The D Flat piano scale may have 5 flats, but it is still a great scale to start off with when you’re learning black key scales. Today I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about the Db scale, including the notes, fingerings, and more tips!
What is the Db scale in piano?
The Db scale, simply put, is a major scale that both starts and ends on the note “D flat.” It follows the typical pattern of half steps and whole steps that builds a major scale. The Db scale uses all 5 black notes just like the B scale…but this time all the black keys are flats, not sharps! We’ll get into more about that soon.
What are the notes in a Db major scale?
The notes in a Db scale are as follows: Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, and finally C. I’ll show you diagrams and sheet music with these notes as you read on.
BEFORE You Begin
Wait! Before you keep reading, we need to talk about prerequisities.
Black key scales are not the easiest things to learn, so it is important that you have already mastered all your white key scales before continuing. This includes the:
Think of those like the “prerequisite” scales. Most of them have the same fingerings, and they all start on white keys.
Black key scales are like a whole new “course” if you will. They use unique fingerings and notes that a complete beginner won’t be ready for.
But if you have already learned your white key scales, then by all means keep reading!
Black Key Scale Basics
When it comes to playing black key scales, there are some basics we need to cover from the start.
Black key scales have very different fingerings from white key scales as I mentioned earlier, so it is helpful to have some patterns to refer to. These make learning and also memorizing much easier.
Here’s what I mean:
The groupings of the black notes also determine the fingering. Humor me for a second, and form the number two with your fingers (so hold up your 2nd and 3rd fingers). Now, place these on the two black notes. Those are the fingers we almost ALWAYS play on those black notes in the scales.
Now, form the number 3 with your fingers, in a W form (2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers). Place these fingers on the 3 black notes. Those are the fingers we almost ALWAYS play on this group of black notes in scales!
If you look closer at both of those diagrams, you’ll see that the same fingers are playing on the black keys, but the order is reversed. For example, in the last photo, the left hand goes in the order of “4, 3, 2” while the right hand goes in the order of “2, 3, 4.”
This is why black key scale fingerings can often look intimidating. The fingerings are never quite the same because they are reversed. But if you note that now, it will help you later and you won’t be thrown off by it!
D Flat Scale Piano Notes & Fingerings
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get right into the details about the Db scale! Below you can start looking at the notes in the scale on a piano diagram. You will also find the fingerings for both right and left hand underneath. The “x” stands for finger crossings.
How to Play the Db Scale on the Piano
To play the Db scale on the piano, press down each note shown in the diagram above, starting with the Db on the far left and working your way to the Db on the far right. Each note should be played as its own distinct note, yet still connected (don’t blur them together, but also don’t play them too short).
As you can see in the diagram above, each hand starts on a different finger…and neither of them is your thumb. This goes back to the patterns we formed with our fingers earlier. Remember how our 2’s and 3’s were on the set of 2 black keys? In accordance with that, we start with our 2 and 3!
SO: For your right hand, you’re going to start with your 2 on Db, then play 3 on Eb. Immediately after, tuck your thumb under and play F. Reposition your hand forward and play Gb with 2, Ab with 3, and Bb with 4. Finally, tuck your thumb under again to play 1 on C and 2 on Db.
For the left hand, start with your 3 on Db this time. Play your 2 on Eb and 3 on F. Now, cross your 4 over to play Gb. Reposition your hand and play 3 on Ab, 2 on Bb and 1 on C. Finally, cross your 3 over on Db, and you’re done!
Okay, now let’s talk about that a bit. You can probably tell that fingering is way different from white key scales.
For one thing, you have to cross twice going up and twice going down, whereas with white key scales there’s only 1 cross each way.
This will feel weird at first, but it is completely normal and necessary in order to maneuver around the black keys.
In fact, when we learn 2 octave scales, this fingering will help greatly! You can actually use this fingering to keep going up and up the octaves if you follow the fingering over and over again.
Db Major Scale On The Staff
Here is what the Db major scale looks like on the staff. If you prefer to read actual notes, this should be helpful—you can see what the scale looks like in both treble and bass clef.
Black Key Scale Tips
If you are trying the Db scale and having some trouble, here are some scale tips that specifically help with black key scales.
The left hand fingering is pretty much consistent. If you’re feeling intimidated by all the different fingerings, take heart. They are not ALL different! Almost all of the left hand fingerings for the black key scales are the same (with the exception of F#). So once you get it down, you’ll have a head start on other scales too!
The key to black key scales is finding the pattern. You can always find some kind of “group” of notes in a particular scale to help you remember. For Db, we have a group of 3 notes at the beginning, and a group of 4 notes at the end. The white notes in the scale are at the end of each group.
Speaking of white notes, pay attention to them! With black key scales, it can be much easier to remember which white notes are in the scale. For Db, remember that the white notes are F and C. Say that other and over to yourself while practicing the scale—”F and C, F and C.”
All major scales follow a formula as far as intervals go. Here is this formula: W-W-H-W-W-W-H. The W’s stand for “whole step” and the H’s stand for “half step.
So written out the long way, the formula is: whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step.
You can use this formula any time to figure out a major scale!
When you use this formula, it also creates a relationship between the tonic (the very first note) and all the other notes. An interval can be formed between the tonic and each note of the scale. Here’s what that looks like for Db major:
- Tonic: Db
- Major 2nd: Eb
- Major 3rd: F
- Perfect 4th: Gb
- Perfect 5th: Ab
- Major 6th: Bb
- Major 7th: C
- Perfect 8th: Db
Another way to look at a scale is by “degrees.” Here are the scale degrees for the key of Db:
- Tonic: Db
- Supertonic: Eb
- Mediant: F
- Subdominant: Gb
- Dominant: Ab
- Submediant: Bb
- Leading tone: C
- Octave: Db
Triad Chords In The Key Of Db
Did you know a chord can also be built off of EVERY note in the Db scale? That’s right! It is a great exercise to practice finding these chords in each key. For Db you’ll have to pay close attention to all 5 flats.
Chord I: Db major (notes are Db – F – Ab)
Chord ii: Eb minor (notes are Eb – Gb – Bb)
Chord iii: F minor (notes are F – Ab – C)
Chord IV: Gb major (notes are Gb – Bb – Db)
Chord V: Ab major (notes are Ab – C – Eb)
Chord vi: Bb minor (notes are Bb – Db – F)
Chord vii: C diminished (notes are C – Eb – Gb)
Scales To Learn Next:
Once you master the Db scale, you can move onto more flat and sharp scales. I recommend learning F# major next since F# and Db are what I like to call “group 1.”
Then you can move onto group 2, which includes the Eb Scale, Ab scale, and Bb scale.
More Music Theory:
There is lots more about music theory to learn besides just scales! Here are some chords you may want to look into next.
The Db major scale is a great black key scale to start out with. It may use 5 flats, but it is the best for learning the basics of black key scale fingering. Make sure to remember that fingering rule I talked about at the beginning because it will help you in future scales too! But for now, make sure you master the D flat scale before moving on. Practice hands separate slowly, and then gradually build up the tempo and put them together. You got this!