Understanding the Neapolitan Scale

The Mystery of the Neapolitan Scales

   In music, there exists a countless number of scales. Musically, a scale means a succession or ladder of notes in a particular key. There are two foundational types of scales, which are: major scale and minor scale. From this, many other scales emerge.

   The Neapolitan scale is a distinct one. Like many other scales, you will expect the Neapolitan scale to have major and minor forms, but on the other way round, it does not have major or minor forms: it only exists as minor in its two forms, although it carries the name ‘major’ in one of its types. Both forms are minor, irrespective of their names.

   From the name of this scale, it was developed from the city of Naples, in Italy. It is believed to have been developed by Opera composers during the 18th century.

   The two forms of the Neapolitan scale are distinguished from the harmonic minor and ascending melodic minor scales by the lowered second degree. This could also be known as the “Phrygian harmonic minor” or “Phrygian melodic minor.” The scale therefore shares with the Phrygian mode the property of having a minor second above the tonic.

   If you want to use this scale in a solo or during improvisation, they will both be accompanied well by power or minor chords, since it is a minor scale.

A Quick review on Power chords

Power chords are chords without quality. No one can tell if a power chord is a major or minor chord, because it only consists of a perfect fifth interval, without a third. This is the reason why you can accompany the Neapolitan scale with a power chord.

   Example of Power chords on all twelve keys are:

Key : Notes of the power chord

C: C, G

Db: Db, Ab

D: D, A

Eb: Eb, Bb

E: E, B

F: F, C

Gb: Gb, Db

G: G, D

Ab: Ab, Eb

A: A, E

Bb: Bb, F

B: B, A#

Those are the power chords of all twelve keys. You can also double up the root notes(in the next octave) to give a fuller sound. For example, C G C, F C F, Gb Db Gb, and so on.

   The reason why we can use the Neapolitan scale over a minor chord is simply because it is a minor scale. Most minor scales work perfectly well over minor chords. So when applying the scale in a solo during improvisation, you can use the left hand for either power chords or minor chords, while the right hand is playing the melody lines using any of the Neapolitan scales.

Big Tip: You can use any of the Neapolitan scale as a run over minor chords.

THE NEAPOLITAN SCALES FORMULAS

   The Neapolitan scales are characterized with the minor second and third intervals, between the root and the second degree, and the root and the third scale degree respectively. For the Major form, the scale has a natural sixth degree, while for the minor form, the sixth degree is decreased by a semitone or flattened. This is the difference between the two forms of the Neapolitan scale.

   For the Neapolitan major scale, the formula for creating this scale is

1, b2, b3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Another way to represent this for better understanding is:

H, W, W, W, W, W, H or S, T, T, T, T, T, S.

   For the Neapolitan minor scale, the formula is 1, b2, b3, 4, 5, b6, 7, 8.

Where,

H and S represent Half Step and Semitone (the shortest distance between two notes)

W and T represent Whole Step and respectively.

NEAPOLITAN MAJOR FOR ALL TWELVE KEYS

Key C

Neapolitan scale on key C

Notes: C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

Key C#

Neapolitan scale on key C# or D flat

Notes: C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#, C, C#

Key D

Neapolitan scale on key D

Notes: D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C#, D

Key D#

Neapolitan scale on key D# or E flat

Notes: D#, E, F#, G#, A#, C, D, D#

Key E

Neapolitan scale on key E

Notes: E, F, G, A, B, C#, D#, E

Key F

Neapolitan scale on key F

Notes: F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F

Key F#

Neapolitan scale on key F# or G flat

Notes: F#, G, A, B, C#, D#, F, F#

Key G

Neapolitan scale on key G

Notes: G, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G

Key G#

Neapolitan scale on key G# or A flat

Notes: G#, A, B, C#, D#, F, G, G#

Key A

Neapolitan scale on key A

Notes: A, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G#, A

Key A#

Neapolitan scale on key A# or B flat

Notes: A#, B, C#, D#, F, G, Gb, A#

Key B

Neapolitan scale on key B

Notes: B, C, D, E, F#, G#, A#, B

ALL TOGETHER, WE HAVE

Key C

Notes: C, Db, Eb, F, G, A, B, C

Key C#

C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#, C, C#

Key D

D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C#, D

Key D#

D#, E, F#, G#, A#, C, D, D#

Key E

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

Key F

F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F

Key F#

F#, G, A, B, C#, D#, F, F#

Key G

G, Ab, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G

Key G#

G#, A, B, C#, D#, F, G, G#

Key A

A, Bb, C, D, E, F#, G#, A

Key A#

A#, B, C#, D#, F, G, A, A#

Key B

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

NEAPOLITAN MINOR SCALE OF ALL 12 KEYS

Key C

Neapolitan minor scale on key C

Notes: C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

Key C#

Neapolitan minor scale on key C# or D flat

Notes: C#, D, E, F#, G#, A, C, C#

Key D

Neapolitan minor scale on key D

Notes: D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C#, D

Key D#

Neapolitan minor scale on key D# or E flat

Notes: D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B, D, D#

Key E

Neapolitan minor scale on key E

Notes: E, F, G, A, B, C, D#, E

Key F

Neapolitan minor scale on key F

Notes: F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db, E, F

Key F#

Neapolitan minor scale on key F# or G flat

Notes: F#, G, A, B, C#, D, F, F#

Key G

Neapolitan minor scale on key G

Notes: G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G

Key G#

Neapolitan minor scale on key G# or A flat

Notes: G#, A, B, C#, D#, E, G, G#

Key A

Neapolitan minor scale on key A

Notes: A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G#, A

Key A#

Neapolitan minor scale on key A# or B flat

Notes: A#, B, C#, D#, F, Gb, A, A#

Key B

Neapolitan minor scale on key B

Notes: B, C, D, E, F#, G, A#, B

ALL TOGETHER, WE HAVE

Key C

Notes: C, Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

Key C#

C#, D, E, F#, G#, A, C, C#

Key D

D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C#, D

Key D#

D#, E, F#, G#, A#, B, D, D#

Key E

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

Key F

F, Gb, Ab, Bb, C, Db, E, F

Key F#

F#, G, A, B, C#, D, F, F#

Key G

G, Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F#, G

Key G#

G#, A, B, C#, D#, E, G, G#

Key A

A, Bb, C, D, E, F, G#, A

Key A#

A#, B, C#, D#, F, Gb, A, A#

Key B

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

That ends our lesson on the Neapolitan scale, friends. Now go back there and practise! 😉

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