Major/Minor Scale Identification

As I’ve been prepping students for theory exams this spring, one of my goals as a teacher has been to find a “hands-on” way to work on each concept.  This week many of my students were working on identifying and building major and minor scales, so I created a set of manipulative cards to help us:

First, I asked students to lay out the scale cards to show the pattern of whole and half steps for major scales, and underneath lay out the pattern of steps in natural minor scales (not pictured).   Next, I marked the notes of a scale on the keyboard and asked students to use the scale step cards to identify the distance between each pitch of the scale.  They then were able to compare their cards to the major and minor “formulas” and identify the type of scale.   Once they were successful on the keyboard, we moved to the staff:

I also designed a follow-up worksheet that I assigned as homework for the week (there are more questions on the back):

Both the scale step cards and worksheet are available on my website.   The cards are available on the Theory Flashcard Page (scroll to the bottom) and the worksheet is available on the Theory Sheets Page.

(Note:  The cloth keyboard and transparency note & clef cut-outs pictured are from the TCW Resources Kreative Keyboard and Game Material Packets.   I typically make most of my studio materials rather than purchase them, but this is one investment I’ve used over and over in lessons.   The staff board pictured is a simple dry erase board with narrow electrical tape applied to create staff lines.)

Major-Minor Scale Worksheet
Major-Minor Scale Worksheet
1.0 MiB
Scale Step Cards
Scale Step Cards
Scale Step Feet Cards.pdf
290.8 KiB


Major/Minor Scale Identification — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you! I love your site and ideas about teaching piano. My daughter and I both teach, and we are using your resources gratefully. I teach 16 students individual lessons and this I do after the school day ends. I am an Education Specialist during the day and a piano teacher after hours. I am always looking for new ideas to keep my students interested. Thank you.

  2. Hi Jen
    I tried out the step scale game today with my students. Any tips for dealing with W’s that go across white and black . Do you place gem stones down first maybe? I could see how that would be a better visual for determining H or W.
    Also we are working on tetrachords only would it be possible to send me a file for cards and worksheet that I could amend for this purpose and also change T to K for ( keynote)

    thanks Sam

    • Hi Sam,

      That’s a hard one! We do lay out the gemstones so students have a visual – that way they can see if there are 2 gemstones right next to each other (like a half step), or if they’re spaced a key apart (like a whole). Other than that, we just do a LOT of drill on identifying whole and half steps (that’s one of those concepts that always seems to take a while to sink in.) There are a couple of other games I pull out on a regular basis when we’re working on whole and half steps, too – Crazy Keys and Whole-Step-Half-Step Sprint both help to reinforce the white-to-black key whole steps (they’re available for download on the games page.)

      I’ll send you an email with the cards and worksheet files.


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