So the chromatic scale is simple. And the most common example of this 12-note pattern is a piano keyboard. Only, you don’t actually play the chromatic scale in music. Instead, musicians use it to make smaller and more interesting patterns. And they do this using “intervals.”
Intervals are the gaps or spaces between notes—and they’re basically what music is all about. By using intervals, musicians combine different notes to create some very cool sounds. Intervals help you get from one note to another. They’re what you use to play scales, chords, and progressions. And what’s nice is they’re totally simple.
In fact, there are just two basic types of intervals in music: “half-steps” and “whole-steps” … which are easy to see using squares and circles.
A half-step interval separates any two notes that are next to each other in the chromatic scale. So the chromatic scale is really just a pattern of half steps. As you move from one note to the next, you go through each half-step interval: square … circle … square … circle … square … circle … and so on.
A whole-step interval is just a combination of two half steps. Which means you play a whole step by skipping every other note. It’s easy, really. All the square notes in the chromatic scale are separated by whole-step intervals … and all the circles are, too.
Try playing each of these intervals and you’ll get a feel for how they sound. Of course, they still don’t sound that great. But that’s okay … because the way you really start making music is by combining different intervals.
In fact, the most popular interval pattern in music is what people call the “major scale,” which has a pattern that looks like this:
Starting at a C note on the keyboard, for example, the major scale is:
This pattern is so popular that musicians label each note 1 through 8. Try it—starting with your left hand, play the first four notes of the major scale one finger at a time … then play the last four notes with your right hand: 1, 2, 3, 4 … 5, 6, 7, 8.
Of course, you can also play this same pattern starting on any note. For example, try playing the eight notes of the G major scale (starting on G):
There’s not much to it, really. The major scale sounds so musical. And using squares and circles, it’s easy to see. In fact, let’s go all the way. Now, try playing through all 12 major scales. Think of it as a kind of target practice. As you play each scale, your eyes, ears, and hands will get smarter. And your brain will grow, too … because major scales lead directly to the next main pattern in music—the circle of fifths.