The Complete Guide to Piano Scales

Learn to play and practice scales with our simplified, practical approach

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    Piano scales are incredibly valuable tools for any pianist, from the newest beginner to the most seasoned professional. They provide the technical and theoretical building blocks that will help you understand the patterns that comprise any style of Western music.

    Practicing scales will drastically improve your knowledge and technique on the piano and provide you with an essential toolkit that streamlines your entire learning process.

    What are scales, and why are they important?

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    VIDEO: Introduction to piano scales

    How to build scales on the piano

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    The anatomy of Major Scales

    Major piano scales are the most common type of scales. The Major Scale is defined by the interval relationships inherent in each step of the scale.

    Need to brush up on intervals? Check out our quick guide here.​

    Major scales are defined by a specific pattern of whole steps (major seconds) and half steps (minor seconds) the pattern is:

    W-W-H-W-W-W-H

    No matter what key you’re in, this pattern of whole steps and half steps stays the same. This is why every Major Scale has a similar sound.

    Here you can see an overview of all the Major scales. You can view a complete lesson on each scale where you’ll learn details about the fingering, scale construction, and performance.

    The 12 Major Scales

    F Major Scale

    F Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    F Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 4 -1 2 3 4

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    B-flat Major Scale

    B-flat Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    B-flat Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B
    RH Fingering: 4 - 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4

    LH Fingering: 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1 - 3

    E-flat Major Scale

    E-flat Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    E-flat Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: E, F, G, A, B,C, D, E
    RH Fingering: 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 1 2 3

    LH Fingering: 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1 -3

    A-flat Major Scale

    A-flat Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    A-flat Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A
    RH Fingering: 3 4 - 1 2 3 -1 2 3

    LH Fingering: 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1 -3

    D-flat Major Scale

    D-flat Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    D-flat Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D
    RH Fingering: 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 1 2

    LH Fingering: 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1 - 4

    G-flat Major Scale

    G-flat Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    G-flat Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G
    RH Fingering: 2 3 4 - 1 2 3 - 1 2

    LH Fingering: 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1 - 4

    B Major Scale

    B Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    B Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 4 3 2 1 - 4 3 2 1

    E Major Scale

    E Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    E Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    A Major Scale

    A Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    A Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    D Major Scale

    D Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    D Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    G Major Scale

    G Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    G Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    C Major Scale

    C Major piano scale keyboard layout diagram
    C Major piano scale staff diagram
    Notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    The anatomy of Minor Scales

    Minor scales have three forms:

    • Natural Minor
    • Harmonic Minor
    • Melodic Minor

    The Natural Minor scale retains the notes of the key signature. This version is mostly used for theory purposes and you will rarely see it used in actual music. This is because it lacks a leading tone (half-step below the root) making it lack a sense of direction and resolution.

    The Harmonic Minor scale has a sharped (#) or raised 7th scale degree to achieve the leading tone that is absent in the natural minor form. This form of minor scale is much more commonly found in practice.

    The Melodic Minor scale is unique and a bit tricky to grasp at first. This is because it is played differently depending on if you are ascending or descending through the notes. In the melodic minor, both the 6th and 7th scale degrees are sharped (#) if you’re going up the scale, but on the way down, the scale reverts back to the natural minor form. 

    In each scale lesson, you’ll find detailed instructions for playing and understanding each of the three versions of minor scales. But for simplicity, the following list will show the natural minor version.

    The 12 Minor Scales

    A Minor Scale

    A Natural Minor Scale piano keyboard layout diagram
    A Minor Scale piano staff note layout
    Notes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A
    RH Fingering: 1 2 3 - 1 2 3 4 - 5

    LH Fingering: 5 - 4 3 2 1 - 3 2 1

    Other common types of scales

    The Chromatic Scale

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    Blues Scales

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    Whole Tone Scales

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    Pentatonic Scales

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    Modes

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