A Flat Major Scale
The A flat major scale consists of the following notes:
Ab Bb C Db Eb F G
There are 7 different notes in the scale. When the scale is played, the first note is usually repeated at the end, one octave higher. In this case, that’s the note Ab. This kind of “rounds off” the scale, and makes it sound complete. Therefore, the final Ab will sometimes be included in examples and diagrams, depending on the situation.
Here’s what it sounds like:
Each note has its own specific position within the scale. For example, Bb is the 2nd note, or degree, of the scale. Eb is the 5th degree, and so on. The chart below shows the position of each note within the scale:
Sharps And Flats
The A flat major scale contains 4 flats: the notes Ab, Bb, Db, and Eb.
The scale of a piece of music is usually indicated by a key signature, a symbol that flattens or sharpens specific lines or spaces on the staff. Instead of putting a flat symbol next to every single Ab, Bb, Db, or Eb note, it’s much easier to just place a key signature at the beginning of the music, which automatically flats each of those notes, so that the music conforms to the Ab scale.
So in this case, the key signature is 4 flats, and it looks like this:
A Flat Major Scale On the Piano
It’s an excellent skill to be able to quickly and easily visualize scales on the piano. The key to doing this is focusing on which white keys and which black keys are part of the scale. Also, we have to keep in mind the two zones that make up each octave register on the keyboard.
Scale visualization for A flat major:
white keys: C, F, and G (first note in Zone 1, and first two notes in Zone 2)
black keys: all except Gb (the first note in Zone 2)
Here’s what it looks like (spanning one octave):
And here it is with the scale degrees indicated:
Notice the unique major scale pattern: Whole, whole, half; whole, whole, whole, half.
All scales are infinite – they go on forever in both directions. The diagrams above show the scale over one octave, but keep in mind that this same pattern repeats itself across the keyboard.
Put It In Writing
Now we will take a look at the A flat major scale in music notation. Here it is in all 4 commonly used clefs – treble, bass, alto and tenor:
The rest of the notation examples will be shown in treble clef, but all the examples are provided for reference in the others 3 clefs as well at the end of this lesson.
The next example shows the notes of the scale, along with the note names and scale degree numbers:
And here is one more example displaying the unique major scale pattern:
Solfege is a musical system that assigns specific syllables to each scale degree, allowing us to sing the notes of the scale and learn the unique, individual sound of each one. It’s a great way to train your ears to know what you’re hearing!
The following chart shows the solfege syllables for each note in the A flat major scale:
Here are the solfege syllables on piano:
And in music notation:
All major scales can be split in half, into two major tetrachords (a 4-note segment with the pattern 2-2-1, or whole-step, whole-step, half-step). It’s much easier to remember 4-note patterns than 7 or 8-note patterns, so breaking it down into two parts can be very helpful.
The lower tetrachord of A flat major is made up of the notes Ab, Bb, C, and Db.
The upper tetrachord is made up of the notes Eb, F, G, and Ab.
These two 4-note segments are joined by a whole-step in the middle.
It’s helpful to see this on a piano diagram:
And here they are in music notation:
Traditional Scale Degree Names
In traditional harmony, special names are given to each scale degree. A lot of harmony textbooks use these names, so they’re useful to know.
Here’s a chart of the scale degree names for the A flat major scale:
And here’s an example in music notation:
Finally, here’s a chart showing scale degree numbers, solfege syllables, and traditional scale degree names, all in one, to clarify the relationship between all these:
Notation Examples In Bass Clef
All the notation examples used in this lesson are provided below in the other three clefs, beginning with bass clef:
Notation Examples In Alto Clef
Here are the notation examples for alto clef:
Notation Examples In Tenor Clef
The final set of examples, for tenor clef:
A Flat Major Scale Quiz
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- Question 1 of 10
What scale degree is the note Bb in the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 2 of 10
Which note is the 6th degree of the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 3 of 10
Which note is the 3rd degree of the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 4 of 10
How many sharps/flats are there in the key of Ab major?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 5 of 10
How many white keys are in the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 6 of 10
Which note is TI in the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 7 of 10
What is the solfege syllable for Db in the Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 8 of 10
Is the note Eb part of the upper or lower tetrachord of an Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 9 of 10
Which note is the supertonic scale degree of an Ab major scale?CorrectIncorrect
- Question 10 of 10
Name the traditional scale degree name for the note C in an Ab major scale:CorrectIncorrect