Your Guide to the D Flat Major Scale
I just called to say welcome to the D Flat Major scale.
Artists like Stevie Wonder and Ed Sheeran have used this scale to create sing-a-long hits.
They and so many others knew top secret information on putting this scale to work for them.
By the end of this post, you will too.
Modes and Intervals
Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a bit in the intro.
Music theory is not top secret. It’s just steeped in centuries of history.
For instance, during the 17th-century melodies and harmonies were organized into modes. They are Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Ionian, and Locrian.
The Ionian mode (the major scale) and the Aeolian mode (the natural minor scale) are the most common today.
Out of that developed western music’s 12 semitone chromatic scale. Semitones are also called half steps.
Consider the piano keyboard. Moving along a C Major scale (no sharps or flats) by whole steps will land you on all the white keys. A chromatic scale will alternate between the black keys and the white keys as you move by half steps.
A major scale is arranged by a 7 note pattern of intervals:
Root, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, octave
A way I like to remember this is to remember that there is a half step between notes 3 and 4 and 7 and 8. Eight is the root note an octave higher.
Another easy way to remember the major scale sound is solfege: do-ra-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do
Intervals define the relationship between notes as you ascend the scale.
Which leads us to:
The D flat Major Scale
Henceforth we shall refer to D flat as its notated Db.
The Db scale has a twin called the C# major scale. In fact, the notes are often referred to as C#/Db because they occur simultaneously. This is also called enharmonic.
You’ll need to know that when you finally put this theory to use.
You’ll notice that the Db major scale follows the formula of whole-steps and half-steps mentioned above:
Major 2nd: Eb
Major 3rd: F
Major 4th: Gb
Perfect 5th: Ab
Major 6th: Bb
Major 7th: C
The reasoning behind the names of the intervals gets pretty deep. For now, you only need to be able to recognize the names.
Chords of the Db Major scale follow a pattern like this:
Major (I), Minor(ii), Minor(iii), Major(IV), Major(V), Minor(vi), Diminished (VII)
Also called harmonies, chords are the essential building blocks to creating music.
Triads and Four-Note Chords
Triads are the building blocks of all chords and the most common you’ll find.
A basic major triad is constructed by using the root, the major third, and the perfect fifth.
Put another way, we start with the root and stack on a note a 3rd above it and another 3rd above that.
In genres like Blues and Jazz, you see the common use of a fourth tone added onto the basic triad. This is called the 7th.
Seventh notes are a third above the fifth in a chord.
Check out what this looks like in the key of Db:
Basic Triad/ 7th chords
I. Db: (Db-F-Ab)/ Dbmaj7 (Db-F-Ab-C)
ii. Eb minor: (Eb – Gb – Bb)/ Ebm7 (Eb-Gb-Bb-Db)
iii. F minor: (F-Ab-C)/ Fm7 (F-Ab-C-Eb)
IV. Gb Maj: (Gb-Bb-Db)/ Gbmaj7 (Gb-Bb-Db-F)
V. Ab Maj: (Ab-C-Eb)/ Ab dominant 7 (Ab-C-Eb-Gb)
vi. Bb minor: (Bb-Db-F)/ Bbm7 (Bb-Db-F-Ab)
vii?. C diminished: (C-Eb-Gb)/ Cm7flat5 (C-Eb-Gb-Bb)
Most pop songs use basic three note major chords. You can find an agreeable use of seventh chords in Steve Wonder’s song All I do.
Extensions are notes that extend into the next octave of the scale. The 9th and 13th scale degrees are the most common. These are the same as the 2nd and the 6th scale degrees only an octave higher.
In practice, these chords create four to seven-note harmonies. Four and five note chords are most common.
Notice that 9th and 13th chords include the 7th note as well:
Db9 (D flat dominant 7 add 9): Db – F – Ab – B – Eb
Db13 (D flat dominant 7 add 13): Dd – F – Ab – B – Bb
Listen to Ben Folds Five’s Underground for a bouncy use of the 13th chords.
Check out James Brown’s I Feel Good to hear 9th chords in practice.
Suspended chords created the dreamy rock sound of the 90s and early 2000s.
They occur when the major 3rd is omitted from a chord and replaced with the 2nd or 4th.
Putting It To Use
If you play a chordal instrument, writing music with chords will be easier for you. For everyone else there is melody.
If you’ve heard a song on the radio, you’ve heard a melody. It is the rhythmic placing of single notes in a line.
Melody is what harmonies are based around.
An easy way to start writing melodies is to hum a brief phrase of a few notes. This is called a motif. Next, hum a few more notes to end the phrase.
You now have your first complete melodic phrase.
A melodic phrase is like a sentence: You motif is the subject and the way you end it as the verb.
The “verb” of your melodic phrase will create movement and forward motion in a song.
You would then add chords to the melody based on the notes you used.
The members of Queen were masterful at combining these techniques to create ear-happy music.
Learn the Scale
I want to echo the ancient wisdom of hundreds who have come before me:
Practice, practice, practice
The best way to know something so well you never get it wrong is to practice. Even if you play the D flat major scale on an odd instrument.
Write songs, play other people’s songs, just use it.
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