Ab major – A guide to the scales and chords

By Jade Bultitude
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Learning your scales is so important and the Ab major scale is no exception. In this major scale the first note is Ab. This scale also includes four flats and does not include a sharp. The Ab major scale includes the notes Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab. In this post we will expand your knowledge of the Ab major scale and it’s chords in detail so that you have a strong overview of what this scale is, the scale degree names, intervals within the scale, how to recognize music written in this scale, what it sounds like and what it looks like in the bass clef, treble clef, alto clef and tenor clef staves and much more!

Where do i start when learning the A flat major scale?

The best place to start when thinking about scales is the circle of fifths.

To know more about the circle of fifths, make sure to check out all the information and exercises on this website about the circle of fifths if you are not completely sure on what the circle is and how it works.

The starting point on the circle of fifths in C major because there are no sharps or flats within this scale.

Ab major is the fourth scale to the left of C major, on the circle of fifths, meaning that it will have four flats. These flats are B flat, E flat, A flat and D flat.

The scale before Ab Major is Eb Major which has three flats.

circle of fifths, A flat major, Ab major, four flats

As mentioned in our C major blog, major scales always follow the same pattern of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps)

This is as follows:

Tone, Tone, Semi-tone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semi-tone

Whole Step, Whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step

Whichever note you start on, you will always achieve the major scale starting on this note.

The Ab major scale is simply this pattern but starting on the note Ab.

Ab major, tones and semitones, A flat major

What does the A flat major scale look like on the piano keyboard?

Below you can see what the A flat major scale looks like on the piano keyboard.

piano, keyboard, A flat major, scale

As you can see, if we were to play this scale on the piano keyboard we make use of four black keys with the rest of the notes being played in white keys. 

What does the A flat major scale look like on the stave?

What does this scale look like on the stave?

The pitches/note names of the scale are as follows:  Ab Bb C Db Eb F G Ab  

Below you can see the Ab major scale written in the treble clef, bass clef, alto clef and tenor clef.

Ab major, tenor clef, alto clef, treble clef, bass clef, four flats

Rather than writing the flat signs on the individual notes, we can now make use of the key signature. Because every single B, E, A and D are flat, we can simply write this at the start of the piece! 

Above we have written one octave of Ab major. It is important to note that this can also be written an octave higher or even an octave lower!

Ab major, octave lower, four flats

scale degree names in A flat major

As with all scales, each note name is not only given a letter but it is also labelled with a number. We call this number a scale degree.

The scale degrees are as follows:

scale degrees, A flat major, Ab major, four flats

Alongside the scale degrees we can also give each letter a name!

Ab – tonic

Bb – Supertonic

C – Mediant

Db – Subdominant

Eb – dominant

F – submediant

G – leading note/leading tone

Ab – tonic

What do we mean when we say a piece is ‘in the key of a flat major’?

If we say that a piece of music is in the key of Ab, this means a few things:

  • The key signature will have four flat symbols, these being B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat.
  • The tonic (or home note) of the piece will be Ab! This note will sound the most stable in the whole piece.
  • The piece will use notes only from this scale, these could be in any octave. 
  • The chords used will be those chords that are in Ab major

What are the chords of A flat major?

When writing out chords we always use Roman Numerals so it is important to make sure you are familiar with the Roman Numerals up to seven!

Here are the chords of Ab major:

I – Ab major, Tonic Chord

II – Bb minor, Supertonic Chord

III – C minor, Mediant Chord

IV – Db major, Subdominant chord

V – Eb major, Dominant chord

Vi – F minor, Sub median chord

Vii – G diminished chord, leading note chord

What are the notes in these chords?

I – Ab major chord – Ab,C, Eb

Ab major Chord, Chord I, Tonic Chord

ii – Bb minor chord – Bb, Db, F

Bb minor chord, Chord II, Supertonic chord

iii – C minor chord – C, Eb, G

C minor chord, Chord III, Mediant chord

IV – Db major chord – Db, F, Ab

Chord IV, Db major chord, Subdominant chord

V – Eb major chord – Eb, G, Bb

Eb major chord, Dominant chord, Chord V

vi – F minor chord – F, Ab, C

F minor Chord,  Submediant chord, Chord VI

viio – G diminished chord – G, Bb, Db

G diminished chord, Chord VII, leading note

Why are some of these chords labelled in lowercase?

Chords are usually written in two different ways

Capital for MAJOR Chords

Lowercase for MINOR Chords

To know more about chords then make sure to click here!

What is the relative minor of the A flat major scale?

Remember, all major scales have relative minor scales. The relative minor scale to the Ab major scale is the F minor scale. The F minor scale uses the same notes as the Ab major scale but it starts on an F! This means the pattern of tones and semitones (whole steps and half steps) will be slightly different.

The notes in F natural minor are: F, G, Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, F

To learn more about the F minor scales make sure you check out our free minor worksheets!

I hope that has helped your understanding further of the scale of Ab major. Learn about other Scales and Key Signatures here.

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Jade is an experienced musician and teacher as well as being the founder of Music Theory Foundations. She has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.