Skip to content Skip to navigation Skip to collection information

OpenStax-CNX

You are here: Home » Content » Music Fundamentals 1: Pitch and Major Scales and Keys » Scale Degrees of the Diatonic Scale

Navigation

Lenses

What is a lens?

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

This content is ...

In these lenses

  • TEC Music Theory Resources display tagshide tags

    This collection is included inLens: TEC Music Theory resources
    By: Cynthia Faisst

    Click the "TEC Music Theory Resources" link to see all content selected in this lens.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

  • BHS Music Theory display tagshide tags

    This collection is included inLens: BHS Music Theory
    By: Nancy West

    Click the "BHS Music Theory" link to see all content selected in this lens.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.

Tags

(What is a tag?)

These tags come from the endorsement, affiliation, and other lenses that include this content.
 

Scale Degrees of the Diatonic Scale

Module by: Terry B. Ewell. E-mail the author

Summary: Introduction to the scale degrees of the diatonic scale.

Scale Degrees

In music we discuss the seven steps of diatonic scales in two different ways. Sometimes we reference the scale steps with numbers:

Figure 1
Figure 1 (graphics1.png)

In this C major scale, for instance, scale degree 4 is an F. The 8th scale degree is the same note name as the 1st scale degree.

Secondly, each scale degree also has a unique name, one that will be often applied to harmonies built on the scale degree. Before we introduce all the scale degrees in the order they appear in the diatonic scale, let’s first explain how the scale degrees are related.

Figure 2
Figure 2 (graphics2.png)

The note name of each scale (here C major) or the first scale degree is called the “tonic.” This is the central note in the tonal scale or key. The next most important note is termed “dominant” for the large role (dominant role) it plays in tonal compositions. Many compositions end with chords built upon the dominant and tonic of the key. Notice that the dominant is located on the 5th scale degree—on the fifth alphabet letter of the scale:

Figure 3
Figure 3 (graphics3.png)

The subdominant (lower dominant) mirrors the dominant. It is below the tonic by five scale steps. “Subdominant” is below the tonic just as “submarines” are below the surface of the ocean. Count out the five steps so you verify that the subdominant is five steps below the tonic. (C, B, A, G, F)

The mediant and submediant are also arranged in mirror images around the tonic:

Figure 4
Figure 4 (graphics4.png)

“Mediant” means middle. Thus, the mediant is in the middle of the tonic and domiant, on the 3rd scale step. The submediant is in the middle of the tonic and subdominant.

The last two scale degrees, 2 and 7 are arranged around the tonic. The “supertonic” is above the tonic on the second scale degree. The “leading tone” is an important scale step that leads to the tonic both melodically and harmonically. You will learn more about this important scale step in your later studies.

Here are the names of the scale degrees on the C major scale:

Figure 5
Figure 5 (graphics5.png)

Collection Navigation

Content actions

Download:

Collection as:

PDF | EPUB (?)

What is an EPUB file?

EPUB is an electronic book format that can be read on a variety of mobile devices.

Downloading to a reading device

For detailed instructions on how to download this content's EPUB to your specific device, click the "(?)" link.

| More downloads ...

Module as:

PDF | More downloads ...

Add:

Collection to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks

Module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks