Many organists play organ pieces without ever thinking about how the piece is
put together, what is the compositional materials used in the piece etc. These
are advanced questions, of course and everything must start very simple at the
beginning. In this article, I will explain, what is a major and minor scale, the
foundations of every tonal organ composition.
The major scale consists of 7 notes (the 8th being a repetition of the first 1 octave higher) and the distances between the notes are as follows:
Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step and half step. Let's take an example of the scale which consists of white keys only, C major scale. For example, the notes of the C major scale are: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, (and C - repetition).
The minor scale also consists of 7 notes but the distances between the notes
are a little different:
Whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, and
whole step. The scale of A minor also consists of white keys only. That's why it
is called a relative key of C major. For example, the notes of the A minor scale
are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, (and A - repetition).
Does it make sense so far?
If so, let's proceed further: the note of the scale can also be called a scale degree, meaning that there are 7 scale degrees in a scale: in C major: C(1), D (2), E (3), F (4), G (5), A (6), B (7) and C (8 or 1). In A minor: A (1), B (2), C (3), D (4), E (5), F (6), G (7) and A (8 or 1).
Play now the two scales C major and A minor on your keyboard. Listen in particularly how the 1st, 3rd, 5th scale degrees sound. They sound very stable.
This is because they comprise a Tonic chord (C, E, G in C major) or (A, C, E in
A minor). 2, 4, 6, 7 are unstable and they lead to the closest stable degrees.
By the way, the 1st scale degree of A minor is located just 3 scale steps lower than C major.
Is it easy to understand so far?
Practice playing C Major and A minor scales for a few times. After you are
fluent with these scales, you can start constructing similar scales in other
keys as well.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me
to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my
free Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you really want to learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.