Scales are specific patterns of pitches which form a basic part of tonal music. A scale consists of the seven letters of the musical alphabet in sequence and begin and end on the same pitch name. The C major scale is shown below. The scale begins on C and ends on C. The distance between the two Cs (C to C) is called an octave.
The pitches (notes) in a scale are often numbered as shown above and correspond to the tonic sol-fa system.
(Listen to the C major scale.)
The distance between each note of the scale is important. The distance between some notes is a whole step and the other notes a half step. Look at the portion of the keyboard shown below. The white keys correspond to the notes on the staff shown above. C to D, D to E, F to G, G to A, and A to B are whole steps (a black key between these white keys). E to F and B to C are half steps (no black key between these white keys). Notice that the half steps occur between scale degrees 3 to 4 and 7 to 8.
Major scales can be written beginning on any pitch when the flat and sharp signs are used. (A flat lowers a pitch by a half step and a sharp raises a pitch by a half step.) Fifteen major scales are used. Click on any of the buttons below to see the proper notation for each of the major scales. The sharps and flats are used to adjust the distance between the pitches so that the whole-step/half-step pattern for a major scale is maintained. Listen to each scale. Sing the pitches as you hear them. You should be able to sing each scale accurately using the sol-fa system, pitch numbers, or note names. If you play an instrument you should learn how to play each scale on your instrument.
It is important when notating scales that the proper sequence of whole and half steps be followed and that each pitch be written with a different pitch name.
Scale Degree NamesThe notes of the scale are often refered to by scale degree names rather than by numbers or sol-fa sylables.
Degree Name 1 Tonic 2 Supertonic 3 Mediant 4 Subdominant 5 Dominant 6 Submediant 7 Leading Tone