A scale is simple a sequence of notes in a particular order that are audibly appealing. The chromatic scale in itself, isn’t particularly appealing. It is used, mostly in parts, but it’s mostly a reference point.
The main types of scales, contained 7 different notes, and are known as ‘diatonic scales’. Diatonic is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘progressing through tones. They are broken down in ‘major’ and ‘minor’ scales. We’ll start with C Major Diatonic, normally just called ‘C Major’.
C Major is often used as a reference point, as it’s the only scale that contains no sharp or flat notes.
It’s worth noting, that scales are usually written from the starting note, known as the ‘root’, through to the next instance of that note, the octave. So even though the scale has 7 unique notes, it is generally presented as 8 notes.
The major scale is built from the chromatic scale, based on a fixed set spaces or ‘steps’. These are referred to as either ‘whole steps’ or ‘half steps’.
Whole steps move two positions (known as a ‘tone’) in the chromatic scale, whereas half steps only move 1 step (known as a ‘semi-tone’). Note though it refers to absolute positions, and note notes.
The specific sequence for the Major scale is as follows:
whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half
The same structure applies to building the major scale from any of the 12 musical notes. So the spacing remains the same, but the notes the scale lands on differ depending on the starting note.
For example, the D major scale looks as follows:
D Major contains 2 sharps. F# and c#. Same spacing as C major, different notes. E major looks like:
The full set of major scales together looks as follows:
You’ll notice I’ve been referring to a note’s position in the scale relative to the root note in degrees.
This is just a way of counting a notes position in the current scale, but not he number of ‘steps’ from the root note.
In Lesson three, we’ll look at the minor diatonic scales