eli5 how scales are turned into songs


I’m trying to understand how music is made and a lot of sources say that they make them out of scales but I still don’t understand what part of the scales change and what they change into or anything like that. Thanks.

In: 3

Scales are collections of notes that sound good together. If you start by picking a scale, you can find some interesting patterns of notes within the scales that can work as melody parts. Then, music theory can guide the selection of backing parts (harmonizations, chords, etc.) that will sound good with the notes in that scale.

From the perspective of writing a new song, the key bit is finding that “interesting pattern of notes,” which is fundamentally about trying things out and being creative.

We have 12 notes to make music from, but we find it better not to use all 12 in the same song. So we pick up fewer of them. 7 notes is a common choice, and you can guess there are many options to select 7 notes among 12. Each of these selections can be called a scale (or a mode). Then you can play any of these 7 notes in any order and rythm to make a melody. And you can also play several notes at once (usually 3), this is called a chord. Again, there are many chords made with the same 7 notes you have selected. Once you play your melody and the chords together you have a song.

This could go into a long explanation so I’ll try to keep it short.

It doesn’t matter the note you’re hearing, what makes music *music* is the “distance” between notes. Basically if I play a sequence of two notes (or two notes played on top of each other) it’s the *jump* from one note to the next that makes the sounds “pretty”. And that’s what scales are, sequences of jumps from one note to the next that sound “pretty”, what’s different is the note they start with. An A major scale, a G major scale and an E major scale just start on different notes (A, G, or E) but then do a series of steps in exactly the same where from there. Since you start at different points the steps will also bring you different places, so the notes in a G scale aren’t the same notes as in a C scale, but the relationships are all there.

So when it comes to music, you don’t even need to know the core note of the scale, you can just focus on the jumps. If you name each note in the scale by the jumps you could name them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. 8 and 1 are going to sound the same so we just repeat the sequence.

Here’s the joke – notes 1, 3 and 5 sound great when played at the same time. We’ll call that a *major chord*. Notes 1, 4, 5, 6 sound great when played *in sequence*. We’ll call this a “progression”.

The joke is that 99% of popular music is the progression of notes 1, 4, 5, and 6, when played using the notes 1,3,5 major chords. The “key” of the scales might change to suit the singer’s voice, but that progression is every where once you learn to recognize it. [Watch this!](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I)

The notes of a scale are like the colors in a painter’s palette: you arrange them in particular ways to create music, just as you arrange the colors to create a painting. The scale is the background pitch collection, and the specific order, combinations, and rhythms of the notes are the foreground.