B major scale

B major scale

Learning piano scales is about much more than sharpening your technique. Through scales, you can better understand keys and chord progressions. And from there, you’ll be better equipped to improvise and write music. Today, we’ll take a look at the B major scale.

A Quick Introduction to the B Major Scale

B major may not be one of the most common key signatures, but more popular songs than you realize are written in B. The key of B major has been described as being full of color, wild, passionate, and even full of jealousy or anger. Although it’s considered to have an “upbeat” sound like most major keys, B major is quite emotionally complex.

This key isn’t too common in the classical world. Haydn’s Symphony No. 46 is one of the relatively few major symphonies in B major. The “Flower Duet” from the opera Lakmé is also in B.

Structure and Formula of the B Major Scale

You likely already know the formula of whole and half steps you need to follow to devise a major scale. Starting with the root note, you just follow the formula W-W-H-W-W-W-H, where each W indicates a whole step (also called a whole tone) and each H indicates a half step (also called a half tone). When we do this starting at B, we get these seven notes:

B C# D# E F# G# A#

As you can see, the scale has five sharps! Its key signature will have five sharp symbols on the staff. These symbols will be positioned where the notes C, D, F, G, and A typically are.

The large number of sharps in the B major scale might make it seem hard to play. But because the black keys seem to line up naturally with the fingers, Chopin actually regarded this one as the easiest to play of all the scales!

Each of the scale’s note names also has a scale degree name:

  • 1. B (Tonic, or root note)
  • 2. C# (Supertonic)
  • 3. D# (Mediant)
  • 4. E (Subdominant)
  • 5. F# (Dominant)
  • 6. G# (Submediant)
  • 7. A# (Leading Tone)

How to Play and Learn the B Major Scale on Piano

When mastering any scale on the piano, consistent practice is critically important. Be sure to master the correct fingerings early on! Here’s how o play it with both your right hand and left hand.

Right Hand:

  • First, find B on the keyboard. It’s the white key to the left of C. Play it with your thumb.
  • Then play C# (the first black key to the right of B) with your index finger.
  • Now play D# (the black key to the right of C#) with your middle finger.
  • Next, cross your thumb under your fingers to play E (the white key to the right of D#).
  • Then play F# (the first black key to the right of E) with your index finger.
  • Now play G# (the next black key) with your middle finger.
  • Next, play A# (the next black key) with your ring finger.
  • Finally, play B (the white key to the right of A#) with your pinky.

Left Hand:

  • Start by playing B with your ring finger.
  • Then play C# with your middle finger.
  • Next, play D# with your index finger.
  • Now play E with your thumb.
  • Next, cross your fingers over your thumb and play F# with your ring finger.
  • Then play G# with your middle finger.
  • Now play A# with your index finger.
  • Finally, play B with your thumb.

As you practice, be sure to use the same fingerings for both ascending and descending scales. Using a metronome can help you master playing in time: start at a slow tempo and gradually increase it. Play one octave at a time, and then add an octave higher as you get more comfortable. This video lesson does a good job of taking you through the scale.

Relative and Parallel Scales

As you learn more piano scales, you’ll start to get a feel for how they relate to one another. One helpful relationship to know is that of relative major and minor scales. Each major scale has a relative minor scale. These relative scales include the same notes (but in a different order). The relative minor scale of B major is G#m (G#-A#-B-C#-D#-E-F#).

Parallel scales share the same first note (or root note). The B minor scale is the parallel scale of the B major scale, as both scales start with B.

Chords of the Scale and Their Scale Degrees

If you want to start writing music in the key of B, it can be helpful to know what chords are in the key. We can figure this out by labeling each of the scale degrees with a Roman numeral using the pattern I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii°. The uppercase numerals stand for major chords, the lowercase ones stand for minor chords, and the “°” symbol indicates a diminished chord.

Using this pattern, we can see that the individual notes of the scale each have a corresponding chord:

  • I. B major (B)
  • ii. C# minor (C#m)
  • iii. D# minor (D#m)
  • IV. E major (E)
  • V. F# major (F#)
  • vi. G# minor (G#m)
  • vii°. A# diminished (A#dim)

When you know which keys correspond to which Roman numerals, you can quickly and easily transpose any song into the key of B major. This numbering system is called the Nashville Number system, and this video will show you how to use it to transpose music.

Songs in The Key

If you want to really understand the mood and feel of the key of B major, check out some of these popular songs in B:

  • 1. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
  • 2. “The Tide is High” by Blondie
  • 3. “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode
  • 4. “Walk Like an Egyptian” by The Bangles
  • 5. “The Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon & Garfunkel
  • 6. “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
  • 7. “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
  • 8. “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette
  • 9. “Breed” by Nirvana
  • 10. “Inside Out” by Eve 6

Common Chord Progression

If you write your own music, you might want to check out some example chord progressions in the key of B. The Jason Mraz hit “I’m Yours” uses a I-V-vi-IV (B-F#-G#m-E) progression. “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls follows a V-vi-IV-I (F#-G#m7-E-B) progression. And most of “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette uses a V-vi-V-I (F#-G#m7-F#-B) progression.

Of course, these aren’t the only common progressions used in the key. I-IV-V (B-E-F#), I-vi-IV-V (B-G#m-E-F#), and ii-V-I (C#m7-F#7-Bmaj7) are great examples as well. Feel free to experiment with variations on your more typical chords. It’s a great way to give any song some character!

Final Thoughts

Though it isn’t one of the most common keys used in Western music, B major can help you create strong and memorable tracks. And when you take your time and master the B major scale and the music theory behind it, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better piano player. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and please like and share if you found this article useful!

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