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Scales and Steps on the Piano

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

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If you've been following the blogs about music theory on the Book Piano Lessons website, you should now understand the clefs and how they decode the notes in music theory and how to identify them on the piano, Now we want to take it to the part and make some understand the chain of notes and keys, where we may be able to create melodies by understanding the roots and routes.


Moving between the musical notes, or between the piano keys is called steps or 'Conjunct Motion'. Moving between two consecutive keys is called a 'Semi Step' or a 'Semi Tone'. So the difference in the pitch between the notes is half a step or half a tone. Have a look at the example below:

Half Steps

All the movements in the three examples above are half steps. Therefore half steps can happen between two white keys, or a white key and a black key. This happens as we talked about the expectations in accidentals in the previous blog.

A 'Whole Step' or a 'Whole Tone' happens when we move over two semitones. Have a look at the examples below:

Whole Steps

Can you find these examples and play them on your piano? which ones are semitones and which ones are tones? can you hear the difference in tones?

We have twelve equal semitones in every octave. As we mention before an octave is a chain of seven natural notes in addition to five accidentals (as default in the C major scale which we will talk about later on).


Scales are the chain of notes or keys starting in a specific key. The Specific key is called the 'Tonic' or the 'Root'.

The most basic and common musical scale is C major and it includes seven plus one (the higher octave note) keys. Let's have a look at this scale on the music sheet and also on the piano. You can play along with the example.

C Major Scale

C Major Scale

Different scales in music would give us different pattern among the notes that allows us to create different melodies. The world of music creation here can be unlimited.

If you understand the difference between an octave to a scale write it down in the comments.

There are different types of scales in music. We need to start with the main categories which are Major and Minor scales.

The major scale similar to the C major has a specific pattern between semitones. If we have a closer look at the C major scales we can find out the formula is like this:

Root, tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, (semitone). Applying this formula to each specific key as the scale's root note will give us the major scale of that key!

On the hand, a minor scale has its own formula as well. Let's first have a look at the C Minor scales both on the music sheet and on the piano keys:

C Minor Scale

C Minor Scale

Playing this scale on the piano may sound different compared to the C major scale. How would you describe the difference in sound!? Leave that in the comments.

But now looking at its pattern we can identify the formula and it can be applied to all the other minor scales:

Root, tone, semitone, tone, tone, semitone, tone, (tone)

Playing any random notes in any direction ( in every specific scale) would still count as playing the scale.

In the upcoming posts, we will show other scales in major and minor besides other types of scales. Also, we will start to cover different types of notes, measures and the beat.

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