What is Scale(Music)

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“Scale” comes from a Latin word which means ladder. It is the tonal basis of music.
A scale is any set of musical notes ordered by foundational frequency or pitch. It is a set of
tones from which you can build melodies and harmonies. They are a sequence of small
intervals that consist of tones and semitones. A scale degree indicates the position of a note
within the scale.

For a diatonic scale (heptonic; seven notes, 2 semitone and 5 tone intervals) :-
The first note is the Tonic
Super tonic
Sub dominant
The seventh is the Leading note
The eighth note is basically the tonic but an octave higher.

There are 2 different scales; ascending and descending scale. An ascending scale is a
scale ordered by increasing pitch, and a descending scale is a scale ordered by decreasing
pitch. But since scales can create various moods, feelings, atmosphere and tonal flavours,
there are a lot of different scales in the world that are apt for each culture.
The two most common types of (diatonic) scales are the Major and Minor scales. There are
12 major and Minor scales. Major scales are a combination of tones and semitones; whole
step and half step.
Basically ;
Tone – Tone – Semitone – Tone – Tone – Tone – Semitone
Or ;
Whole – Whole – Half – Whole – Whole – Whole – Half
This combination can be used to form a major scale with any note as the root note or
starting note ; 12 scales + 3 more “enharmonic” major scales, which have the same pitch
but with different note names.
For example;
B major scale: B – C♯ – D♯ – E – F♯ – G♯ – A♯ – B
C flat major scale: C♭ – D♭ – E♭ – F♭ – G♭ – A♭ – B♭ – C♭
Minor scales also have 7 notes like the major scale but they have a flattened third; the third
note on the scale is a flat note. Hence the third note is 3 semitones or 3 half steps above
the fist or root note.

  • The natural minor
  • The harmonic minor
  • The melodic minor
  • Whereas in major scales the third note is 4 semitones or 2 tones above

    the first or root note.
    There are 3 types of minor scales ;Other scales are chromatic, whole tone and pentatonic scales.
    A chromatic scale is very different from a diatonic scale as it is made up of all 12 notes in
    western music. Each note in a chromatic scale is an interval of a semitone (half step) apart
    from the others.
    A whole tone scale is a hexatonic scale (6 notes). It is a type of scale where each note is an
    interval of a tone (whole step) apart.
    The word pentatonic comes from the Greek word ‘pente’ meaning five.
    For a pentatonic scale (5 notes) :-
    The first note is called the Tonic
    Super tonic
    The fifth note is called the Dominant
    The sixth note is called the Submediant
    Arabic music or Arab music is the music of the Arab world.
    Arab music uses the ‘Maqam scale’. “Makam” is translated to scales or modes in Turkish.
    There are seventy two heptatonic tone rows or scales of maqamat.
    Arabic maqam is the system of melodic modes used in traditional Arabic music, which is
    mainly melodic. The maqams can be called scales or modes and are common in music
    from the Middle East and in Turkish Ottoman classical music One of the things that
    distinguish a maqam from a scale is that a maqam sometimes uses quarter tones ; a pitch
    or note between two semitones. Maqams often begin in C, D, Eb (quarter-flat), F, G, A or
    Bb (quarter-flat).
    The Jins (plural Ajnas) is a Maqam scale fragment of 3, 4 or 5 notes. The jins is the basic
    melodic unit in Arabic music, as a Maqam is really a pathway among many Ajnas. Each jins
    is defined by its intervals, which don’t change when it is transposed and give it its distinct
    and recognizable character. Traditionally, each maqam is based on a scale. The first note in
    the scale is called the tonic. Maqam scales are usually made of 7 notes that repeat at the
    octave, although a few maqam scales may extend beyond 8 notes. In addition, a few
    maqam scales do not achieve octave equivalence at the 8th note.
    ‘Flamenco’ is an art form comprising songs, dances, and instrumental music
    associated with southern Spain.
    Flamenco music uses the “Spanish Phrygian scale” also called the Spanish Gypsy scale or
    Phrygian major scale. The notes in this scale are the same as for the Harmonic minor scale,
    but with a different order – the A Harmonic Minor, for example, is relative to the E Spanish
    It uses the formula :-
    1 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 2
    Or ;
    Half, Whole and a half, Half, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole