Musical Alphabet | Chromatic Scale pt 2

Hi all,

Last week we looked at the musical alphabet, otherwise known as the chromatic scale and how to count up the scale using sharps.  This week we are going to look at the other side of the scale, counting down using flats  – symbolised by an italic look ‘b‘ (♭).

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of the ascending chromatic scale using sharps.

CHROMATIC_Scale

The ascending chromatic scale

CHROMATIC_KEYBOARD

The ascending chromatic scale shown on a piano

Enharmonic equivalents

Every black note on the keyboard has two names depending on whether we are ascending or descending.
For example, the note A# comes in between A going up to B, so we could think of it as ‘A-and-a-half’.  The sequence would be A – A# – B.

When we are going from B down to A however, we replace the A# with a Bb (B flat) because we have, in effect, flattened the B.  The sequence would be B – B– A.

Think about the terms ‘sharpen’ and ‘flatten’.

We sharpen something to raise it to a point like sharpening a pencil.
We flatten something to squash it down.

That is similar to what we are doing with the notes.

Ascending, we play A then sharpen it to A# and then move on to B.ascending_AB

Descending, we play B then flatten it to Band then move on to A.descending_BA

On the keyboard, you can see that both A# and Bb occupy the same space.  These are called enharmonic equivalents.

A# is the enharmonic equivalent to Bb.

This is what the descending chromatic scale looks like:

CHROMATIC_Scale_Down

The descending chromatic scale

 

Applying the descending chromatic scale to the guitar

The descending chromatic scale on the A string.  Notice that all the natural notes are in the same place but the sharps have been replaced with their enharmonic equivalents.

Chromatic Scale_Guitar DOWN

The descending chromatic scale on the E string:Chromatic Scale_Guitar_2_DOWN

 

In the previous lesson we visualised the chromatic scale using sharps.  Here we have the descending chromatic scale as a circle (read anticlockwise):

CHROMATIC_Scale Clock_FLATS

 

Playing the chromatic scale:

Playing the ascending chromatic scale on the guitar (without playing it entirely along one string) has an interesting pattern to it – it always moves one fret to the left when changing strings (apart from the G to the B string).  When we play descending, we can play the first pattern in reverse, or use another shape which moves one fret to the right (apart from the B to the G string).  Use the TAB below to practice the chromatic scale.

  • Tip – you can practice these to the drum beats as a warm up for every practice session. Be sure to start slowly and only move to a faster beat when you’re comfortable.  It’s not a race!!

The ascending chromatic scale TABAscending_TAB

 

The descending chromatic scale TAB

Descending_TAB

Exercise

Apply the descending chromatic scale to the guitar on all strings using the circular diagram above to help you.

Practice both the patterns above

Summary

  • An enharmonic equivalent is a note that sounds the same as another but is ‘spelled’ differently.  A# is the enharmonic equivalent to Bb.
  • We count up the chromatic scale in sharps (#) and down the chromatic scale in flats (b).
  • The chromatic scale has no real beginning or end, it goes round and round in a circle.

Happy playing!

JW

Some things are tricky to understand in words only, so please feel free to ask questions in the comments area below.

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  1. […] Your tuner might only display sharps or flats – if you’re aiming for an F# and it says Gb – it’s the same thing! Why? Read about the chromatic scale […]

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