Music theory > Pitch of sounds > Scales

Scales

A scale is a sequence of notes ordered by pitch.

A scale can be composed by 5, 6, 7 or less or more pitches.

There is a lot of kinds of scales, but on this page we will learn knowledge about major scales, minor scales and chromatic scale.

Major scale

A major scale is always composed by this sequence of whole steps and half steps united states of america (tones and semitones united kingdom):


for united states of america:

1 Whole step / 1 Whole step / 1 half step / 1 Whole step / 1 Whole step / 1 Whole step / 1 half step

abbreviation: W / W / H / W / W / W / H

for united kingdom:

1 Tone / 1 Tone / 1 semitone / 1 Tone / 1 Tone / 1 Tone / 1 semitone

abbreviation: T / T / S / T / T / T / S

Examples of major scales:

C major scale:


D major scale:


Minor scales

For each minor scales, there are different kinds of minor scales:

- The natural minor scale
- The harmonic minor scale
- The ascending melodic minor scale
- The descending melodic minor scale (is the same as the natural minor scale)

The natural minor scale

A natural minor scale scale is always composed by this sequence of whole steps and half steps united states of america (tones and semitones united kingdom):

united states of america 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step
united states of america W / H / W / W / H / W / W

united kingdom 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone / 1 tone
united kingdom T / S / T / T / S / T / T


The harmonic minor scale

A harmonic minor scale scale is always composed by this sequence of whole steps and half steps united states of america (tones and semitones united kingdom):


united states of america 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1,5 whole step / 1 half step
united states of america W / H / W / W / H / 1,5 W / H

united kingdom 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1,5 tone / 1 semitone
united kingdom T / S / T / T / S / 1,5 T / S


If you raise by 1 semitone the degree VII of the natural minor scale, you obtain the minor harmonic scale.

The minor harmonic scale will be used to write chords. As it sounds oriental, the minor harmonic scale will not be used for melodies (excepted if you want to write some music that sounds like oriental music).
For melodies, composers will use the ascending melodic minor scale and the descending melodic minor scale.

The ascending melodic minor scale

An ascending melodic minor scale is always composed by this sequence of whole steps and half steps united states of america (tones and semitones united kingdom):

united states of america 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 half step
united states of america W / H / W / W / W / W / H

united kingdom 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 semitone
united kingdom T / S / T / T / T / T / S

If you raise by 1 semitone the degree VI and the degree VII of the natural minor scale, you obtain the ascending melodic minor scale.


The descending melodic minor scale

A descending melodic minor scale is always composed by this sequence of whole steps and half steps united states of america (tones and semitones united kingdom):

united states of america 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step / 1 whole step / 1 half step / 1 whole step
united states of america W / W / H / W / W / H / W

united kingdom 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone / 1 tone / 1 semitone / 1 tone
united kingdom T / T / S / T / T / S / T

The descending melodic minor scale is the same as the natural minor scale.


Chromatic scale

The chromatic scale is composed by a succession of half steps united states of america (semitones united kingdom):

Ascending chromatic scale

ascending chromatic scale

Descending chromatic scale

Descending chromatic scale

Scale Degrees

The notes of major and minor scales have specific names to identify them, they are called scale degrees. Scale degrees have a number and a name.

The names of the Scale Degrees are:

- Tonic
- Supertonic
- Mediant
- Subdominant
- Dominant
- Submediant
- Leading Tone or subtonic

Example with C major scale:

C major scale degrees

If there is seventh major between degree I and degree VI, the degree VII is called Leading Tone
If there is seventh minor between degree I and degree VI, the degree VII is called subtonicn

In other way:

If the seventh note is a semitone below the tonic, it is called a Leading Tone
If the seventh note is a tone below the tonic, it is called a subtonic


Others articles from this category:

Major scales

Major scales

Major scales: Learn all about major scales. Here are all major scales you can find in music scores. Learn all the key of all major scales. Read more about...

Minor scales

Minor scales

Minor scales: Learn all about minor scales. Here are all minor scales you can find in music scores. Learn all the key of all minor scales. Read more about...

Relative minor keys

Relative minor keys

Learn all about relative minor keys and learn how to find all relative minor keys from all major keys. Learn all relative minor keys list. Read more about...

Relative major keys

Relative major keys

Learn all about relative major keys and learn how to find all relative major keys from all minor keys. Learn all relative major keys list. Read more about...

Key Signature Identification

Key Signature Identification

Learn how to find the name of the key from a specific key signature, and how to find the key signature from a specific key name (scale name). Read more about...

Enharmonic Key Signatures

Enharmonic Key Signatures

Enharmonic Key Signatures. Learn about the notion of Enharmonic Key Signatures. In this article are all enharmonic key signature, a complete list of enharmonic key signatures. Read more about...

Parallel keys

Parallel keys

Parallel keys are a major scale and a minor scale that have the same tonic. Learn the relationship between parallel keys and learn all parallel keys Read more about...

Closely related keys

Closely related keys

Learn the notion of closely related keys: Learn the definition of closely related keys, and learn how to find closely related keys of a given key, and look at the complete list of closely related keys. Read more about...

Leading tone

Leading tone

Learn all about the leading tone with some examples. Learn the difference between a leading tone and a subtonic. In tonal music, the leading tone resolves to the tonic (most of the time). Read more about...


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