way up, only to lower them on the way down (the 3rd remains flat).
Whilst there’s no doubt that most Western music is based on either Major or minor sounds, there’s so much more to music than just those scales. We’ve already seen that there are natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales as well as Jazz scales and Pentatonic scales. But there’s so much more out there. Listen to traditional Hindi music and you’ll hear a whole new tonality.
If you’ve mastered the A minor scale, why not try playing this as a contrary motion scale where your hands begin sharing an A and then move out in a mirror image before coming back in? And from there, extend yourself to play the A minor chords and arpeggios. These form the base of technical exercises!
You got the hang of the F major scale, now try your hand at the F minor scale. It’s F G Ab Bb C D E (natural) F. Like all minor scales, we raise the 7th, so in the key signature we should still see the Eb but that gets raised to become E natural.