Pattern of intervals in the C-major scale info).

In Melodic minor scale).

Often, especially in the context of the common practice period, part or all of a musical work including melody and/or harmony, is built using the notes of a single scale, which can be conveniently represented on a staff with a standard key signature.[1]

A measure of the distances (or minor, and others.

A specific group of notes can be described, for instance, as a C-major scale, D-minor scale, etc.. This takes into account the selection of a special note, also known as the first C-major indicates a major scale in which C is the tonic.



Scales, steps and intervals

Diatonic scale in the chromatic circle.

Scales are typically listed from low to high. Most scales are Bohlen–Pierce scale is one exception). An octave-repeating scale can be represented as a circular arrangement of pitch classes, ordered by increasing (or decreasing) pitch class. For instance, the increasing C major scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B-[C], with the bracket indicating that the last note is an octave higher than the first note, and the decreasing C major scale is C-B-A-G-F-E-D-[C], with the bracket indicating an octave lower than the first note in the scale.

The distance between two successive notes in a scale is called a scale step.

The notes of a scale are numbered by their steps from the root of the scale. For example, in a C major scale the first note is C, the second D, the third E and so on. Two notes can also be numbered in relation to each other: C and E create an interval of a third (in this case a major third); D and F also create a third (in this case a minor third).

Scales and pitch

A single scale can be manifested at many different pitch levels. For example, a C major scale can be started at C4 (middle C; see octave they take on can be altered.

Types of scale

Scales may be described according to the intervals they contain:

or by the number of different pitch classes they contain:

“The number of the notes that make up a scale as well as the quality of the intervals between successive notes of the scale help to give the music of a culture area its peculiar sound quality.”[3]

Scales in composition

The lydian mode info), bottom.

Scales can be abstracted from performance or composition. They are also often used precompositionally to guide or limit a composition. Explicit instruction in scales has been part of compositional training for many centuries. One or more scales may be used in a composition, such as in Claude Debussy‘s L’Isle Joyeuse.[4] Below, the first scale is a whole tone scale, while the second and third scales are diatonic scales. All three are used in the opening pages of Debussy’s piece.

Western music

Scales in traditional Western music generally consist of seven notes and repeat at the octave. Notes in the commonly used scales (see just below) are separated by whole and half step intervals of tones and semitones. The harmonic minor scale includes a three-semitone step; the pentatonic includes two of these.

Western music in the Medieval and Renaissance periods (1100–1600) tends to use the white-note tritone.

Music of the common practice periods (1600–1900) uses three types of scale:

  • The diatonic scale (seven notes)—this includes the major scale and the natural minor
  • The melodic and harmonic minor scales (seven notes)

These scales are used in all of their transpositions. The music of this period introduces modulation, which involves systematic changes from one scale to another. Modulation occurs in relatively conventionalized ways. For example, major-mode pieces typically begin in a “tonic” diatonic scale and modulate to the “dominant” scale a fifth above.

In the 19th century (to a certain extent), but more in the 20th century, additional types of scales were explored:

A large variety of other scales exists, some of the more common being:

Scales such as the pentatonic scale may be considered gapped relative to the diatonic scale. An auxiliary scale is a scale other than the primary or original scale. See: Auxiliary diminished scale.

Naming the notes of a scale

In many musical circumstances, a specific note of the scale will be chosen as the minor scale.

The scale degrees of a heptatonic (7-note) scale can also be named using the terms tonic, supertonic, mediant, subdominant, dominant, submediant, subtonic. If the subtonic is a semitone away from the tonic, then it is usually called the leading-tone (or leading-note); otherwise the leading-tone refers to the raised subtonic. Also commonly used is the (movable do) solfège naming convention in which each scale degree is denoted by a syllable. In the major scale, the solfege syllables are: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So (or Sol), La, Ti (or Si), Do (or Ut).

In naming the notes of a scale, it is customary that each scale degree be assigned its own letter name: for example, the A major scale is written A–B–C–D–E–F–G rather than A–B–D–D–E–E–G. However, it is impossible to do this with scales containing more than seven notes.

Scales may also be identified by using a binary system of twelve zeros or ones to represent each of the twelve notes of a chromatic scale. It is assumed that the scale is tuned using 12-tone equal temperament (so that, for instance, C is the same as D), and that the tonic is in the leftmost position. For example the binary number 101011010101, equivalent to the decimal number 2773, would represent any major scale (such as C-D-E-F-G-A-B). This system includes scales from 100000000000 (2048) to 111111111111 (4095), providing a total of 2048 possible species, but only 352 unique scales containing from 1 to 12 notes.[5]

Scales may also be shown as semitones (or fret positions) from the tonic. For instance, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11 denotes any major scale such as C-D-E-F-G-A-B, in which the first degree is, obviously, 0 semitones from the tonic (and therefore coincides with it), the second is 2 semitones from the tonic, the third is 4 semitones from the tonic, and so on. Again, this implies that the notes are drawn from a chromatic scale tuned with 12-tone equal temperament. S

Scalar transposition

Composers often transform musical patterns by moving every note in the pattern by a constant number of scale steps: thus, in the musical sequences. Since the steps of a scale can have various sizes, this process introduces subtle melodic and harmonic variation into the music. This variation is what gives scalar music much of its complexity.

Jazz and blues

Through the introduction of modes and scales are used, often within the same piece of music. Chromatic scales are common, especially in modern jazz.

Non-Western scales

In Western music, scale notes are often separated by śruti) of that same note may be less than a semitone.

Microtonal scales

The term microtonal music usually refers to music with roots in traditional Western music that uses non-standard scales or scale intervals. Mexican composer Julián Carrillo created in the late 19th century microtonal scales which he called “Sonido 13“, The composer Harry Partch made custom musical instruments to play compositions that employed a 43-note scale system, and the American jazz vibraphonist Emil Richards experimented with such scales in his ‘Microtonal Blues Band’ in the 1970s. Easley Blackwood has written compositions in all equal-tempered scales from 13 to 24 notes. Erv Wilson introduced concepts such as Combination Product Sets (Hexany), Moments of Symmetry and golden horagrams, used by many modern composers.[weasel words] Microtonal scales are also used in traditional Indian Raga music, which has a variety of modes which are used not only as modes or scales but also as defining elements of the song, or raga.

See also


  1. ^ Benward, Bruce and Saker, Marilyn Nadine (2003). Music: In Theory and Practice, seventh edition: vol. 1, p.25. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-294262-0.
  2. ^ Nzewi, Meki and Nzewi, Odyke (2007). A Contemporary Study of Musical Arts, p.34. ISBN 9781920051624.
  3. ^ Nettl, Bruno and Myers, Helen (1976). Folk Music in the United States, p.39. ISBN 9780814315576.
  4. ^ Dmitri Tymoczko, “Scale Networks and Debussy”, Journal of Music Theory 48, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 219–94; citation on 254–64
  5. ^ Duncan, Andrew. “Combinatorial Music Theory”, Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, vol. 39, pp. 427-448. (1991 June).
  6. ^ Explanation of the origin of musical scales clarified by a string division method by Yuri Landman on
  7. ^ Burns, Edward M. 1998. “Intervals, Scales, and Tuning.”, p.247. In The Psychology of Music, second edition, edited by Diana Deutsch, 215–64. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-213564-4.
  8. ^ Zonis [Mahler], Ella. 1973. Classical Persian Music: An Introduction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Source: Wikipedia