Your Guide to the E Flat Major Scale

You might not think that Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” would have anything in common.

There, you would be wrong. They actually have something very important in common: the key of E flat.

Here, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about the E flat major scale that makes these iconic songs, including notes, how to read it on sheet music, and a few fun things you can do with it.

What is the E Flat Major Scale?

But first, you need to have a fundamental understanding of what the E flat major scale actually is.

The major scales are among the most important scales in Western music because they’re central to your understanding of keys.

All major scales are a type of diatonic scale. That’s important because it tells you something about how all major scales are constructed: diatonic scales are based on seven whole steps of perfect fifths and constructed on intervals of natural notes (neither flat nor sharp).

In modern Western music, a scale is diatonic if it is made of five whole steps and two half steps.

The Major Scale Formula

That’s the theory behind major scales, but what does that mean in practice? Basically, it’s your roadmap to understanding any of the major scales, including E flat major.

You see, the major scales all follow a specific pattern of construction: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half.

So, once you know the notes of E flat major (Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, and D), it’s easy enough to remember the notes as long as you remember the keynote (Eb) and the major scale formula.

Eb and F are one whole step apart, F and G are one whole step apart, G and Ab are a half step apart, etc.

Playing the E Flat Major Scale

Now that you understand the essentials behind E flat major, let’s talk about a few more fundamentals and a few fun things you can do with the scale.

Intervals and Scale Degrees

For those who are new, an interval is simply the space between two notes. The intervals of E flat are:

  1. Tonic: Eb
  2. Major 2nd: F
  3. Major 3rd: G
  4. Perfect 4th: Ab
  5. Perfect 5th: Bb
  6. Major 6th: C
  7. Major 7th: D
  8. Perfect 8th: Eb

This seems pretty basic until you recall how essential intervals are in constructing the scale. The five different types of intervals are also important to understand because they’re named for their sonic qualities.

This leads into another essential element of the scale, called scale degrees. Each note in the scale plays a role, and it can be useful for the pianist to know where a pitch fits within a scale. Scale degrees are what allow you to place a pitch within the context of a scale.

The scale degrees of E flat are:

  1. Tonic: Eb
  2. Supertonic: F
  3. Mediant: G
  4. Subdominant: Ab
  5. Dominant: Bb
  6. Submediant: C
  7. Leading tone: D
  8. Octave: Eb

On sheet music, scale degrees are labelled with Arabic numerals and carets.

Fingerings

Before we move on to a few fun things you can try with the scale, let’s talk about how you actually play the scale on a keyboard.

How you do it depends on which hand you’re using. It requires a little acrobatics, so you may need to practice a few times if you’ve never played scales before, but once you get the hang of it, you realize how useful it is in keeping your hand mobile while playing.

Let’s start with the right hand. Anywhere on the keyboard is fine.

Begin by placing your second/index finger on Eb. Bring your thumb underneath to hit F. Shift your hand to follow and hit G with your index finger, continuing finger-by-finger until your fourth finger hits Bb. Bring your thumb underneath to hit C, and continue up your fingers again until your third finger hits Eb.

Coming back down the scale is the same process in reverse.

Now, let’s take a look at the left hand.

The third finger starts on Eb, continuing up your fingers until your thumb hits G. Bring your fourth finger over to hit A, and continue up the scale finger-by-finger until your thumb hits D. Bring your third finger over to hit the Eb octave, and go back down the scale by doing the process in reverse.

Modes of E Flat

Think you’ve got that down to a science? Great! Time for the fun part.

The modes of a scale are basically a scale with a fancy name. You get them by making a new scale out of each of the seven notes within the major scale. Each of these scales has its character and sonic qualities.

There are seven modes in each major scale: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolian, and Locrian (like we said, scales with fancy names).

So, without further ado, the modes of E flat major are:

  • Ionian: Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb
  • Dorian: F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
  • Phrygian: G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G
  • Lydian: Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb
  • Mixolydian: F, G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F
  • Aolian: G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G
  • Locrian: A, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A

Why go to all this trouble, you ask?

It’s simple, really: the more ways you know to play with the scale, the more tools you have available for soloing and improvising. It also gives you a better understanding of how each scale works.

Learning the Whole Piano

So, do you think you’re ready to start playing the E flat major scale?

If not, no worries. Check out our blog for more guides, tips, and tricks to master the entire keyboard.

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