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Allen's Master Theory Help & Hints

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Lessons 47-50

Tetrachords & Major Scales


I used to skip completely over tetrachords when teaching theory, but have found that Lessons 47 & 48 really do help students to work with and remember the notes of their major scales. Both of these lessons should be pretty self-explanatory, since we're only dealing with major (intervals whole-whole-half) tetrachords.

The big thing to watch out for in these two lessons is spelling...i.e. what you actually call the notes. For example, you can build a tetrachord on F by using the notes F-G-A-A#. But it's important that you use B-flat rather than A-sharp. So, this brings us to two simple rules that you should follow:

  1. Notes must be on separate, adjacent lines and spaces. You can't label a C# tetrachord as C#-Eb-F-F#. It has to work out to some version of C-D-E-F. In this case, it would be C#-D#-E#-F#. Letter names of notes can be neither repeated nor skipped.

  2. Don't mix sharps and flats. If you are starting on a flat note, there should be no sharps in your tetrachord. If you are starting on a sharp note, there should be no flats. Remember that these are a precursor to scales, and in real life you never see a key signature mix sharps & flats.


The Major Scale

Learn it, live it, love it. It's your best friend. Those of you who study with me know how much I harp on the numbered scale elements. Here is a list of songs that start on the various notes of the scale. They will help you get used to how each note sounds within the scale:

Scale Element Pitch in Key of C

Example Songs

1 C Row, Row, Row Your Boat,     Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
2 D Yesterday (Beatles)
3 E Jingle Bells
4 F Still (Commodores),   Shine On, Harvest Moon
5 G Silent Night,    Barney (This Old Man)
6 A Satin Doll
7 B Danny Boy,    Superstar (Carpenters)
8 C Joy To the World, Oklahoma


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